I spend quite a bit of time talking to firms and leaders in our profession about digital disruption and changing business models in firms around the country. With technology posed to take over all manner of accounting compliance work, traditional service offerings like tax preparation and some parts of audit will be automated or rendered virtually irrelevant. Everybody is talking about what to do next: how to boost revenue, relevance and value by developing the necessary skills and mindsets to leverage emerging technologies.
What I’ve discovered is that firms fall into one of three camps when it comes to thinking about and planning for the coming transformation. So let’s take a look at those three camps and what you should be doing if your firm is in one of them.
Camp #1: Watching from the sidelines
This camp is composed of individuals and firms who are sitting off to the side. Perhaps they hear what other firms are talking about and see what other people are doing but think, “It won’t affect me,” or perhaps even worse, “I’ll be out of here before it happens.”
Does this sound like you or the partners in your firm? If so, you’ve got to do something. First, disruption isn’t coming – it’s already here. The largest firms are already using technology that can slash the amount of time accountants spend on complex audits, analyzing contracts and researching tax credits.
Even if you believe you’ll be enjoying your retirement in the next few years, if you’re planning on “cashing in” your share of the firm’s value, what will it be worth? A train wreck, stuck in outdated processes and technology, losing talent and clients to other firms won’t be worth much. If you want to have value to cash in, it’s time to get off of the bench and start figuring out what your firm needs to do to remain relevant.
Camp #2: Feeling stuck
This camp is made up of individuals and firms who know change is coming but feel stuck. They’re not taking action, not because they don’t think the coming changes will affect them, but because they simply don’t know what to do.
If this camp sounds familiar, lean in. Get educated. You don’t have to do it on your own. Attend conferences, join peer groups and tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience being shared in our profession right now.
Take on specialized projects in your firm to expand your understanding of technology, data analytics, consulting and other skills that will become more and more crucial as the profession evolves. You don’t need to have all of the answers today. As you start making steps towards learning and using new skills, you will gain confidence and start getting stronger.
Camp #3: All in
This camp is much smaller than the other two. These are the individuals and firms who are all in, making changes in their firms right now. Make no mistake: this camp is not made up of only the largest firms. True, large firms have the resources to develop their own AI products that smaller firms don’t have. But the technology will become more widely available in the next few years until it becomes standard in firms of all sizes.
Is this where your firm is at? If so congratulations, you’re on your way! But before you celebrate too much, make sure you’re going the right way. It’s not enough to change yourself. You need to lead other people and get them involved.
Technology isn’t the only thing that will change inside firms in the next few years. The kind of people inside firms will change as well. We’ll see a more diverse talent pool and people with degrees other than accounting. We’ll need a mix of experience and specialties to meet the needs of our clients – more than any one person can provide on their own.
So which camp are you in? Whether you’re sitting on the sidelines, unsure of which step to take first, or just looking for new ways to seize the opportunities that emerging technologies will bring, we can help. Check out the Business Transformation Playbook™ or join the Boomer Advisor Circle™. Commit to embrace change and truly become your clients’ trusted business advisor.
Sandra Wiley, President of Boomer Consulting, Inc., has been lauded for her industry expertise in human resources and training. She is often called the “go-to person” for solutions to the profession’s staffing crisis, citing her wise advice on hiring – and keeping – employees for the rest of their careers.
Sandra developed the P3 Leadership Academy and hosts regional training sessions throughout the country. Her years of experience and influence as a management and strategic planning consultant make her a sought-after resource among the best and brightest firms in the country.