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Creating a Structures Process for Innovation in Your Firm

As accounting firms face unprecedented technological advancements and shifting market demands, more leaders are looking to their teams to bring ideas for software and innovations that can enhance efficiency and help the firm maintain a competitive edge.  

However, innovative firms need a structured process to evaluate and incorporate these innovations into the firm.  

While the process might vary from organization to organization, this article delves into why a defined process is crucial for effectively utilizing resources, ensuring equity among departments and preventing potential innovations from being overlooked. 


Why you need a defined process 

A well-defined process for innovation offers several benefits. First, it ensures the firm effectively utilizes its resources. By having a clear pathway from idea generation to implementation, firms can efficiently allocate their personnel, time, and financial resources, ensuring that projects are completed within scope and budget. 


Second, a structured process prevents any department from feeling disadvantaged. Without a standardized approach, departments or individuals with the loudest voices or most political capital tend to get the most attention. As a result, other departments or individuals feel sidelined or perceive that their needs are not being adequately addressed. A structured approach gives every idea the same opportunity to be evaluated, reducing internal friction. 


Finally, without a structured process, valuable innovations may fall through the cracks simply because the firm lacks the immediate resources to pursue the idea. A defined process ensures that every potential innovation is given the consideration it deserves—even if the firm can’t pursue it right away. 


Building your innovation pipeline 

An innovation pipeline acts as a conduit for new ideas, whether they are significant improvements or incremental optimizations.  

It allows the firm to systematically evaluate ideas based on their potential merits, resource requirements, and impact on the firm. By treating all projects with a similar perspective, firms can prioritize initiatives that offer the most value, ensuring a balanced approach to innovation. 


A standardized process also offers the benefit of historical reporting. Firms can revisit former projects for insights and lessons to inform future initiatives. This retrospective analysis is invaluable for refining and enhancing the innovation process over time. 

While your innovation pipeline and process will be unique to your firm, here are some elements to consider incorporating. 

Flexibility within structure 

While having a process is critical, it's equally important to recognize that not all projects are the same. The process must be adaptable, allowing for modifications based on the specific needs of each project. For instance, some innovations may require a comprehensive risk analysis, while others might not. This flexibility ensures that the process remains relevant and effective across various projects. 


The process should also allow for reconfiguring projects that don’t meet the initial criteria for advancement. By ensuring idea submitters can return to the drawing board, so to speak, the firm demonstrates a commitment to valuing every idea, providing an avenue for projects to be revisited or reimagined rather than outright discarded. 


Cross-departmental collaboration 

A robust innovation process also emphasizes the importance of cross-departmental input. By gathering perspectives from various areas of the firm, leaders can avoid tunnel vision and ensure that new technologies or processes are applicable and beneficial across the board. This collaborative approach helps maintain balance and prevents any single department from dominating the innovation agenda. 

It also ensures different offices or departments aren’t duplicating their efforts. 


Scaling the process 

For small firms, managing an innovation pipeline is relatively straightforward and might be the responsibility of a single innovation committee. However, as firms grow, the complexity increases. 

Larger firms may need to establish multiple independent innovation pipelines based on regional or service line distinctions. Despite this segmentation, it's essential to maintain a firmwide oversight, possibly through an advisory board, to ensure coherence and alignment with the firm's overall strategic goals. 


Adopting a structured process for innovation isn’t just a procedural exercise; it’s a strategic imperative for forward-thinking firms that want to allocate resources efficiently, foster a culture of collaboration, and position the firm to capitalize on new opportunities. 

By embracing a structured approach to innovation, your firm can navigate the complexities of the modern business environment with agility and confidence, building a foundation for sustained success and growth. 


Could you benefit from structure and accountability as you strive to push your firm forward? 

The Boomer Process Circle is a peer group of top Process and Lean Six Sigma leaders in the accounting profession who share tools and resources for pushing change within their firms. Apply now to tap into the experience and expertise you need to lead the charge for continuous improvement. 


As Technology Manager for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Chris Rochford leverages a diverse background in web development and technology consulting. His role involves managing Boomer Consulting, Inc.’s internal technology, as well as researching how new and emerging technologies can be leveraged internally and for our external clients.

Before joining Boomer Consulting, Inc., Chris spent 15 years in tech, doing web development for state and local government agencies and commercial clients.


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