The so-called ‘Digital Disruption’ is really changing the way all professional firms manage compliance workflow, and public practice accounting is no different. Throughout the world, firms are facing real challenges as compliance workflow becomes more streamlined and efficient. Just some of the technological developments we have seen in recent years include:
- Implementation of Standard Business Reporting (from 1/7/16 in Australia, already in New Zealand and other countries)
- Better use of technology to streamline workflow management, including workflow scheduling, electronic workpapers and document management systems
- A more integrated approach to use of software to drive both workflow and client relationships
- Increasing use of outsourcing to help accounting firms focus on areas where they can really add value to clients
- The ongoing development of bankfeeds and cloud accounting software which is really changing the way clients perceive bookkeepers and accountants.
Five key steps for your firm to remain sustainable and relevant are outlined below.
Step 1 – Confirm your firm’s strategic intent and service platform
Your firms’ strategic intent is a clear declaration of the course that the firm’s stakeholders plan to take the firm into the future. It should incorporate a clear statement of objectives, purpose and values and needs to be easily understood by every member of the firm. Consider using GPS (Guidance and Positioning Statements) to assist. The strategic intent should include a declaration of services that your firm wishes to focus on in the future.
Step 2 – Fine-tune your firm’s approach to workflow management
There’s no longer any excuse for accounting firms to adopt an ad hoc approach to workflow management. Take control of client relationships by establishing up-front terms of engagement and statement of mutual commitment. Flowchart all stages of workflow management and put systems in place wherever possible to reduce bottlenecks. This could include taking control of workflow scheduling and work-in procedures, fine-tuning the client liaison role in your firm and establishing a leveraged approach to the review of work.
Step 3 – Develop a strategic approach to cloud computing for clients
The drive towards cloud accounting is being driven by clients. Whether you agree or not, your firm has no choice other than to adopt systems that support cloud accounting. For some firms, this may mean identifying one specific software vendor that they will work with to provide great service to clients. For others, it may mean understanding the strengths and weaknesses of all the cloud accounting software programs including Xero, MYOB, Reckon, Saasu, Intuit and Sage. Do you have a strategic approach to cloud accounting?
Step 4 – Ensure your people resources are aligned with your strategic intent
Now that you’ve identified the services you want to provide to your clients and how those services will be delivered through technology, you need to ensure that you have the right team structure and capabilities to provide these services. You need to ensure that your accountants have not only the technical skills but the critical non-technical skills (eg. communication, project management). A focus on client relationships has never been more important in a world where underlying systems and processes are becoming more streamlined.
Step 5 – Ensure that your firm’s value proposition is clearly communicated
For the clients of many accounting firms, the range and value of services available is not well known or understood. A list of services outlined on the firm’s website is not enough to attract prospects and clients. They want to know what these services mean to them, how they will help them achieve their personal and business objectives. The services of external copywriters and marketers to bring the firm’s services to life through stories and case studies is essential for real engagement.
Do you have a plan in place to ensure your firm has a sustainable future in the brave new world of compliance?
In July 2015, Training Beyond Accounting is running a special 2 part program ‘The Brave New World of Compliance.’
In this program, we’ll provide your firm with a step by step process to take advantage of the technological and service delivery changes taking place within the accounting industry.
Special guests will include Sam Allert, Managing Director, Reckon (Australia and New Zealand) and Lee Court, Client Relationship and Marketing Manager, BOSS.
Even if your firm has a strategic growth plan in place, this program is a great opportunity to confirm that you’re on the right track and fine-tune your strategic approach.
Director, Training Beyond Accounting and Business Aptitude