Just as CPAs have turned to digital solutions to help their firms and clients navigate COVID-19, accountants and finance professionals across the United States and around the world also are exploring technology options to help companies revamp their businesses and reengineer the way they run their own firms. Digital Transformation Reimagined: Accountants’ Lessons Learned and Tips for Moving Forward, a new report by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the unified voice of AICPA and CIMA, examines how accountants globally deployed a wide range of digital tools to help organizations survive and streamline costs. Looking ahead, firms and companies now have the time to step back and take a more strategic, long-term approach to maximizing digital transformation.
Through mini case studies, the report covers how AICPA and CIMA members changed business models, processes, and transactions virtually overnight. The effects of the changes on staff, customers, vendors, and other stakeholders are considered, too.
The report details the ways small and medium-size firms and organizations are reimagining how they conduct business and how they can serve clients. Among the key takeaways:
- The pandemic has demonstrated that a digital-first environment is workable and can be adapted to many situations. Among the examples in Digital Transformation Reimagined is one of a small virtual firm with staff in Chicago, Dallas, and other locations that serves clients across the country and hires top talent no matter where they live. At a growing Alabama-based firm, providing personalized client service is easier due to cloud technology that makes it possible to collaborate across four offices and manage the workload to make the best use of staff’s time.
- Innovation should be bold. For many clients, the next step may be unprecedented creativity. As they gain more confidence in their ability to experiment and manage risk, businesses will seek out CPAs’ advice on the best ways to make their grand plans a reality.
- Solutions can be scalable and affordable for small and medium-size organizations. For many firms and clients, there may be no need to invest in expensive or elaborate systems at first or, perhaps, ever.
On the road to success
The report includes a comprehensive three-stage road map that offers details on how to:
- Lay the groundwork for transformation. Before getting started, firms or their clients should take stock of where they stand, take a candid look at their current capabilities, make realistic plans based on their existing resources, and secure leadership buy-in.
- Bring staff, clients, and other stakeholders into the conversation. How has the pandemic affected clients, staff, and business contacts? What are the ideas and expectations for the future? Input from critical groups is invaluable in the planning process.
- Finesse the plan. Firms can decide how quickly the firm or client should move forward, create clear goals, acknowledge when they are reached, and take notes so staff can learn from the process.
Digital Transformation Reimagined introduces the possibilities of what the future could hold and the digital-driven opportunities for CPAs, clients, and organizations. Also included are actionable tips on the best ways to move forward and a list of resources to support implementation of the plan.
— Anita Dennis is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ellen Goldstein, the Association’s director–Communications & Special Projects, at Ellen.Goldstein@aicpa-cima.com.