“Robotics, drone deliveries, driverless cars and trucks, and virtual reality are all things that are coming down the pike, and where relevant, you need to be considering them now.” How do accounting firms feel about this quote? Are firms ready to take on this challenge? If not, you may find yourself irrelevant very soon.
Those who follow me on social media know my mantra. Don’t be disrupted, be the disruptor. In a recent Journal of Accountancy article (“Real talk about artificial intelligence and blockchain” – July 1, 2017), accounting firm technology “gurus” discuss the impending changes in our industry and what firms should be doing today to remain relevant.
One of the “innovative” technologies that firms should already be embracing and using effectively is video conferencing. David Cieslak, CPA/CITP, CGMA, principal and founder of Arxis Technology says that:
“In our firm, routine calls are done with cameras turned on so we can sit with each other face-to-face throughout the day (when people are working from different locations). I think there’s a lot of value in not just hearing someone’s voice, but to get the nonverbal communication, too, whether it’s with Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, WebEx. Amazon [recently came out] with a new product called Chime. All of these services support a video component, and I highly recommend that folks make video a part of their day-to-day communication strategy.”
Many may feel that their accounting firm is already using video conferencing and that it’s not truly an innovative technology. I would challenge this and ask how effectively is your firm really using video conferencing? It’s one thing to say you have video conferencing capabilities. It’s another to actually embrace it and use it regularly.
Other tools that may not appear to be “innovative” include survey software, drivable financial statements, cashflow forecasting tools and CRM software. Again, even if accounting firms are using some or all of this technology, are they really using it effectively and proactively to actually improve the business?
Blockchain technology remains a highly used example of a disruptive technology, but when will we actually see it used on a large scale basis? While bitcoin uses a blockchain backend, we have yet to see it truly show up in the mainstream. Will blockchain really be a disruptor in the mainstream? Again, David Cieslak opines:
“Many organizations have already gone through one dramatic shift from on-premises solutions to the cloud. Blockchain represents an even more dramatic shift—a whole new way of processing virtually any type of transaction, on a distributed, shared, immutable ledger. Blockchain offers an enormous opportunity to significantly alter many facets of what we do and how we do it, whether it’s Wall Street or the banking sector, the Big Four, across industries and disciplines. I think there’s a lot of evaluation and blue-sky thinking going on, and I’m really excited to see what that’s going to look like as it shows up. I specifically think private blockchain implementations will surface first, in and around certain use cases—think high-value transactions. Then, once we get past the proof-of-concept stage, we’ll see some trendsetters, companies we don’t even know about today, coming up with some killer app, some killer approach, something imaginative and transformative.”
Look, I’m not just preaching “change” for the hell of it. This is real. Some accounting firms haven’t embraced simple change such as video conferencing or CRM much less “the audit of the future” or tax workflow solutions. Technological and social change is not just impacting accounting firms. It’s impacting all companies across the world. All leaders must keep an open mind and prepare for rapid change. Failure to do so will result in dire consequences.