Accounting Firms Must Embrace Business Agility

The accounting profession has been greatly defined over the last decade by the rapid change in technologies that have also altered client expectations and resulted in always-on connectivity. That was the starting point of the keynote offered by Jon Baron, managing director, Professional, Tax & Accounting, Thomson Reuters as he opened the 2013 SYNERGY users’ conference in Miami Beach, Florida.

Speaking to an audience of approximately 1,300 attendees, who are primarily tax and accounting professionals, he stressed how a culture where data are available anytime, anywhere, on any device, and on any user interface is reshaping businesses and professionals of all types and forcing the accounting profession to adapt or face potential irrelevance. 

Baron’s address focused on the necessity of moving beyond after-the-fact and compliance work and adapting to a world where there are more Internet-connected devices than people. He stressed the necessity of creating always-on connections with clients and ushering in a new range of data-driven, value-added consultative services. He said that while changes in technology are massive, sweeping, permanent, and impacting consumer and client behavior in every way, they’re creating new opportunities for practitioners that are willing to adapt.

“Firms need to become collaborative, trusted advisors to their clients, and they need to ask themselves whether they’re providing services in a way that is aligned with the world of today and meeting the expectations of today’s clients. The danger zone for many firms lies in continuing to operate as though the massive and permanent changes in consumer behavior don’t exist, in continuing to provide services in a manner more consistent with the world of yesterday,” Baron said. “Tax prep and compliance work are merely the price of entry in today’s profession, due to increasingly sophisticated technology in the hands of consumers and ubiquitous access to information. Technological change is happening at an unprecedented rate, so the key is to be agile, open to change, and ready to leverage technology to benefit firm staff and clients. Business agility is critical for creating opportunities and elevating
client service.”

Baron outlined how mobile enhancements and real-time client collaboration will help drive firm profits by streamlining workflow and making data collection and management more automated and efficient. He demonstrated a variety of new CS Professional Suite® features and functionality that will help firms do just that, including:

  • New mobile capabilities in NetClient CS® that will enable firm clients to snap photos of source documents with their mobile devices, then upload them directly to NetClient CS for access by the firm. Firm clients will also be able to send documents directly from Dropbox™ to the firm. Baron also outlined a future vision of increased automation in mobile document handling, including automated OCR data extraction from documents submitted via mobile devices and more.
  • New mobile notifications and functionality for firm clients, including mobile notifications that alert clients to missing source documents and mobile notifications to the firm when new source documents are available on the portal. Future mobile notifications will include e-file and refund status, mobile client signature capabilities, mobile invoicing and bill pay, and more.
  • New integration between Workpapers CS™ and NetClient CS that enables practitioners to drag and drop client source documents directly to the Workpapers CS binder from NetClient CS. Workpapers CS enables practitioners to manage all types of workpapers, perform sophisticated trial balance calculations, and use comprehensive PDF annotations for digital review.
  • New integration between Workpapers CS and the Source Document Processing service that automatically labels and organizes scanned client source documents, then sorts them into a binder folder structure that mirrors the UltraTax CS input screen folders. Source Document Processing can also use OCR technology to extract data from scanned source documents for automatic transfer to UltraTax CS® at tax preparation time.
  • A visual update for iOS 7 that offers a more streamlined interface and an updated look
    and feel.

“It’s estimated that there will be 40 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020,” Baron said. “Faced with that incredible pace of change, firms need to constantly challenge their core assumptions and retain the agility to adapt. We’re working hard to create the tools that will help firms adapt by driving efficiency through workflow and using mobile and the cloud to build better connections with clients.”

The longest running professional conference of its kind, this year’s SYNERGY Users’ Conference continues more than three decades of growth since the event began in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1981. Over the years, the annual conference has evolved into one of the profession’s premiere venues for sharing insights, exchanging ideas, and gaining hands-on experience with the latest technology in the tax and accounting profession.

The conference also offers roundtable discussions and keynote presentations by profession leaders and motivation experts. This year’s roster of keynote speakers includes Baron; Rebecca Ryan, owner of Next Generation Consulting, Entrepreneur of the Year, and former pro basketball star; and Anthony Bourke, CEO & founder of Mach 2 Consulting.

 

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