Technologies and Trends at Digital CPA 2015: An IFAC Gateway Review

Eli R. Khazzam, Bhumi Jariwala | December 22, 2015

Are you future ready? Are you investing enough time today to learn about the opportunities that new technologies are bringing to the accountancy profession? We recently had the opportunity to attend the Digital CPA Conference 2015 (DCPA) in Las Vegas, Nevada, where we spoke with a variety of experts, leaders, and innovators in the industry. Here, we’ve outlined the key themes and information that our global readers will find useful and inspiring:

Theme #1: New Technology Offers the Promise of Exponential Leaps in Efficiency

We are all accustomed to the message that new technology offers the promise of greater efficiency and new ways of doing business. However, DCPA illustrated both the theoretical and practical dimensions of this notion. Speakers and product exhibitors provided visionary ideas and real-life examples of new technologies and trends in action.

Most of the software products exhibited were cloud-based and designed to improve workflow to offer greater versatility in the deployment of information. It’s now clear that the old “spreadsheet” paradigm of entering, analyzing, and reporting information has given way to smarter, more graphic-driven formats that can be retrieved on any mobile device. Citrix Sharefile, Xcentric, and Nexonia are all among the examples of high-capacity solutions. Many emphasized the use of dashboard-style presentations to provide data that is instantaneous and integrated. These include Bill.com, Tallie, Expensify, and Sage. They can be customized to very specific, functional end-user reports.

The other aspect of new technology that stood out was the transformation of process. First, there is the Big Data factor. We now have so much more data to work with both in terms of depth and scope. This means many more types of analyses can be designed and information can be aggregated in novel ways that allow accountants to more quickly and accurately assess business and financial performance.

Second, there is the simplification factor. As software such as XCM Solutions and Planguru transform workflow by integrating disparate data, their big selling point is ease of use. Now, businesses of all sizes can capitalize on these low-maintenance, front-end-oriented products. All solutions we reviewed featured the latest cloud and security features (for example, data encryption).

Third, some solutions differentiate themselves by specialized features. Some of the accounting solutions include Cpapaperless, Intacct, Mineraltree, Vertex SMB, Biz2credit, and Confirmation.com are differentiated by some specialized features. Similarly, HR packages such as also appeal to more specialized needs. These include Paychex, Gusto, and WhenIWork.

Theme #2: In Order to Attract and Build New Talent, You Must Understand the Dynamics between Gens X, Y, and Z

Years ago, management and leadership consultants did not differentiate too much based on the qualities of one age group to the next. The principles for teamwork, communication, and establishing a healthy workplace applied across the board. But what we heard from experts at DCPA is that building new talent can require a generation-specific approach. Much attention is now being placed on the skills, values, and qualities of the tech-savvy Gen Y and Gen Z.

Experts, such as Greg Lafollette, emphasized that technology is not the only driver transforming the workplace: global influences, ultra-specializations, rapidly changing staff and clients' expectations, and substantial demographic changes are all contributing factors. Dan Griffiths added that changes in organizational structures, regulation, and competencies are needed for effective leadership. Matt Robinson said that accountants need better relationship-building skills; they need to be more consultative and connected with their clients. Employers must recognize the unique attributes of each generation in order to harness human capital across the board.

Theme #3: Expanding the Value Proposition with New Advisory Services

Big Data and emerging technologies are encroaching on the more traditional services that accountants provide, threatening to make some obsolete in the not-so-distant future. However, these same technologies are also opening up opportunities for accountants. Rob Ripp noted that some of these new types of services include “virtual CFOs,” business process outsourcing, and other advisory specializations. Jennifer Wilson focused on the sales and relationship-building strategies necessary to promote new services. She said that firms will need methods for tracking client opportunities, approaches that redefine relationships with clients, consistent cross-selling strategies with other services in your firm, and the implementation of marketing techniques to complement these new service offerings. Patrick Pruett discussed how accounting firms can outsource services. These include services for accounting, bookkeeping, business guidance, and data analysis. Branding expert Richard Shuback discussed the importance of building a consistent company identity that resonates with clients, stressing simplicity and thinking beyond traditional images associated with accounting services.

Theme #4: The Need for an “Anticipatory Mindset”

Some of the speakers we spoke with emphasized that accountants have traditionally been conditioned to think reactively and analytically.  Research suggests that this approach is potentially limiting accountants’ ability to grow and adapt to future conditions. A current project based on Daniel Burrus’ Anticipatory OrganizationTM framework for identifying certainties in the market, getting ahead of competition, and acting on hard trends is helping DCPA partners develop the program for next year’s event.   CPA.com is paving the way for adopting this framework for the accountancy profession. The big ideas for this venture were communicated to DCPA attendees as a precursor to next year’s event. They include helping accountants change their mindset to recognize and act on the following:

  • Understand the new “value of time” to create a more efficient workplace and services;
  • Revolutionize corporate learning;
  • Leverage new technology;
  • Build collaborative cultures; and
  • Develop new predictive analytics.  

Why Attend 2016’s Digital CPA Conference?

We believe that accountants, journalists, and other financial professionals can benefit greatly by attending next year’s DCPA Conference. If you attend next year’s DCPA, we suggest you go with a learning strategy in mind. Depending on the size of your firm, you may want to first consider what technologies your organization may benefit from. Second, think about the needs of your existing client base and how certain experts and learning sessions at the event will help you take the next step toward developing new services. Finally, instead of thinking just about networking, consider the relationships you can build for future collaboration with others in the industry. If you want to become future ready, DCPA is an essential first step.

Eli R. Khazzam

Senior Professional, Economic Development & Emerging Technologies.

Eli R. Khazzam is a senior professional focused on economic development & emerging technologies. Previously, Mr. Khazzam was the Editor-in-Chief of the IFAC Global Knowledge Gateway and had various roles working as a Governance Manager and Senior Technical Manager of Public Policy and Regulation at IFAC. Prior to joining IFAC, he was an Executive Director at Liquid Metrics, LLC., a research and consulting firm specializing in community-based economic development and public policy issues. See more by Eli R. Khazzam

Bhumi Jariwala

Editor, IFAC Global Knowledge Gateway

Bhumi Jariwala is the Editor of the IFAC Global Knowledge Gateway. Prior to joining the IFAC team six years ago, she was employed at a human capital management consulting firm that specialized in workforce development and performance. Ms. Jariwala has experience in communications, market research, and information technology.  See more by Bhumi Jariwala

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