Ask the expert: Practice management

Featuring Davis Bell, CEO, Canopy

A case for modern practice management

Q  What do you see as the biggest shift in the relationship between CPAs and their clients in recent years?

A  I’m going to cheat and list two. The first is the transition away from “CPA as bookkeeper/tax preparer” to “CPA as strategic adviser.” Small and medium-size businesses are increasingly looking to their CPA as an outside CFO/COO who can advise them on all kinds of strategic matters. This trend has been accelerated by the challenges created by COVID, PPP, and a quickly shifting political, economic, and regulatory environment. The second is that clients have begun to expect (and now demand) their CPA provide a first-class technology experience similar to the ones they experience with modern consumer software like Gmail, Instagram, MyFitnessPal, and so on. They’re no longer content to go from using the Uber app to an outdated accounting software that isn’t cloud, isn’t mobile, and isn’t easy to use.

Q  What are some essential components that would define modern practice management?

A  At Canopy we believe a modern practice management system should be the central system of record through which a practice manages its customers, work, and employees. To do that, a practice management system has to offer a fully featured suite consisting of a CRM to manage client information, a client portal, document management for securely exchanging and organizing documents, workflow management to organize work across the firm, time tracking to enable a firm to measure the ROI of its activities and employees, and the ability to send invoices and take payments from customers. All of that should be truly cloud-based, offer bank-level security, be accessible via native mobile apps, and provide a public API for the purposes of integrating with other software solutions upon which accountants rely. A lot of solutions branded as “practice management” do one or two of these things, but a true practice management platform offers a firm the ability to do all of these things without requiring multiple vendors and integrations.

Q  Fear of change often hinders a business’s evolution and growth. How would you advise a reluctant business owner to embrace change?

A  I get it. CPAs are insanely busy doing the actual work their clients pay them for, and it can be difficult to take time away to evaluate new systems and processes that will help the firm stay competitive. It’s painful to replace something everyone at the practice has been using for a long time with something new that everyone will have to learn. That said, we’re all familiar with the countless examples of organizations (e.g., Blockbuster) that chose the easier path and refused to change, while other more dynamic organizations (e.g., Netflix) paid the price to change and in so doing won the future. Spending time and resources now to prepare for the future is always the right choice.


Canopy is a practice management software company based in Draper, Utah. Canopy offers a full-suite software solution for accounting firms, offering tools such as client management, document management, workflow, and time and billing solutions in one secure, cloud-based platform. With Canopy, you can streamline your firm by keeping your team organized, increasing your ROI, and creating a connected client experience. To learn more about Canopy, visit