The current economic turmoil has underscored the need for firms to be prepared for future uncertainty, market volatility, and regulatory flux. To remain competitive, firms of all sizes must have the flexibility and agility of a small business in responding quickly to changing conditions, while offering clients and employees the security and stability that often comes with a larger infrastructure.
The successful firm will not only respond quickly to shifting client demands, but also anticipate future needs to proactively offer new services and allocate resources to new practice areas, creating that demand. Technology can provide a global view of the firm’s operations. However, the measure of a firm’s success is in how effectively its leadership translates that view into an action plan to carry the firm forward.
Change Is Upon Us
The only thing that appears certain at this point is change. We will emerge from the next five years with a different set of rules. The profession is poised to undergo tremendous changes – some set in motion years ago, as we have struggled to attract young talent to replace aging leadership. Other changes are more recent like the push to adopt International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and greater financial transparency. Some changes, spurred by the near collapse of our financial institutions are still yet unknown. Make no mistake, change is upon us.
As some clients struggle to remain solvent and others move in new directions to take advantage of opportunities in emerging markets, firms will be expected to provide critical insight into clients’ financial health and sound counsel to guide their decisions. Increased regulatory pressure and heightened awareness of potential fraud will drive growth in new practice areas like forensic accounting and expertise in transitioning to IFRS.
None, save maybe the largest firms, need be everything to everyone. The best assessment of a firm’s future opportunities is in examining the make-up of its current client base, and how its needs have evolved, as well as the collective expertise of its talented employees.
Empowering Strong Leadership
Effective planning for the changes to come require constant monitoring of the firm’s shifting profit drivers, client needs, and resource allocation. Using technology to keep a pulse on the firm’s operations can provide a global view of all work in progress, a historic perspective of its shifting client demands, a full picture of its relationship with a particular client, and resource utilization to ensure senior staff members are fully burdened now and in the future.
Seeing the big picture clearly is important, but it means nothing if the firm does not have the agility to act quickly and decisively to fluctuating conditions. Interpreting that view and translating it into a successful action plan requires confident leadership with a solid vision for the future. And, acting swiftly to capture new opportunity requires the flexibility to identify and shift available resources instantly.
An expansive technological infrastructure and greater capacity may appear to give advantage to larger firms, whereas the dexterity to shift focus and resources in a new direction quickly is usually an asset to a smaller organization. Key technology investments, such as workflow management software, however, can serve as a great equalizer – giving firms of all sizes critical business intelligence and empowering them to act quickly on that knowledge.
Mark Albrecht, CPA, MST, was founding shareholder at Kirkland Albrecht & Fredrickson, PC. In his quest to create the firm of the future, he founded and serves as CEO of XCM Solutions, LLC and Xpitax, LLC.
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