Each year, the consultants at Boomer Consulting get together to discuss our forecasts for the coming year in five areas critical to a firm’s success: process, talent, leadership, technology, and growth. We develop these forecasts based on what we see while working with firms, attending accounting conferences, and meeting with our Boomer Process Circle members.
Today, I’d like to share those trends in the process arena, so you can begin planning for how they may impact your firm and your clients.
Process improvement to support the new way of work
The way we work has changed, and our processes need to change along with it. When everyone packed up and went home in March 2020, firms did whatever it took to make it work. But now is the time to take a step back and create or refine the processes needed to support remote and hybrid work. If we don’t, we’ll either revert to our old ways or be inefficient in a new way.
These processes need to support both the employee experience and the client experience. If there is no process for delivering a unified employee and client experience, it will happen on an ad hoc basis..
We’re seeing many leading firms invest heavily into training and educating their people and clients on following the process and using the tools.
Technology continues to accelerate the transformation of compliance and create capacity
Digital natives are pushing for process improvement and automation — it’sessential to them. You’ll have a tough time holding onto talent if you aren’t leveraging both.
Firms that align processes and technology to automate and outsource see far more progress than those that just focus on one or the other. Technology and process go hand in hand. We saw this during the pandemic when some firms chose to focus on technology for remote work but didn’t make processes a priority. They now need more complex process improvements, whereas firms that looked at both technology and process are refining the processes they improved during the pandemic.
Automation is a vital part of increasing efficiency and creating consistency, and it starts with a focus on process improvement. As we’ve said for years, it is difficult, if not impossible,to automate an inconsistent process. Process optimization must happen before automation.
We also need to remember that there is a limited about of additional efficiency that we can get from our people. Efficiency used to be the goal, but now firms that sought efficiency gains have realized that efficiency can only take them so far.
We need to leverage outsourcing and automation to create capacity so people can work at their best and highest levels.
Breaking down process silos to create a one-firm approach
As firms move toward being more advisory and packaging multiple services packaged together, they’re finding that processes across the firm need to be in sync — you can’t have multiple ways of doing thingsand use different technologies across each department. You need alignment of processes, technology, and internal procedures to provide a positive client experience.
Many firms currently have silos that prevent this from happening. Onboarding is a perfect example of where silos aren’t supporting this kind of growth. Firms often have different processes for onboarding clients and use different technologies in audit, tax, client accounting services, etc.So when they package two or more of those services together, they run into problems onboarding and serving the client across departments.
It's time to take a more holistic view of process and technology integration across the firm to provide consistency and a better leveraging of resources.
Process finds a home in Operations
This was a trend from last year, but it is evolving. Operations is now getting a more defined role in process improvement as firm leaders realize the importance of strategic continuous improvement across the firm. We see this in two crucial areas: leadership and metrics.
Many firms are investing in new roles for leading process improvement, managing change, and supporting teams. Having someone take ownership of process improvement in the firm is crucial for keeping it moving — it can’t be the responsibility of someone with a full-time job serving clients.
Having this role in operations instead of having someone responsible for process improvement in each practice area helps break down the silos and create an integrated approach to process, technology and talent.
Firm leaders are also looking for ways to increase accountability around process improvement results and make better decisions on resource management, workload and capacity. They need metrics beyond realization to do that — especially as firms continue to transition to more advisory and consultative work.
Whenever possible, it’s best to focus on establishing metrics at the beginning of a process improvement project to drive results that align with the firm’s strategic objectives. However, if a firm has already completed a process improvement project, they may need to take a step back to set up processes and technology to measure the right things and get those insights.
Process as a talent strategy
We all know the challenges of finding and keeping talent, but many firm leaders overlook the process’s role in talent attraction and retention.
Leading firms are becoming more aggressive with strategic plans for automation and outsourcing to create capacity. This helps them become more effective and efficient; it also takes the burden of repetitive, lower-value (but necessary) work off of their team. This gives people more opportunities to grow and focus on value-added work, which leads to greater career satisfaction.
Process can also play a crucial role in creating training and development plans for upskilling and reskilling. These plans require a process for delivery and continuous improvement to make sure they don’t become stagnant.
Staying on top of trends in technology, process, leadership, growth and talent can be intimidating, and it’s not uncommon for firms to feel the pressure of change fatigue. However, with change comes opportunity, so it’s essential to get comfortable with change in a successful firm. Starting with a strategic plan can help you understand what needs to change, garner support, make changes and continuously improve.
Is your firm ready to stop wasting time on inconsistent and bloated processes?
Boomer Process Consulting can help you create a lasting process improvement strategy that frees up the capacity to deliver higher-value services to your clients. Schedule a discovery call today to start seeing real results.
As Shareholder and Consultant for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Arianna Campbell helps accounting firms challenge the status quo by leading process improvement initiatives that result in increased profitability and client satisfaction. She also facilitates the development and cultivation of future firm leaders in The P3 Leadership Academy™ Academy. Internally, she blends concepts from Lean Six Sigma and leadership development to drive innovation and continuous improvement within the company. Arianna also enjoys the opportunity to share knowledge through regular contributions to the Boomer Bulletin and other industry-wide publications, as well as public speaking at industry conferences.