Accounting and Finance Professionals: Cloud Computing Models are Driving Change in the Professional Practice
Accounting and financial consultants working with businesses are currently experiencing a revolutionary change, an evolution from documents and paper-based processes with after-the-fact reporting to real-time business management and providing services which support daily decision-making. The underlying cause for this evolution in business accounting is the technology – the cloud and collaborative computing models which are enabling much closer and regular interaction between accounting professionals and the businesses they serve.
What is the impact this is having on the accounting profession? It’s forcing a new focus and attention on change management within the practice, and is causing professionals to recognize the requirement for standardization of processes, which is the foundation for creating sustainability in a business – placing reliance on processes rather than people. Standardization of processes does not require that the firm lose its personality. Rather, the mission at hand is to imbue the organization with its unique flavor and approach, and use processes to develop and support consistency in the functions performed.
While cloud computing models allow accounting and finance professionals to work closer with their business clients, it is important that the practice look at those client interactions and develop standards for processes supporting frequently performed functions. These operations generally represent the activities within the firm which generate the highest levels of profitability, due to the consistency in approach and repetition of tasks. Those activities or engagements which represent the “one-offs” are often the most costly for the firm to perform, and therefore may not be the most profitable of activities and are certainly the most challenging to support with any significant level of standardization.
The surprising finding, when looking at just about any firm with more than one partner/professional involved, is that these firms often fail to develop even the most basic of standard processes which apply throughout the firm. Rather, each partner or professional has “their way” of handling things, and supporting personnel in the firm are often challenged with trying to support multiple professionals, each having their own method of approaching the work, resulting in a lack of standardization and consistent quality in client service delivery.
The thing that these firms are failing to recognize – the light bulb over their heads that just isn’t lighting up – is that cloud computing and collaborative working models aren’t designed just to enable and facilitate a closer working relationship with clients. They’re also able to be applied inside the professional practice, enabling a more productive and efficient workflow which addresses the strengths and capabilities of the entire organization.
As professionals learn to go deeper in client operations and help improve process support and performance, they would do well to look internally as well, and explore how increased attention to internal operations and efficiency might improve overall performance of the practice.
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