Getting techy: how ICAEW made the computing world accessible

These essential tech guides for ICAEW are a lesson in making the computer age engaging and accessible for all

The brief

At a time when technology is advancing ever more quickly and the pace of organisation life gets more relentless, sometimes there is a need to just stop for a minute and take stock, to take time to consider a major business issue in greater depth.

This was certainly the case for ICAEW’s IT Faculty, which for 21 years has been helping to communicate the impact of new technology on the accountancy profession. The IT Faculty regularly produced in-depth reports on a range of topics of relevance to its membership. But, it felt unhappy with the level of member engagement with these reports. With content written by experts, by accountants and technologists, this wasn’t a total surprise. Few if any of the contributors were writers, journalists or editors.

The solution

The Faculty turned to Progressive Content for help. As an existing publishing partner, we were already producing its bimonthly magazine Chartech and were familiar with the topics, knew plenty of the key contributors and were able to suggest a different approach to the special reports.

First we discussed a range of complex, high-tech and digital-first solutions – which were eventually all ruled out due to implantation complexities. A very short time before launch and with restricted budgets, it was agreed the best solution was probably the most obvious.

This involved Progressive launching a new series of in-depth, single-issue supplements to run alongside Chartech. Each would include case studies and expert analysis of the issue, its implications for members in practice and an essential top tips and further information guide.

Tech Essentials launched in April 2017, to coincide with a relaunch of the main ICAEW brand. The first guide was on GDPR, and took what has since become a trademark in-depth, nuts and bolts approach to the new data protection regulations.

As well as being printed and circulated to all faculty members alongside the main magazine, these guides were also circulated to other ICAEW members at events and at the ICAEW’s London HQ. There is also a downloadable PDF version available on the ICAEW website, although some of the more recent guides have been locked behind ICAEW’s pay wall for members only to access. Subsequent guides have covered issues such as blockchain, data analytics and cyber security (due out in October).

The results

For an audience and a range of topics with an overtly digital bias, the popularity of the printed guides has taken the IT Faculty – and Progressive – by surprise. Two of the three guides printed so far have already been reprinted and the print run for future guides has been increased. This is on top of the original plan for eight-page guides being upgraded to 12-pages after the first guide.

There has been no quantitative research on the success of the guides, but sometimes you don’t need statistics to tell you the story. It’s clear from the demand for the printed copies, from the fact that initial print runs were all snapped up, that there remains a considerable value to cold, hard printed copy. To be fair, the digital versions have also been downloaded plenty of times, but this has been a refreshingly positive print story for anyone looking for evidence that the death of print has indeed been greatly exaggerated.

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