up with the changing landscape of technology is challenging and more so
don’t have the proper IT governance structure in place. What exactly is IT governance and how should
a firm go about it? Let’s start with the
AICPA’s definition of IT Governance:
A framework that ensures that
technology decisions are made in support of the business goals and objectives.
words, it ensures that you have alignment between the firm’s strategic vision
and the technology initiatives that support the desired results. This concept seems simple but it is one that
CPA firms have struggled with for years.
So how do you create this alignment?
developing a strategic plan for the overall firm that outlines your Vision,
Mission, Core Values and Strategic Objectives.
Once you identify your top 4-6 Strategic Objectives, you must then drill
down to the specific initiatives, measures of success, responsible parties and
due dates. We recommend that you limit
this to a single page, front and back to force yourself to focus on what’s
have the strategic plan for the firm you can start to tackle the Technology
Plan. Too often, we see firms try to
develop the two plans in siloes. The
result is typically two disjointed plans that don’t support each other. When you align IT with firm strategy you
leverage technology to its full potential and accelerate business results.
Align IT Strategy with the Firm Vision
major disconnect between IT strategy and the vision of the firm is caused (or
at least compounded) by the fact that each party is "doing their own
thing.” IT people go to technology
conferences/training and firm leadership attends practice management events. While each may hear discussions on the same
topics, they are not hearing (and taking away) the same message. Bringing together these two important areas
of the firm will bridge the gap between IT and practice management. By joining a community of forward thinking
firms, you can accelerate the alignment between firm strategy and your
technology plan. Learning from your
peers who are thought leaders can be disheartening when you find out you’re
behind but it can also be very satisfying when you learn your firm is leading
the pack. By joining a community like
the Boomer Technology Circles
, you will
instantly have a group that will push you to improve and hold you accountable.
A Seat at the Management Table
that is far too common in CPA firms is that you must be a CPA to manage and
understand the firm. This is simply not
true and is costing firms a lot of time and money while reducing their ability
to compete today and into the future.
Requiring a CPA certificate to have a seat at the management table is
holding back some of your best talent and limiting the firms potential for
that should have a seat at the management table is your CIO, especially if you
want to create the alignment between firm strategy and technology discussed
previously. Let’s look at five ways CIOs
can provide you a strategic advantage and why they should be contributing
members of your management team.
Do You Have the Right IT Leader?
- CIOs bring a
different perspective to the table than most partners. They see the entire enterprise and approach
strategy from that viewpoint. They
strive to break down barriers and eliminate siloes by improving
integration. They are also typically
outsiders to many of the firm’s processes and can more easily see opportunities
for improvement. Gödel’s Law states that
to understand the system you are in, you have to get outside of it.
- CIOs understand
how technology can improve efficiency and effectiveness. They can provide innovative insight into firm
and client strategies that will add value.
Leadership, relationships and creativity create value. Some of the current priority areas are mobile,
virtualization, workflow, digital platforms including portals, cloud computing
and business intelligence.
- The firms with the best technology are those
firms with strong IT leadership. CIOs
often have to deliver news that client service partners don’t want to hear –
"we have to invest”. Having a strong CIO
on your team who supports the firm’s vision and integrates technology is a strategic
advantage. Great IT professionals will
push firm leadership and management to excellence. Don’t settle for mediocrity at any level -
partner or IT.
- CIOs have project management skills which are
essential to the success of the firm.
These are skills that most partners, managers and staff lack even though
they would be extremely beneficial.
Firms are requiring and demanding more production from fewer resources
and this is only possible with engaged staff members who are highly motivated,
well trained and can leverage technology.
The CIO has unique abilities that can be leveraged in a team environment
and should drive these skills in your firm.
- One of the key roles of the CIO is to assist
leadership and management in developing new services and revenue streams. During Q4 of last year, over 60% of Apple’s
revenue came from services and products that were not for sale three years
ago. This is not an anomaly, but rather
a trend. Is your firm prepared? A quality CIO can assist you in meeting these
Do you have the right IT leader? To answer this question, you should assess
based on these important skills.
- Business Savvy
- Marketing & Sales
- Human Resources
- Project Management
- Budgeting & Cash Flow
- Strategy & Planning
While your IT leader’s sufficiency in
all these areas might not be at an "expert” level, you need to look for
potential. Do they show a willingness to
learn new skills and a desire to develop beyond their current position? If the answer is yes, you likely have the
right person and need to invest in development and training programs like the CIO Advantage
. You also need to encourage them to join a
peer community and share with peers. If
you answered "no”, then you are better served investing your time and money in
recruiting and hiring the right person.
Once again, a peer community like the Boomer Technology Circles
very helpful in learning from firms who have made a successful hire.
Technology impacts every area of
your firm. Managing the people, planning
and processes around IT can be challenging but is critical to the success of
your firm. Waiting can be costly since
playing catch-up requires a lot more time, effort and money than maintaining
your technology at a high level. I
encourage you to start today by taking the initial steps to improving your firm’s
performance through improved IT leadership and governance.