Small-Medium Practices Collaborating on Technology Innovation
Accounting firms are facing significant challenges, perhaps, none greater than technology financing, planning, training, and adoption. This investment is critical as clients demand consulting services and firms are eager to quickly comply and move toward this highly profitable service line. Steve Heathcote, CEO, PrimeGlobal explains
The opportunity for firms to position themselves as advisors and provide high-level, value-add services demands state-of-the-art technology as the decisive factor in this transformation. Investing in firm efficiencies like data analytics, digital collaboration and other technologies that consulting requires, also creates the potential for revenue through innovative client solutions. Insufficient human and financial capital plague small and medium sized firms, challenging these technology investments.
Many industry professionals used to believe that only the largest firms could access data analytics, AI, bots, and RPA. In only a few years, however, technology has become much more affordable for mid-level firms. The challenge now becomes having the bandwidth and the confidence to vet, acquire and deploy new technology.
While it can be difficult to move the needle and make substantial advances with a firm’s tech stack, Paul Grossbard, Partner at MGA (aka Miller Grossbard Advisors) in Houston, Texas, believes that banding together with like-minded firms in an association or network, could provide a solution, by facilitating knowledge sharing of what works or doesn't work, and other lessons learned from experience with different vendors. “Human and financial capital is scarce for many firms. To stay relevant, independent, and financially prosperous, our unique value proposition would be enhanced by working with other, PrimeGlobal member firms that have the capacity for IT development and coordination to develop solutions.”
Talent shortages, pricing pressures, and complexity in the tax and audit world are unique challenges currently confronting the accounting profession. Many experts believe that if accounting firms do not invest in and implement state of the art technologies, the independent firms’ future will be at stake, unable to compete with eager PE firms and large national firms, who have deep pockets, are strategically anticipatory and technology driven.
Investing in and implementing revenue-enhancing technology solutions is among the most powerful growth strategies for accounting firms. MGA believes that unifying workforces and financial resources across a collective group of firms, will achieve greater automation significance, in a much shorter amount of time. Michael Miller, Partner at MGA insists “Quickly achieving automation success will increase productivity by automating labour intensive tasks and streamlining processes. Most firms are actively pushing compliance work offshore or to a bot, focusing on refining specialised consulting offerings instead. The resulting strategic growth experienced is highly profitable, efficient, and sustainable.”
The client benefits are immense as firms develop technology solutions to ease the compliance work pressure and offer products and services the clients desire and deserve.
Michael Miller, Partner, MGA
Working with other accounting firms will accelerate the move to revolutionise business processes, transform finance and accounting functions and create more powerful teams with intelligent automation. Other PrimeGlobal firms with similar frustrations and concerns are interested in exploring this innovative proposal and are coming together to make significant changes. The association is supporting the initiative and investigating ways to add strength to the momentum.
The ability to execute judiciously is paramount and would include:
- intensely working with data to assist sophisticated clients
- passion about leveraging technology and enhancing client service
- the firm’s desire to remain independent
- investment in human and financial resources
Scaling automation with like-minded firms will benefit teams exponentially by allowing them to learn from others’ research, development, mistakes and successes. This combined effort accelerates the tech transformation, leading to greater employee and client satisfaction, retention and loyalty, and ultimately firm revenue growth.
Donny Shimamoto, CPA, CITP, CGMA, IntrapriseTechKnowlogies LLC
From Tech to Transformation
“This technology transformation will truly reshape and evolve how work gets done in each firm” says Donny Shimamoto, CPA, CITP, CGMA and the visionary behind the Center for Accounting Transformation. "But firms need to keep in mind that technology is just one part of transformation,” he added. “Empowering and equipping business and accounting professionals with leading-edge tools is the start. You need to upskill them with additional knowledge and techniques and develop their ability to think more innovatively to better lead clients through change.”
Associations and networks can help firms facilitate upskilling by identifying the learning and development needs of their members, and creating programmes to deliver the learning cost effectively, and facilitating peer groups to enable members to help each other overcome obstacles and share ideas. This also helps elevate the firm with a level of sophistication and confidence that they wouldn’t have if they were just driving a transformation initiative on their own.
“An African proverb put it best, “if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”