As the Great Resignation marches on, the pressures of compressed busy seasons continue to mount and clients seek more value from their advisers, it is not surprising that practitioners in firms of all sizes have identified emerging technologies as a top issue over the next five years, according to the recent 2022 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey. To take full advantage of the opportunities that exist in this age of digital transformation, look for new ways to maximize technology already in place and to seek new tech advancements that align well with your firm’s goals.
Here are six tips to consider along your technology journey.
Get clear on repetitious, time-gobbling tasks
Start by identifying the tedious duties causing you and your team the most strife in your daily routine. From data entry, billing and workflow bottlenecks to digital collaboration and data analysis, pinpoint what is robbing you of precious time and energy that could be better spent on rewarding, value-added work. While you are in research mode, ask your clients to identify any annoying requests that your firm regularly asks of them.
Zero in on tech tools most important to advancing your practice
Rather than trying to keep up with every tech development, focus on areas that are important to achieving your firm’s specific agenda. Not sure where to begin? Here are a handful of the‘must-have’ technologies for CPA firms recommended by tech guru Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP, CGMA.
Cloud computing, essential in today’s hybrid/remote work environment, provides secure access on an anytime, anywhere basis to all the firm’s applications and data.
Modern portals manage document ingress and interactions with clients.
Automated source input, often using OCR,reduces the preparation and review time of documents. This is particularly popular in tax, where individual tax returns often are populated with data automatically imported and verified from the most common tax forms.
e-Signatures streamline the processing of engagement letters, tax filings and other authorizations
Digital collaboration tools go beyond email, text messaging and mobile phones to integrate screen and data sharing, video calling and appointments.
What other ‘must-haves’ would you add to the list? For more, read Kepczyk’s Digitally Speaking article featuring his top 10 technologies. You can also check out the PCPS technologyand AICPA technology hubs, which can help you stay up-to-date on the latest tech developments and discover new resources you can use in your firm.
Talk technology with your peers
Whether you are hosting a networking event with referral sources, attending an industry conference or participating in an educational session, make technology a key talking point. Use your time to learn from those you meet.
What tech tools provide the most benefit in your practice? Why?
How do you use AI and robotics to automate your firm?
Have you incorporated blockchain into your auditing and assurance processes?
How long does it take to reap benefits?
For a deep dive into what’s new in the profession and how your firm can profit from these advancements, attend the Digital CPA Conference 2022 this December.
Do your homework before adopting new technology
It’s easy to get wrapped in the alure of something new without knowing whether it will benefit your firm’s specific endeavors. Put your advisory skills to work by gathering with your colleagues and asking key questions.
Why do we want this new technology?
Does this new solution fit into the firm’s short- or long-term future?
Does this technology align with the firm’s overall mission, strategies and goals?
How much time will this technology take to learn and implement?
Will it provide new revenue sources and competitive advantages?
Ultimately, it’s best to identify first what your firm needs or wants to do and then assessing whether a new technology is warranted. Avoid creating projects to justify the hot new tech that’s caught you eye – whether it’s blockchain, artificial intelligence or robotic process automation (RPA).
For more questions and considerations, check out the Firm inMotion technology selection analysis questionnaire. For more on RPA, listen to the Aug. 25 episode of the PCPS Small Firm Philosophy podcast.
Learn new ways to use the technology you already have
One of the original and most widely used data analytics tools, Microsoft Excel is a perfect place to begin learning new features. If you are like most practitioners, you tap into only a small fraction of Excel’s capabilities. Focus on areas where your firm could benefit from additional analysis on existing data sets such as advisory services or new clients. Explore features including PivotTables to summarize data based on categories and conditional formatting to identify specific occurrences in groups of data. Amp your smarts by taking a class or bringing in a trainer to help you discover valuable timesaving tips and tricks. For more on ways to use technology, explore the Digitally Speaking article series.
Don’t be blindsided by cybercrime
In this hybrid age where work from home and remote locations are commonplace and communicating with all sorts of connected mobile devices is the norm, cybercrime continues to rise. Cybercriminals are increasingly clever, using ever-changing strategies to make their way into businesses of all sizes. Each of us and our firms are at risk of a cyberattack. The results can be devastating, especially if we are not prepared to act quickly. Knowledge and preparedness are your first lines of defense. Talk regularly about what you and your team can do to make your firm safer. For more ideas, check out the AICPA's cybersecurity resources and the PCPS CPA cybersecurity checklist.
Isn’t it time to give technology a greater role in your firm? With some focused effort now, you will be well on the way to gaining more time for the work you enjoy and greater appreciation from clients as you help them find new ways to look forward.