Is Your Accounting Firm 'Future-Ready'?

By Gail Perry
Speaking at the 2012 CCH User Conference in San Antonio, TX, Mike Sabbatis, CEO of CCH North America talked to the approximately 1,200 conference about the future-ready firm. He defined the future-ready firm as one that defines itself with a combination of process, best practices, and constantly implementing a path of continuous improvement.
CCH is dedicated to helping firms become future-ready firms through "something that we call best in process," Sabbatis explained. "It's a single workflow that's covered by a single solution.”
Sabbatis described the example of how the tax process has evolved from receiving and inputting data, reviewing the return, and hand-delivering to a client, to a complete process of receiving source documents, front-end scanning, bookmarking PDFs, assigning a preparer, importing and inputting data, onscreen review, efiling the return, digitally storing the return, and publishing to a client portal. Sabbatis explained how CCH examines a process like this, determines the interconnected parts, and creates a seamless process – a best in process – "at a performance level that will help you serve your clients better."
Sabbatis emphasized the importance of not becoming complacent about using the practices that have been in place in the past. "It's easy to see that some of the best firms out there, the high performing firms, even the ones with the best intentions, may not be future ready.
"If you think about high performing firms, they always leverage best practices. And they normally have really, really good results. But they may not even notice that the changes are around them. They may not even notice that the best practices have become obsolete. And they understand that learning from best practices is really essentially, but I think one of the biggest things you have to think about is usually best practices are a result of past practices. And if you think about past practices, you can actually become complacent around that."
Today we are faced with economic volatility, changing regulations, client expectations are in flux. "It's not business as usual anymore," Sabbatis said. Those factors point to a need for flexibility in order for a firm to be ready for the future. Sabbatis described the characteristics of a future-ready firm:
  • They follow best practices
  • They continue to build new practices around that
  • They're resilient
  • They follow a path of continuous process improvement and incremental improvement 
This year CCH commissioned an independent survey of 400 accountants around the country. Among other things, the survey asked, what are you doing to ensure resiliency as a future-ready firm?
Some of the key findings indicated that the future-ready firm:
  • Takes a holistic view of all workflows
  • Engages its employees in the business
  • Continuously improves and optimizes performance
  • Works in a disciplined way to implement new technology 
The majority of firms surveyed have existing tax and audit processes – however while 72 percent of firms have a document tax process, only 74 percent of those firms follow the process; and while 93 of firms have a document audit process, only 69 percent of those firms follow the process.
In addition, 80 percent of tax professionals and 68 percent of audit professionals admitted they could be leveraging technology more at their firms.
"To achieve best in process performance, leading companies need to optimize these processes, and they need to make better and more consistent use of the technologies they have around them."
The CCH user conference provides opportunities for firms to learn how to take better advantage of the software they have. The conference also introduces new tools and showcases projects that are on the drawing board.

CCH CEO Mike Sabbatis discusses the
CCH User Conference with AccountingWEB

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