New Independent Nationwide Survey of Tax, Accounting, Audit Firms Identifies Best Practices, Next Steps for “Future Ready” Firm

(SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, November 8, 2011) – Tax, accounting and audit firms are facing a new normal today that’s fast-moving and ever-changing. For firms to keep pace, they need to be “Future Ready.”

In a keynote address to over 1,200 professionals at the CCH Connections user conference in San Antonio, CCH President and CEO Mike Sabbatis today discussed best practices in terms of what firms are doing now, and where they can make further advancements to improve their future ready performance. Sabbatis revealed findings from the new independent Future Ready Firm Survey, based on quantitative interviews with 400 Tax and Audit firms nationwide.

To download the Survey white paper, click here.

Future Ready Firm Survey Findings

“The future ready firm follows best practices and is also constantly implementing a path of continuous improvement,” said Sabbatis.

With a strategic view of their client and practice needs, these firms anticipate changes and innovate across workflows, optimizing processes, people and technology. Future ready firms also measure productivity and profitability to make data-driven improvements to performance.

“Critically important in being future ready is following a ‘Best in Process’ approach, with optimized technology solutions and workflows to create the highest productivity across business processes, helping professionals work smarter, more productively and more profitably,” Sabbatis told attendees.

The Future Ready Firm Survey found that while many firms are making strides in becoming future ready firms, much more can be done. 

Tools & Technology

Many firms are struggling to drive optimal results in leveraging tools and technology, with an astounding 80 percent of Tax practitioners and 68 percent of Audit practitioners reporting their firms could be leveraging technology more effectively, according to Survey findings.

However, firms are making very good progress with foundational technologies, such as scanning and electronic document management systems. Firms also anticipate significant near-term growth in both cloud computing and mobile solutions.

Specifically, the Survey found within the next three years:

  • 60 percent of Audit firms and 44 percent of Tax firms will rely on cloud solutions; among large firms (those with 50 or more professionals), adoption is even greater, with 80 percent of large Audit firms and 74 percent of large Tax firms relying on cloud computing for core tax and audit applications; and
  • 68 percent of Audit firms and 54 percent of Tax firms will rely on mobile solutions. Again, this is significantly higher among large firms, with 91 percent of large Audit firm professionals and 82 percent of large Tax firm professionals relying on smartphones and tablet devices to perform their work.

Workflow & Processes

Overall, the CCH Survey found that while most firms have documented processes, fewer than 75 percent follow them consistently. While 72 percent of Tax firms report that they have a documented tax process in place, 26 percent said they don’t follow it all of the time. For Audit forms, 93 percent have a documented audit process in place, but 31 percent of those firms reported they don’t always follow that process.

Additionally, the majority of firms say their processes need improvement: 83 percent of Audit firms and 61 percent of Tax firms report that their current processes need to be reassessed or could be improved.

Staffing & Culture

It’s no secret that the right staff is one of the greatest assets a firm can have, and the future ready firm ensures that the right people are doing the right work. The majority of firms nationwide report that they achieve this, with 59 percent of Tax firms and 54 percent of Audit firms reporting that they have the right people doing the right work.

Ensuring that staff is optimized, however, continues to present challenges for some firms today. The CCH Survey found that 37 percent of Audit firms and 21 percent of Tax firms have people performing work for which they are overqualified.

Firms also report that they have too many people who are underqualified for the work that needs to be done: 20 percent of Tax firms and 9 percent of Audit firms are challenged in this way.

Supporting a future ready culture, many firms engage their employees in the business, particularly younger workers who have grown up leveraging technology to do things differently. Specifically, the CCH Survey found:

  • More than one-half of firms surveyed (56 percent of Audit firms and 55 percent of Tax firms) have begun to tap younger workers to evaluate technology solutions; and
  • 59 percent of Audit firms and 47 percent of Tax firms are consulting their younger staff in more decisions about their tax or audit processes.

Practice Management & Analytics

Key findings from the CCH Survey in this area show that within three years:

  • Nearly three-quarters of all firms (73 percent of Tax firms and 71 percent of Audit firms) will be using business intelligence software that integrates with their practice management software – helping them make smarter, data-driven decisions; and
  • 73 percent of Audit firms and 59 percent of Tax firms will be deploying cloud-based practice management solutions – providing access to business analytics wherever and whenever needed.

“Focusing on this area is critical: for example, it’s difficult to improve utilization rates or optimize workflows without metrics to measure results,” Sabbatis said.  “Future ready firms seek ways to continuously improve and optimize their performance, by establishing analytics and deploying the practice management tools needed to measure progress.”

The Benefits of Best in Process

Sabbatis also noted that the future ready firm requires unified solutions that span workflows and are adaptive to changing workflow needs. 

“For tax, accounting and audit professionals who face constant change, complexity and competitive pressure, it’s essential that they have integrated technology platforms that deliver superior software and information solutions,” he said.

“CCH calls this Best in Process, and it’s something CCH uniquely delivers,” Sabbatis noted.

As one example, he presented the comprehensive tax workflow, with processes streamlined and supported seamlessly with CCH solutions. It means that every step in a process is made more efficient and effective through technology, and that technology facilitates the flow of work across multiple processes in a streamlined and seamless way.

“Best in Process aligns technology solutions with optimized workflows and creates the highest productivity across business processes. It’s a unified system that includes solutions that make your firm’s work flow faster, with processes that make the work flow smoother,” said Sabbatis.

“There’s been a clear migration of firms from the single source solution to the best of breed solution,” said Sabbatis. “Now, as firms recognize they need to get results faster and with less complexity and lower costs, the future ready firm is transitioning to Best in Process.”

For More Information

Complete Survey findings are available in the CCH white paper – Key Findings from the CCH Future Ready Firm Survey: From Best Practices to Best in Process available at CCHGroup.com/Future Ready.

About the Survey

The 2011 CCH Future Ready Firm Survey included quantitative interviews with 400 Tax and Audit professionals in U.S. firms nationwide. Both 200 Tax and 200 Audit professionals with managerial/decision-making responsibilities for their firm participated. The survey was conducted for CCH online by ORC International from August 8-24, 2011. The survey reflects experiences of randomly polled Tax and Audit professionals working at firms ranging in size from firms with 5 to more than 100 employees.
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CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business (CCHGroup.com) is the leading global provider of tax, accounting and audit information, software and services. It has served tax, accounting and business professionals since 1913. Among its market-leading solutions are The ProSystem fx® Suite, CorpSystem®, CCH® IntelliConnect®, Accounting Research Manager® and the U.S. Master Tax Guide®. CCH is based in Riverwoods, Ill. Follow us now on Twitter @CCHMediaHelp. Wolters Kluwer (www.wolterskluwer.com) is a market-leading global information services company. Wolters Kluwer is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands. Its shares are quoted on Euronext Amsterdam (WKL) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices.

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