Tax and accounting professionals can be risk-averse and take a conservative, measured approach to analyzing facts and figures, leaving no stone unturned, and always proceeding with caution. This approach is why they’re successful in business.
But this same cautious approach has caused the accounting profession to fall behind other industries in adopting new technology and a digital first mindset that can help firms evolve their business.
Because of this, firms are missing opportunities to create efficiencies and better serve their clients.
Proving the value of digital first to your clients should be simple following 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone in the world got a taste of what life is like when we can’t interact with each other in person and saw first-hand that firms with digital tools and processes were prepared while those who still worked on paper struggled to adapt.
Whether they realize it or not, your clients are already familiar with the convenience offered by a digital-first mindset. Portals have become a part of daily life. Think about paying bills online, scheduling appointments with your doctor or hairstylist, and signing up for your favorite yoga class. Digital technology has made it simple for people to connect with service providers and share sensitive information securely.
If you’re unfamiliar with this mindset, “digital first” “means approaching any new opportunity, or problem, with the assumption that the solution should be as digital as possible”.
For example: a firm may decide to overhaul its new client onboarding process by doing away with paper forms and implementing a password-protected online portal where clients can fill out sensitive information securely. By prioritizing use of a digital tool and collecting information online, the firm is showing a “digital first” mindset.
Why is digital first important?
Other than the obvious reason – business continuity – a digital first mindset allows firms to achieve a few different benefits:
Digital first is what customers expect.
The vast majority of people actively choose the most digital experience they can in the services they use (Exhibit A: online banking). Clients have a growing expectation for digital capacity, they crave more convenience and greater ease.
Digital increases collaboration
An online portal for clients allows them to interact with staff at their convenience and at their own pace.
Digital first means a bigger pool of potential clients.
When your primary way of interacting with clients is digital, your firm is no longer bound by geography when advertising for new business.
Digital tools are always evolving and update automatically. New technologies are emerging daily that enable ever more sophisticated ways to perform a myriad of tasks. The more your services are designed as digital experiences, the easier it will be to leverage those new capabilities and improve your services as they emerge.
Starting down your path to modernization
Once a firm has embraced the idea of digital transformation, what’s next? Surprisingly, the transformation doesn’t start with the solutions — it begins with people and processes. Shifting to new technology requires a firm to look internally at how it does things and reimagine it’s business model processes to fit the new technologies.
When deploying technology, firms shouldn’t be afraid to change the way they work. Firms of all sizes should also initially focus on their clients and their staff.
- Are employees currently doing work that has value to clients, or is it just busywork?
- Are employees fulfilled in their work?
- Are they happy with their work-life balance?
- Can clients easily access their account data on their own?
- Are they getting value from your services?
Once these questions have been answered, firms should start plotting their roadmap to align new services and technology solutions. Start by asking:
- How do you move from basic modernization to advanced technology?
- How do you ensure employee learning and development includes technology?
- How do you keep pace with competitors?
- How can technology help to evolve your employee culture continuously?
- Where are you on that continuum, and what are the next steps you need to take to get to the next level?
With these considerations in mind, and with the help of a forward-looking technology partner like Thomson Reuters, firms will be able to find the best solutions to begin their digital transformation.
Tax and accounting firms must create a technology roadmap to meet the expectations of their clients and staff and adapt to a service-oriented business model to survive and grow in today’s market. Some firms — including your competitors — are starting to do that, but the results of their efforts have been mixed. Many digital technology providers have rushed to be first to market, and the results have been solutions that don’t deliver the promised benefits or are challenging to use. That’s why a technology partner with a proven track record of expertise is important. The key to a successful implementation is finding a partner who understands the firm’s needs and thinks about the firm’s holistic strategy and approach to business and processes.
Learn more at the Large firm resources page.