The Intuit 2017 Firm of the Future search that launched in July and ends August 13th is seeking accounting or tax firms “…who best embrace technological innovations in their practice to become future-ready.” The contest is open to full-service firms, bookkeepers, and tax professionals in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States who are eligible to win over $1000,000 in prizes and a possible all-expense paid trip to Intuit’s QuickBooks Connect conference, November 15-17, in San Jose, California. But how do accounting and tax firms define if they’re future-ready or not?
Firms of the Future Defined
According to Jeff Borschowa, author, educator, and curator on accounting technology topics, he credits Ronald J. Baker and Paul Dunn with their book, The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers, and Other Professional Services as partial inspiration to Intuit’s interest in showcasing and demonstrating future-ready firms. Borschowa defines firms of the future as:
The firm never enters data; rather, it focuses on data management and offering insight. Significant time can be saved by using electronic tools to automate data entry. In addition to time saved, data can be updated daily, offering a greater time advantage – immediate insight!
2. Paid for value
The firm no longer focuses on the hours of input required to create an outcome; instead, it focuses on creating value for clients. This value focus allows the firm to earn higher fees and build greater client satisfaction and loyalty. The firm is able to focus on their role as trusted advisor to their clients.
3. Connected to clients
Building strong client relationships is critical to the success of the Firm of the Future. The firm actively cultivates client relationships and seeks opportunities to add value to their clients’ businesses. Innovation and collaboration are key to the mindset of the firm. Enhanced focus on relationships allows the firm to grow significantly larger than a traditional firm, using fewer resources to produce greater outputs.
4. Free of Timesheets
According to Mr. Baker, timesheets give the illusion of control. At best, timesheets are a backwards view to measure our inputs into the accounting process. Timesheets have nothing to do with running our firm better or placing a value on the outcome that we produce for our clients. The facts support Mr. Baker’s assertion, in that firms without timesheets have greater focus on value, greater employee satisfaction, and are consistently more profitable.
Jason L. Ackerman, CPA, CFP, CGMA, an accountant with Bernard N. Ackerman (BNA) CPAs, discusses his idea of future-ready firms in The CPA Journal article, The CPA Firm of the Future.
Ackerman believes that, “Over the next five to ten years, CPA firms are going to see change at a pace the profession has never seen before. With the rise of automation and computer technology, the mundane and compliance tasks that CPAs spend most of their time doing now will be done almost instantaneously by machines.”
Ackerman believes that automations “…will provide a great opportunity for CPAs to transform and differentiate themselves from the tax preparers and accountants of the world—the ‘machines’ of the industry today.” He argues that most firms are not considering these automation opportunities because they’re too focused on competing with Turbo Tax or H&R Block and lowering their prices; not tapping into the value add CPAs provide as trusted financial advisors.
CPAs and Firms Moving into the Future
The accounting industry is rapidly transforming partially due to productivity optimization available through newer technologies and accounting software programs are becoming more automated, so today’s CPA is shifting towards a more dynamic role focused in accounting technology. With such significant changes in the accounting profession now and in the future, every stakeholder in the accounting industry needs to be engaged in the changes. Ackerman argues that it’s important for firms to change their mindset when it comes to these emerging technologies.
Ackerman concludes by stating:
“CPAs need to think of themselves as the trusted advisors that they are, and they need to be training the younger generation on the importance of being such an advisor. Firms need to brand themselves as problem-solving, value-producing organizations. They should position themselves as a place from which clients know they can receive the much-needed advice they crave. If CPAs can accomplish this, the profession will be profitable and successful for many generations to come.”
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