Five Factors Driving New Opportunities for Accounting Firms in 2010

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The year 2009 may forever be remembered as a time when the global economy began a painful economic restructuring, but some smart and able accounting firms stand to benefit if they can catch the right trends, according to a new research study by Bay Street Group LLC.

“We’ve identified five key factors that are driving new opportunities for accounting firms in this difficult business environment,” said Rick Telberg, of Bay Street Group LLC, the leading market research firm for the accounting profession.

The report, “Emerging Opportunities for Accounting Firms,” published by Bay Street Group LLC and sponsored by Research In Motion (RIM), is now available

  •     as a PDF download, free with registration, at

http://resourcecenter.blackberry.com/resource.aspx?cp=0&resID=2335

  •     and as a webcast, free with registration, available on demand 24/7 at

http://resourcecenter.blackberry.com/resource.aspx?cp=0&resID=2334.

“Leading-edge accounting firms are already taking advantage of the changing economic and regulatory terrain to gain a competitive edge,” said Telberg. “They are seizing opportunities in crisis, capitalizing on new regulatory schemes, planning for new tax regimes, sweeping up talented people, and making the best of new technologies.”

For this research project, Bay Street Group LLC contacted and interviewed in depth more than two dozen acknowledged thought leaders in the profession. In addition, Bay Street Group LLC conducted an online survey of professional accountants, focusing on decision-makers in mid-size to large accounting firms to assess their use of cell phones, smart phones and related mobility strategies.

KEY FACTORS DRIVING NEW OPPORTUNITY

Five broad areas were identified as timely and decisive factors driving new opportunities for accounting firms today:

1. CRISIS CREATES OPPORTUNITY: Due to economic contraction and dislocation unseen in a generation, new competitive advantages are quickly emerging for well-positioned market leaders and astute value innovators.

2. RECOVERY, RE-REGULATION AND NEW RULES: As part of the re-stabilization of the global financial services sector, standards-setters and regulators are conducting a thorough reconsideration of accounting and auditing rules. New canons of practice are developing for accountants and auditors. Quick-witted and quick-footed firms stand to win first-mover advantages.

3. YES, NEW TAXES: In the United States, in particular, governments at all levels are seeking revenue enhancing measures. The new Obama Administration, for example, is seeking to fund new initiatives in healthcare, energy and education while also covering the long-term costs of emergency bailouts, prepackaged bankruptcies and new industrial and infrastructure policies.

4. THE TALENT SHIFT: In the past few years, accounting firms suffered sometimes severe staffing shortages caused by (1) a surge in assignments related to post-Enron Sarbanes-Oxley auditing rules and (2) a decline in CPA candidates as students instead pursued MBAs for higher paying jobs on Wall Street. With the implosion in finance, students are once again flocking to accounting, providing a ready, able and price-negotiable pool of new talent.

5. TECHNOLOGY DRIVERS: As can be expected, technology is proving to be the great lever separating the thriving accounting firms from the merely surviving. Accounting firms are embracing efficiency, integration, continuous connectivity and workforce mobility as their watchwords

NINE MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

Furthermore, the study identifies nine management strategies accounting firms are using to seize a competitive advantage, including:
1. Client Satisfaction
2. Business Development
3. Employee Recruitment and Retention
4. Technology Management and Cost
5. Expense Control
6. Document Management
7. Tax, Accounting and Business Research
8. Time and Billing
9. Unified Messaging

THE POWER OF CONNECTIVITY

The new levels of continuous connectivity, remote computing, and wireless mobility are naturally concentrating a lot of attention on the savvy use of mobile devices. To assess how firms use and benefit from smartphone capabilities, Bay Street Group compiled the responses of over 100 practicing accountants. Their responses yielded a practical list for firms seeking the next level in competitive strategy.

For instance, accountants who report they work in a competitively superior firm are about twice as likely to also report that they carry a smartphone.

Those accountants are also more likely to:

  • Synchronize the data on their smartphone with their in-office applications, meaning they are carrying their essential information wherever they go, to be used whenever they need it;
  • Monitor and manage document workflows – for seamless project management;
  • Better balance the sometimes conflicting demands of work and family;
  • Stay on top of new developments in real-time;
  • Attract and retain more talented people; and
  • Impress clients with the firm’s connectedness and responsiveness.

Furthermore, the competitively superior firms are also three times more likely to issue smartphones to not only partners and senior directors, but also to senior staff and general management personnel. And where the BlackBerry® wireless platform is chosen as the preferred solution firm-wide, twice as many accountants say it gives their firm “a competitive edge” over their rivals.

The survey determined, among other things, that accounting firms rely on their smartphones to provide reliable, real-time client service. In addition, 65% of respondents report that their firm's use of smartphones "improves productivity, workflow and project management." And 48% say smartphone usage improves work-life balance.

ABOUT BAY STREET GROUP LLC

Bay Street Group LLC provides actionable information, strategic insight, and results-driven solutions to the professional tax, accounting and finance communities. Clients include CPA firms and the vendors which serve them.
Services include:

  • Research and business intelligence
  • Business development planning
  • Strategic counsel
  • Conference and speaker services
  • Executive meeting facilitation and partner retreats

Rick Telberg is the founder and principal of Bay Street Group. He is a veteran analyst, consultant, commentator, publisher, and editor. He is the profession’s leading commentator and editor of http://cpatrendlines.com, which provides Bay Street Group news and analysis online. In the accounting profession, he has served in executive positions at Accounting Today, WebCPA, SmartPros, CPA2Biz and the AICPA Insider email newsletters.

The BlackBerry and RIM families of related marks, images and symbols are the exclusive properties and trademarks of Research In Motion Limited.

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