As technological advances continue to happen at breakneck speed, tax professionals realize they need to keep up. Otherwise, they’ll be spending all their energy trying to catch up. To help firms figure out what to focus on when, Shari Dodgen, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting’s director of strategic relationships and product marketing, recently sat down with David Primes, MSA, CPA, CITP, a shareholder in Sobul, Primes & Schenkel, for the first in a series of The Evolving Accountant Series webinars hosted by CPA Practice Advisor called “Managing the Pace of Change.” The two talked about how, not surprisingly, not every tax professional feels confident that they’re keeping up. In fact, 43% of firms feel the pace of technology change is moving too fast to stay abreast of their clients’ needs.
Trends affecting tax firms
Technology trends, like the cloud, integrated platforms, and automation are changing workflow for many firms. They are even requiring new business models and ways of thinking about hiring. Primes thinks these three trends offer tax accounting firms several advantages, both with clients and staff. Cloud technology allows employees to work anytime from anywhere with full access to data. That means you can more easily open other locations or that you can work remotely.
According to Primes, the cloud benefits his firm in two ways. First, he says, “It allows our clients wherever they are in the world to have access through portals to their information if they need to correspond with us in a secure manner.” It also allows the firm to offer remote working options to staff. He continues, “We extend our resources to the remote location making their lives better and making them more productive and giving us an advantage in terms of recruiting.”
Integrated platforms help data flow seamlessly for all users and applications. And automation leads to efficiencies and improvement in productivity because you only touch data once — or sometimes not at all.
How technology can help you stay on track
Keeping up with tech trends like these can give your firm a competitive advantage. The flexibility technology offers can help make it easier to grow and to recruit and retain more qualified staff. All that also filters down to being able to serve your clients better.
It’s a win-win, right? The key is to adopt new technology at your own pace — not too fast or too slow. Primes’ tech savviness allowed his firm to be an early adopter of CCH Axcess®. To make adoption a success, though, it is essential to train employees by developing skills like data analysis. Depending on the size of your firm, you might even consider hiring a data analyst or other tech-specific roles.
According to Primes, process optimization is one of the newer skillsets that firms can immediately benefit from. He says, “Process optimization for us has been primarily about leveraging the different pieces of technology we have.” Being able to take a focused look at the firm’s processes has helped the firm improve efficiency. Primes continues, “Now the principle way of optimizing our processes is through workflow management. We find that using workflow management to get a little bit more granular in how we’re managing our jobs has really helped us improve our processes and understand how to get jobs through the office in an efficient and productive manner.”
In addition, you can purchase technological solutions to fill the skills gap. Technology like interactive dashboards and predictive intelligence can fill the skills gaps many firms see. By using technology to perform functions that would take a person weeks to do, firms can accomplish these tasks in a fraction of the time.
Improving information flow
Sobul, Primes & Schenkel has found that embracing technology, particularly digital workflow tools, has made it easier to communicate with and get information from their clients. They also have benefited from integrated digital platforms that serve as a single source of truth, which minimizes data entry tasks and eliminates errors. “It’s another form of efficiency,” says Primes, “where you don’t have to maintain the same information in multiple locations.”