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Accounting

The Big Shift: Changing needs means changing tactics

Keith Nichols  

Keith Nichols  

Business marketplaces are tighter and competition fiercer. People entering the workforce have different expectations than previous generations—and often more options for where they work. The workplace is becoming more technology-reliant.

Businesses across all industries must evolve to keep pace with these new challenges and take advantage of the opportunities they present. Some companies need to run leaner and more efficiently; others need to invest in emerging innovation to capture new opportunities.

But all need to rethink how they operate, including their financial infrastructure and workforce.

Taking on a consultant role to help businesses through this evolution presents your firm with an opportunity to replace vanishing revenue from declining tax compliance work. It also offers an avenue to strengthen your relationship with clients.

But how specifically can your firm help clients change to meet modern business needs? Read on.

Businesses looking to optimize workforce growth

Some companies have no finance or accounting professionals in-house and no desire to change. They typically outsource most or all their finance and accounting needs so they can focus on core business and customer needs.

These businesses need work plans that enable work to happen fast and efficiently. This can include payroll, accounts receivable and payable, and bookkeeping. But those are just the basics; any financial function—from these basics to advanced forecasting—can be made programmatic and predictable.

Your firm can help these companies handle these traditional CPA roles and can create the needed work plans. You can also help these businesses understand how business intelligence and analytics can help them spot trends and opportunities—and how they can act on them.

Businesses that require occasional additional services and/or staffing

Some organizations have resources on staff to “cover the basics.” Outsourcing finance and accounting services gives these businesses an effective way to bridge the gap between predictable needs and everything else.

Your firm can help by providing scalable services that can adapt as the needs of the business change.

Firms will need to meet clients’ demands for this scalable service while still managing seasonal compression challenges. If every business needs extra help at the end of the year, the stress can be immense, and your firm can end up with its own compressed workload problems.

Get ahead of this challenge by deploying technology and market research to gain insights that will let you be predictive and proactive. This way, you’ll be able to manage resource compression better while providing the trusted advisory services clients need.

Businesses needing expertise in improving technology and process best practices

Some companies have solid financial or accounting expertise that is not ready to scale alongside other modernization efforts.

They need help making processes more efficient and impactful without sacrificing security or dependability. They’re not outsourcing day-to-day operations but need consulting expertise in building the best systems.

Your firm can take on an adviser role for these businesses by becoming experts on your own technology and on the greater impact of technology on a specific industry. This means understanding not just hardware and software, but also how to use advanced tools like artificial intelligence and analytics.

Businesses facing change, from new markets to mergers and acquisitions

Entering new markets or growing through merger or acquisition can have a significant impact on compliance needs. Imagine a wellness product enterprise moving into medical cannabis. Or a company that, through acquisition, is now managing employees in two countries.

Your firm can offer its compliance and regulatory expertise to ensure these companies smoothly grow into their new markets or their new, larger company.

Businesses seeking visibility through metrics and benchmarks

Some companies need help figuring out what to measure from its raw data. They need to know things like: What are the most appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess financial health? What benchmarks are the best way to establish baseline success and measure future success?

Your firm can be there to help these companies answer these questions and get the most out of analytics.

Or, many organizations are familiar with their own data but their decision-makers want visibility into how competitors are doing and how organizations with similar sizes and missions are performing. They want to know what lessons can be learned and leveraged.

Since their competitors won’t just turn over that kind of information, businesses need help from trusted advisers—like your firm.

In either case, your firm will need to invest in its analytics capabilities before it can offer these services. This means bringing in data scientists or recruiting team members who understand the entire “data supply chain” where information moves from raw data to a valuable resource.

Your firm can also train staff on next-generation analytics and reporting tools and always ensure some team members are watching the artificial intelligence/machine learning space.

As technology gets more refined, the possibility of “citizen data scientist” draws closer. This is where a non-expert can, with the right technology, unlock the power of analytics even without advanced training. It’s a perfect match for the detail-oriented, analytical minds most tax and accounting professionals already possess.

Businesses needing auditing and assurance work

Regulatory frameworks’ growing influence means non-financial audits covering cybersecurity, quality, or performance claims are more and more popular. As these frameworks become more complex, companies need to understand requirements, build controls, and then demonstrate compliance.

Your firm can provide the guidance or service to meet these needs.

To be prepared for this service, you’ll need to add specialist staff or create opportunities for current staff to become certified in these specialized audits.

Your firm should also invest in best practice tools and content that support these efforts. This can include specialized audit workflow tools and evolving content that ensures both the firm and your clients are up to date on the latest version of a specific framework.

Now is the time to start adapting your firm to provide these services

Just by transforming into a firm that can expertly provide these services for evolving businesses, your firm will gain the experience needed to guide other companies through their evolution into a modern business. Having the capability to offer some or all of the services mentioned above will allow your firm to pivot from being a traditional service provider to one that focuses on higher-value (and higher-margin) advisory services.

Now is the time to start this transformation within your firm—and to build the internal expertise and skills to become the partner clients need. For a deeper dive into the ideas discussed here, check out The Big Shift Whitepaper which explores the changing dynamics of modern businesses and how CPA firms can meet the needs.

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