I was quoted in a recent AccountingToday article about the state of practice management software. One of the themes in the article is the importance of integrating workflow, CRM, and other technology point solutions to reduce redundancy and improve accuracy and efficiency.
As I read and re-read my colleagues’ comments, it struck me that this line of thinking is short-sighted. I believe we can unlock the potential of technology to catalyze our firms to the next level of profitability, but first we have to break free from a pervasive mindset that is holding us back.
- Integration is not the answer. For years, CPA firm leaders have been talking about the need to integrate platforms used to manage time and billing, workflow, sales, marketing and client service. Rather than the answer to our problems, these labor-intensive integrations are a big part of the problem. In addition to being costly—in both time and money—aggregating information from different silos introduces duplication of effort, inefficiencies and human error that can damage or disrupt client relationships and ultimately obscure the true state of the practice.
- What we need is a 360-degree, unobstructed view without the silo walls created by point solutions. Rather than trying to integrate the information held within separate silos, a unitized practice management platform encompasses the critical functions across the entire client lifecycle, from acquiring the client to serving and growing the client relationship. A centralized and systematized way to capture data provides a single source of the truth that enables informed decisions about the health of your practice.
- Thriving firms will have headlights into the future. Profitability in a competitive landscape requires the ability to look ahead and make decisions about the future that maximize revenue, as well as minimize risk. What construction contractor would build a high-rise building without keeping a close eye on the estimate-to-complete? And yet, the very CPAs who audit these contractors’ financials lack the ability to project their own profitability at the end of that audit engagement. Today’s technology advancements such as machine learning and advanced analytics are changing this. Firms that embrace a unitized system for managing their practice will have the advantage. The more data they collect via a centralized system, the smarter its assumptions get and ultimately, the better-informed their decisions are about the future of their business.
Making a change can feel risky. But isn’t it even riskier to continue operating in the dark? Sticking with old, stale technology can be the riskiest decision of all, especially when it obscures your vision of where the firm is losing money, where it has opportunities to grow revenue, and most importantly, where client service may be suffering.
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