Technology enabled accounting firms to weather the coronavirus pandemic, but it will be just as fundamental to success as we return to something approaching normalcy. While there may have been a time when advanced technology could be used to supplement your core business, today it is your core business.
As such, when you plan your operational strategy — for today, tomorrow, and beyond — you have to do it with technology in mind. Without a harmonious relationship between tech and strategy, you're at risk of wasting resources, time, and energy in places where it can't do the most good for your business.
"A combined business-technology strategy can result in a road map for achieving each business opportunity, fully aligned with technology capabilities, systems, and investments," notes an article from Deloitte's CIO Insider. But how do you create such a strategy? To do so requires knowledge of the present, vision for the future, and a willingness to start asking questions about tech from the earliest days of your planning.
Accounting is a profession where technology opens up avenues in nearly every direction. Through automation, artificial intelligence, and other tools, you can structure your operation to run with more efficiency and agility than ever before. In a world where firms are looking to tech to provide a leg up on the competition, those that place well-thought-out tech solutions at the forefront of their strategy will be best positioned to gain the most in the future.
The need for harmony
Tech can dictate the possible growth areas for your business. If you want to add a greater emphasis on advisory services, for example, you must find the tools to lessen your time spent on data entry and compliance accounting.
It is important you approach this search with the right mindset Don't look for a piece of technology that most closely meets your preconceived ideas for strategy; look at the technology available and develop your strategy in accordance with it. That way, you won't have to cut corners or adjust your strategy while you're already in motion.
One place where you apply these ideas is with automating your workflows. Let's say you serve a number of e-commerce clients. Each of them sells their wares through a number of different channels. You may decide you want to help them strategize which products to promote and feature based on their performance on various channels. If you develop this strategy along with adopting a multichannel inventory management platform, you'll be able to glean powerful insights without having to spend hours crunching numbers from each respective channel.
The same process can be completed for any number of accounting operations: payroll, invoices, purchase orders, etc. Understanding where automation is available and how easily it can be synced to your current software suite will allow you to develop a strategy that can be put in place soon and grow with you over the coming years. Conversely, if you don't have core platforms that easily integrate with automation services, you must take a hard look at whether those platforms are best suited for your continued success. It's better to migrate today than be left playing catch-up.
Built to last
The final piece of a smartly combined business-technology strategy is looking to the horizon to analyze future possibilities. As Frederico Faria de Oliveira writes, "In order to compete in an increasingly fast and digital market, companies must equip themselves to become differentiators." Equipping yourself to become a differentiator requires understanding the tools that will provide an opportunity for differentiation.
Tech offers accounting firms a future of endless possibility, but it will only be available for those who build their strategy to work with the tech and not against it.
— Amy Vetter, CPA/CITP, CGMA, is CEO of The B3 Method Institute, a keynote speaker and adviser and host of the Breaking Beliefs podcast. Learn more at amyvetter.com. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor, at Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com.