In “What’s in a Name Change?” (JofA, Aug.99, page 71), the authors proposed migration away from “accounting” and “accountancy” to “information consultancy” to describe our profession. They write convincingly of the advantageous alignments such a renaming would have for future services.
Although some readers may have been shocked that two career practitioners would propose such a radical departure from tradition, I see much merit in the general idea. Professions have to struggle to keep up with changing times. Sometimes the largest impediment is the success realized in the past and the belief that others see us as clearly as we see ourselves.
My concern is that the article puts the cart before the horse. In the ongoing struggle for accountants to be the primary corporate information experts, we cannot merely rename ourselves and our work. We will have to have the best solutions and the best, most creative people. A new name makes only a small contribution toward getting there. While it is important to believe we are consultants capable of advising broadly about information, it is even more important to have the human capital to back up that belief.
The authors show the logical overlap between auditing and consulting. Although they do not develop the question of how the public interest will be served, they convince us that there is considerable synergy that has not been fully identified. No mention, however, is made of tax practice. Characterizing tax compliance and planning work as information consulting is difficult and leads to a bigger issue.
Whereas a corporate client might appreciate the one-stop-shopping of the information consultant, individuals and sole proprietors are likely to be confused when professionals no longer align with specific services. In short, we need to be concerned lest we “throw out the baby with the bath water” in pursuit of that which we would like to be.
Timothy J. Fogarty
Professor and Chairman
Department of Accountancy
Case Western Reserve University