Busi­ness trans­for­ma­tion — shared vi­sion or shared ser­vices? Forms of shar­ing

Shared ser­vices firm

Accounting Today - - Technology - By L. Gary Boomer

Pro­fes­sional ser­vices firms can suc­ceed fi­nan­cially as ei­ther “shared ser­vices” or “shared vi­sion” firms, although shared ser­vice firms have lim­i­ta­tions.

Your ques­tion may be, “What is the dif­fer­ence?” One of the big­gest dif­fer­ences is the abil­ity to sus­tain suc­cess and stay fu­ture-ready, es­pe­cially in to­day’s dis­rup­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

De­vel­op­ing a shared vi­sion is not that dif­fi­cult, but many firms fail to take the time to de­fine what they want to be, do, have, cre­ate and ex­pe­ri­ence in the fu­ture. Many choose to avoid con­flict or dis­agree­ment, which of­ten re­sults in con­flict, and tal­ent leav­ing the firm. It is more pro­duc­tive to de­fine your vi­sion and build your team, rather than build your team and then de­fine your vi­sion. In ei­ther case, firms are best served through vi­sion­ing and strate­gic plan­ning.

We rec­om­mend look­ing at a five-year win­dow for vi­sion­ing and one to two years for strate­gic plan­ning with ac­count­abil­ity at all lev­els. Con­duct­ing an hon­est as­sess­ment of your firm is the first step that should be taken.

Next, de­velop a strate­gic plan. Shared ser­vices firms can grow and pros­per fi­nan­cially, while shared vi­sion firms can pro­vide more than just fi­nan­cial re­sults. Shared vi­sion firms can also pro­vide ex­po­nen­tial growth as well as a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing cul­ture where in­di­vid­u­als are re­warded for their sig­nif­i­cance in sup­port of the firm’s strate­gic ob­jec­tives. Shared vi­sion pro­vides di­rec­tion, growth and in­te­gra­tion with per­sonal goals and a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing cul­ture.

The fol­low­ing ques­tions will as­sist you in de­ter­min­ing where your firm is to­day. Most shared ser­vices firms are lim­ited to in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ment and growth, while shared vi­sion firms can achieve firm im­prove­ment, ex­po­nen­tial growth, and a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing cul­ture. This re­quires lead­er­ship, tal­ent, tech­nol­ogy and pro­cesses with a growth strat­egy, re­sult­ing in a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing cul­ture.

1. Has your firm com­pleted a fa­cil­i­tated vi­sion­ing ses­sion?

2. Does your firm have a strate­gic plan with buy-in from the own­ers and team mem­bers?

3. Does your firm have a tech­nol­ogy roadmap that in­te­grates with the firm’s strate­gic plan?

4. Is your firm man­aged by a CEO and pro­fes­sional man­age­ment team?

5. Are own­ers com­pen­sated for ob­jec­tives other than fi­nan­cial, such as charge hours and book of busi­ness? 6. Or firm and of­fice man­age­ment? 7. Or de­vel­op­ment of tal­ent and other own­ers?

8. Or man­age­ment of tal­ent and other own­ers?

9. Or client de­vel­op­ment and sat­is­fac­tion?


Or process im­prove­ment and in­no­va­tion?

11. Does your firm have suc­ces­sion and re­tire­ment plans in place?

12. Does your firm view tech­nol­ogy as a strate­gic as­set (the ac­cel­er­a­tor)?

13. Does your firm have writ­ten stan­dards, poli­cies and pro­ce­dures?

If you an­swered “Yes” to 10 or more of the ques­tions, you are well on your way to a shared vi­sion firm; if you an­swered “Yes” to six to nine of them, you are in tran­si­tion; and for fewer than that, you are a shared ser­vices firm.

While the ben­e­fits of be­ing a shared vi­sion firm are great and the dan­gers associated with be­ing a shared ser­vices firm are sig­nif­i­cant, both types of firms can have fi­nan­cial suc­cess. The prob­lem with shared ser­vices firms is they tend to be about the own­ers, rather than about the firm. It is dif­fi­cult to sus­tain growth … es­pe­cially ex­po­nen­tial growth in a shared ser­vices firm.

Lack of suc­ces­sion and con­ti­nu­ity is also a risk of a shared ser­vices firm. It takes plan­ning, pro­cesses and the right peo­ple to be a shared vi­sion firm. The firm must come first in or­der to sus­tain suc­cess and be fu­ture-ready (re­main rel­e­vant). Once you have de­ter­mined where you are to­day and where you want to be in three years, you can then be­gin im­ple­ment­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate strate­gies.

The ac­com­pa­ny­ing ta­ble shows some of the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two types of firms. There are mul­ti­ple lev­els, and many firms are striv­ing to trans­form. In­cre­men­tal change is not enough.

You can and should trans­form your firm; how­ever, it re­quires great lead­er­ship, plan­ning, tech­nol­ogy, pro­cesses and tal­ent. As Jim Collins says, get the right peo­ple in the right seats on the firm bus. These peo­ple will have skills other than ac­count­ing — e.g., project man­age­ment, tech­nol­ogy, data an­a­lyt­ics, mar­ket­ing and sales. Think — plan — grow!


L. Gary Boomer, CPA, CITP, CGMA, is the vi­sion­ary and strate­gist at Boomer Con­sult­ing Inc. Gov­er­nance

Plan­ning – strate­gic, IT, HR, suc­ces­sion, staff de­vel­op­ment

Man­age­ment fo­cus Agree­ments Re­tire­ment

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