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Disrupt Yourself or Someone Else Will

Every accounting firm leader has a choice right now: disrupt yourself or let someone else do it. Yet for many, the word disruption feels too radical. In many cases, they’re more successful than they’ve ever been before, so the natural question is, why change?

It’s a valid question, and my answer is you don’t have to change. But change is happening, so you can decide when and how your firm will change or simply be along for the ride.

Trends driving disruption

The impact of disruption is much greater today than it was just five to ten years ago. Massive technological trends and shifting client expectations demand a new approach to how we create value for clients.

The services that may have generated the most revenue for your firm historically (transactional and compliance services) are more vulnerable to disruption than others due to automation, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, and the cloud.

Firms that learn how to leverage these technologies, offer expert insight and advice, and strengthen client relationships will access the greatest opportunities.

Disruption beyond technology

Technology is omnipresent in an accounting firm. So when we think of disruption, we automatically think about technology. But disruption isn’t just about technology. It’s much more — your whole business, in fact.


Firm leaders must agree on a vision of what the firm wants to be, do, have, create and experience in the next few years. Without a shared vision, alignment and a structure for accountability, firms will struggle to remain relevant and provide value to clients.

Remember, firms leaders aren’t the only ones who can drive innovation in the firm. Innovation must be the responsibility of everyone in the firm, but it does require structure and buy-in from leaders. So listen to their ideas and empower your people to be innovative and disrupt your firm and business model.


To take advantage of innovative technology, you need to optimize and improve your processes. Shoving new tech into old processes creates inefficiencies, headaches and increased costs. What’s worse, people often blame technology when their outdated processes are the root of the problem.

You cannot automate inconsistent processes, so eliminate personal preferences in favor of firm preference. And keep in mind, compliance services aren’t the only areas of opportunity for disrupting your processes. Think about other areas, such as billing, purchasing, client and employee onboarding, advisory services and more.


Within the next few years, a majority of revenue in the accounting profession will likely come from services many firms aren’t currently offering. If you haven’t already, identify your niche specializations and start looking for ways to provide a larger number of advisory and consulting services to a smaller pool of clients.

Upskill your people to help them become comfortable having sales conversations with clients. For many accountants, the word “sales” is the stuff of nightmares. But having sales conversations with clients simply means learning how to better listen to clients, ask questions, understand their problems, identify potential solutions and see the success they will experience by working with you.


We’re all used to firm hierarchies shaped like triangles with a few partners and C-suite executives at the top and lots of staff members and interns at the bottom. But we’re headed towards firms that will be shaped like diamonds, with a larger number of mid-level leaders and managers in the middle and much of the lower-level work being outsourced and automated.

How are you preparing your team members for this future? The profession has been dealing with a talent crisis for a long time. Many accounting graduates are choosing not to go into public accounting, and experienced people are leaving the profession searching for greater work/life balance and flexibility.

Every firm needs to consider how they’ll attract, retain and develop the talent they’ll need in the next several years. This requires addressing performance management, compensation, flexible and remote work options, career paths, learning and development and diversity initiatives.

Disrupting yourself is challenging, but it’s necessary if you want to choose your firm’s future rather than having a sub-optimal future selected for you.


Do you need help developing a roadmap for the future?

The Boomer Strategic Planning and Visioning process helps firms build consensus and alignment account their vision, strategic objectives and measurements. Complete an interest form today so you can start taking the most direct path to achieve the results you want.


Jim Boomer, CEO of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is an expert on managing technology within an accounting firm. He serves as the director of the Boomer Technology Circles, The Advisor Circle and the CIO Circle. He also acts as a strategic planning and technology consultant and firm adviser to CPA firms across the country. Accounting Today called him a “thought leader who can help accountants create next-generation firms.” Jim is a prolific writer with a monthly column in The CPA Practice Advisor and has been published in a number of industry publications including Accounting Today, Accounting Web, the International Group of Accounting Firms and several state society publications.


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