I think that accountants recognize that their profession is in the midst of transformation, and technology will continue to play ever-more critical roles in helping professionals meeting these trans-formative challenges. There are increased pressures on a variety of levels, not the least of which is the pressure to differentiate and find new value and opportunity to deliver to clients. While this has always been a challenge for the professional accountant, the do-it-yourself tools and services available today have served only to increase competitive pressures, and have made it more difficult than ever for accountants to demonstrate their business value to the client.
Being a successful business today means being able to make decisions – informed decisions – quickly. Business owners need reliable and actionable information now, providing greater ability to adapt to the complexity, risk, and volatility of the market. In terms of differentiation, one of the challenges plaguing accountants, delivering higher levels of business intelligence to the client is a key differentiator, and one that can not only set the practice apart from the competition, but also help to establish the firm as an industry leader.
The difficulty that many firms have faced is finding the right opportunity to deliver more intelligence to the client. Not understanding what tools and solutions may be available, and not knowing how to identify real areas where the firm can add value to client engagements, becomes the barrier. For accounting professionals, business intelligence is not just a tool to measure performance, but should be the foundation for exploring the depth of services and advice potentially deliverable to each and every client.
Because many professional practices actually operate as more of a “collective”, with individual partners handling their own books of business, there is often no good way to understand the overall mixture of clients being served by the various practitioners in the firm. Certainly, billings and collections are measured, but there is often little “intelligence” applied to analyzing the client base as an entire system and identifying those clients where similar needs may exist or where differentiated service offerings may apply. Applying a level of business intelligence to this problem, and providing the firm with a means to analyze the various properties of the entire client base and client performance, becomes the centerpiece to increasing the value of and opportunity within every client relationship.
The important thing for professionals to remember is that their business clients need informed consulting and knowledgeable advice. Business owners want to know if they are performing well in their respective industries and are creating long-term value, and they need guidance and support in order to understand business performance and make the necessary changes to improve it. Business owners trust their accountants to do quality tax and audit work, but if they aren’t able to get a higher level of consultative service from their trusted accountant, they’ll go somewhere else to find it.
Interested in learning more about tools which can help your professional practice get more opportunity from every client? Contact me @JoanieMann on Twitter, or connect with me on LinkedIn or Facebook.