Gain

Accounting Today - - Spotlight - From page 8

The pain first

There were some, how­ever, who ac­knowl­edged that there are risks — and some po­ten­tial pain to go along with all the gain.

“The down­side of the dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies, I be­lieve, is that the abil­ity to hang out a shin­gle and do tax com­pli­ance or small-scale au­dits will de­crease, so that will be an op­por­tu­nity and a path­way that I’m afraid will be lost to his­tory,” pointed out Mas­sachusetts So­ci­ety of CPAS pres­i­dent and CEO Amy Pit­ter.

And Larry Autrey, man­ag­ing part­ner of Top 100 Firm Whit­ley Penn, warned, “If we lose fo­cus in an ef­fort to be con­sul­tants, we may lose our right to lead in au­dit and tax. Reg­u­la­tors and a de­sire to be con­sul­tants first could dam­age the CPA brand if we are not care­ful. The com­pe­ti­tion hopes we lose fo­cus.”

More broadly, though, the most com­mon con­cern was that all this dis­rup­tion will sim­ply leave many ac­coun­tants be­hind.

“The changes and chal­lenges fac­ing the pro­fes­sion rep­re­sent an enor­mous op­por­tu­nity — for those that pivot and adapt,” said David Cies­lak, chief cloud of­fi­cer at RKL es­o­lu­tions. “I’m con­cerned that many, es­pe­cially solo and small firms, will re­spond far too slowly and find the ser­vices they once of­fered have been com­modi­tized or their com­peti­tors are pro­vid­ing the new, ver­ti­cally fo­cused, high-value ser­vices their clients are now de­mand­ing.”

“Ac­coun­tants are slow to change,” noted Clien­twhys CEO Lee Reams. “Many would rather ig­nore the trends than make dras­tic changes in their busi­ness mod­els. The sur­vivors will thrive with higher monthly re­cur­ring rev­enue en­gage­ments. The down­side is that those still of­fer­ing tra­di­tional ser­vices may see many of those bill­able tasks au­to­mated out of ex­is­tence.”

“In the short-term, we’ll have lots of un­com­fort­able ac­coun­tants,” added In­tuit busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager Kim Austin. “With a crowd whose fa­vorite acro- nym is ‘SALY,’ it’s in­evitable that there will be strug­gles along the way. ... I see firms that sim­ply refuse to em­brace change, and as I look a few years down the road for them, I be­lieve it’ll be a lot harder to play catch-up, or find the exit strat­egy they’d hoped for.”

Tak­ing that a step fur­ther, C3 Evo­lu­tion Group CEO and founder Gar­rett Wag­ner pre­dicted, “In the short-term, all these changes will be bad as we will see more firms strug­gle, go out of busi­ness, and [face] dif­fi­cult M&A ac­tiv­ity, as they will be un­able to deal with the changes we are faced with.”

‘If we em­brace the new tech­nolo­gies and find new and in­ter­est­ing ways to serve our clients, the changes will be great. If we try to hold on to the old way of do­ing things, it will be bad. I’m en­cour­aged by what I see in firms — small firm star­tups built en­tirely on new sys­tems and tech­nolo­gies and larger firms that are piv­ot­ing to the change.’

That said, he added, “In the long-term, these changes will fi­nally set us free as a pro­fes­sion, and al­low us to move past our rigid fo­cus on back­wards-look­ing com­pli­ance work and free us up to shift into ad­vi­sory ser­vices.”

Choose your own ad­ven­ture

In the end, whether these changes work out for bet­ter or worse for the in­di­vid­ual ac­coun­tant or firm will de­pend on their own choices — while the cu­mu­la­tive im­pact of those choices will de­ter­mine the fi­nal re­sult for the pro­fes­sion as a whole.

“If we em­brace the new tech­nolo­gies and find new and in­ter­est­ing ways to serve our clients, the changes will be great,” said Mark Koziel, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of pub­lic ac­count­ing at the As­so­ci­a­tion of In­ter­na­tional Cer­ti­fied Pro­fes­sional Ac­coun­tants. “If we try to hold on to the old way of do­ing things, it will be bad. I’m en­cour­aged by what I see in firms — small firm star­tups built en­tirely on new sys­tems and tech­nolo­gies and larger firms that are piv­ot­ing to the change.”

At­ti­tude and ap­proach will, there­fore, make a ma­jor dif­fer­ence. “Whether change is good de­pends on your per­spec

CM tive,” said Grant Thorn­ton CEO Mike Mcguire. “If you be­lieve we can al­ways do

CY some­thing bet­ter than we did be­fore, and

CMY work hard to make progress on tough chal­lenges to make the world a bet­ter place, then change is good. If you just like things the way they are and don’t want to change, then it’s bad. Ev­ery one of us has to de­cide where we stand, and then act ac­cord­ingly.”

Some made the im­por­tant point that, what­ever one thinks of the com­ing evo­lu­tion of the pro­fes­sion, it can’t be stopped.

“Change is in­evitable, and try­ing to fig­ure out whether it is good or bad misses the point,” said Cal­i­for­nia CPA So­ci­ety chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Loretta Doon. “What mat­ters is how we re­act and adapt to change. Will we be set and in­sist on stick­ing to the old ways be­cause that’s the way we al­ways did things? Or will we be flex­i­ble and use our minds to fig­ure out how best to in­cor­po­rate change for the ben­e­fit of our cus­tomers, clients, staff and ca­reers? One must be in con­stant mo­tion; change or die.” Opt­ing out, then, is not an op­tion, and

M the best course is to move for­ward. “We can’t stand still — there are too many

CM forces at play,” ex­plained Ar­leen Thomas,

MY man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Amer­i­cas, and CGMA

CY global of­fer­ings at the Amer­i­can In­sti­tute of CPAS. “Busi­ness is find­ing new ways of

CMY work­ing — to be the stew­ards of that we

K must face these changes with en­ergy.”

For those who re­main con­cerned about the even­tual out­come for the pro­fes­sion, Sa­man­tha Mans­field, di­rec­tor of pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment and com­mu­nity at Cpa.com, had these words of wis­dom: “I heard this said and think it is true for the ac­count­ing pro­fes­sion to­day: Some­times to stay true to your mis­sion, you have to change what and how you do it.”

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