The last 15 months have been different, to say the least, We’ve all done a lot of reflecting during the pandemic: reflecting within ourselves, in our firms and about the people around us. Technology has been thrust into the spotlight due to the change in our working landscape, and its impact upon the accounting profession has been significant.
Looking back to when we could attend in-person events, walking into conferences you would consistently hear talks on ‘‘What is the Firm of the Future?’’ It was said that the firm of the future would be built on technology and AI would play a huge role in its development. Firms that embraced new technologies would have the leading edge, working smarter rather than harder.
Following a turbulent and disruptive year, the firm of the future is no longer something to look forward towards. The onslaught of technology on our business has made the firm of the future the firm of today.
Introhive recently hosted a webinar on how The Firm of the Future is Now. It studied the impact of the last 15 months on the evolution of business use of technology and how the firm of the future everyone was talking about is happening right now.
The Firm of the Future in Practice
I’m not sure if any firm could have predicted the virtual world that was to come or the speed in which things happened. One of the key indicators of the ‘firm of the future’ is the role technology plays. How simple was it to transition your firm and maintain critical business processes? It was a game changer for many organizations and the level of execution was not dependent on the size of the firm nor the resources available.
In the coming months, many people and departments will be assessing the various processes that are currently in place, gauging the success of various efforts made to adapt to the rapid changes brought on by the pandemic, and finding new ways to improve. It could be a long process, but a ‘firm of the future’ will always be on the lookout for new opportunities to automate the repetitive, become leaner and execute better.
A key lesson learned is that people matter. Everything we do comes down to how well we connect to those outside of the firm, because at the end of the day, people buy from people.
As firms were pushed into the virtual world, there was a real struggle to come up with a solid, accurate list of who the firm’s contacts were outside of the organization. This triggered various internal disconnects and scrambling to fix the issue. The firm of the future isn’t internally focused; the firm of the future goes out and immediately services clients.
What are the significant areas that have caused such great divides?
You are never going to change the way people act without first changing the way they think. I have seen some firms that are well structured from a technology and process perspective, but had little direction on exactly what to do and how to do it when the pandemic hit. Leading firms who define themselves as ‘firms of the future’ display a very client-centric approach to all matters.
Strategy and Planning
Looking at traditional firms, there are a lot of tactics sprinkled in with different pieces of strategy but I often see a lack of a good structure. The exception is in those leading firms where their objectives are clear: this is who we want to be as a firm, this is how we are going to get there, and these are the steps we are going to take to execute that vision.
Leading firms have subject matter experts empowered with capabilities and resources, and have diverse leadership across the firm. When you empower a large set of people, the execution doesn’t lie in one but in many.
The Firm of the Future is Now
At Introhive, we think of the story of the firm of the future starts with data and data-driven organizations:
Contacts and Relationships
The firm of the future understands who they know.
- Can say who the different people are in your company-wide contact list?
- Are your contacts influencers?
- Of the contacts how strong is our relationship as firm to them?
- Do your contacts consume your products and services?
- How can they be proactively nurtured to be fully actualized with our firm wide services?
- Do you get referral services?
Being able to understand this on a deeper level than ever before lends itself to a lot of capabilities.
Time and Billing
The firm of the future understands its data from a time and billing perspective.
- Can you identify the actions taken by high performing members of your team that help them use their time more efficiently to bring in more revenue?
- If you are bringing out new services or putting new structures in, do you know how and where people should put their time?
- What can my client billing data tell me to forecasted what should be offered next?
- How can historical billing insights be proactive and not reactive?
You need to be able to distill from contact data all potential cross-sell opportunities as well as the best ways to target them.
The firm of the future can target revenue opportunities by identifying and combining different types of information.
- What buyer information do you have?
- Can you extract time and billing information and insights around contacts?
- Can we effectively segment our data to give our asset the best chance at ROI?
Information is key to making tactical moves that empower people to do business easier.
The firm of the future can organize, structure and present information to their employees.
- Do your people know how to grow the firm’s business?
- Can they keep clients happy?
You need clean, fresh and accurate data
Firms will run into challenges any time there is no data, incomplete data or old data. We have seen this time and again.
Without clean, fresh, and accurate data it’s almost impossible for firms to go anywhere. Many firms are realizing that regardless of tech stack, data is the biggest challenge to be overcome in order to reach those next stages in becoming the firm of the future.
What are the next stages?
The 5 stages firms need to reach in order to be a firm of the future are:
- Data Strategy
- Relationship Mapping
- Relationship Monitoring
- People Movement
- Revenue Accountability
Watch the recording of the webinar to learn more about how you can vault your firm ahead to becoming that firm of the future now.
Author – Tim Keith, Introhive’s Accounting Industry Lead