How cloud accountants can develop the art of innovation
Innovation in accounting, and that term alone, is a buzzword everyone loves to throw around at the moment. My struggle with the “innovation” buzzword is the lack of understanding that follows. In most examples, accounting firms will talk to me about how innovative they are, shortly followed by the string of cloud solutions they use, but they still maintain the same business practice’s they had before, but now it’s on a new “cloud” savvy product. Now, I’m not bashing the cloud solutions – they are great. Cloud solutions are innovating the way we communicate and engage with our clients and helping us complete our work all over the world, but that’s not all they were intended for. There is so much opportunity for accounting professionals to truly innovate their practices, but often they lack a sense of direction or creativity on how to develop the art of innovation.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world and speak to accountants in every corner of the globe. It’s been a fascinating experience, as it’s allowed me to meet some of the biggest pioneers in the accounting industry, learn who they are and what they deem successful. Most importantly I gain insight on what are they focused on tomorrow that allows them to maintain their progressive, pioneering status as a True cloud accounting professional.
What stands out when meeting one of these cloud pioneers is not the technology stack they are using (don’t get me wrong, tech is vital to success), but it’s the mindset they’ve built around their business. What makes them truly innovative is the focus they’ve put in place and the culture they’ve created that drives their practice forward. At the end of the day, the accounting industry has a very large human element to it that will determine how successful your practice is and can be. This is where cloud pioneers have been able to develop “The Art Of Innovation.”
Today’s thought-provoking lesson is geared towards helping you adapt a future-focused mindset that will enable you to transform your practice in this time of technological and business model changes. The key benefit is that you will always be able to move quickly when the wheel starts to turn – creating an agile environment can become an awesome competitive advantage. It’s a muscle that needs to be torn and used before it can grow and develop to become a strong part of your firm’s DNA.
The Art Of Innovation
The first thing I’ve noticed in pioneering cloud accounting firms is their ability to focus on the customer and the way in which their customers are served. This customer-centricity is your first step to developing a culture of innovation within your firm.
Customer centricity is a key element to a methodology called design thinking. Design thinking is a process that forces you to put your customer and the problems your customers face at the centre of attention. In some instances your employees can also be the customer, in which you focus on their needs, wants, the processes they go through each day, and how they go on to service your customers. To develop this muscle further and truly understand the benefits and how to make this work within your firm, I recommend you read a book called “The Art Of Innovation.” This was written Tom Kelly, General Manager of IDEO, an international design and consulting firm. Both Tom and his brother David put Design Thinking on a world stage, working with the biggest companies in the world like Apple and many more.
Developing customer centricity within your firm is a key step in becoming a cloud pioneer. If you look after your customers, they’ll look after you. It will also force you to think about the client experience and the process that enables that experience. This analysis will then force you to look at what other ways your processes can be done. You won’t settle for what you’ve always done because you’ll realise that the experience you deliver to your team and to your clients is sub-optimal. Your clients and employees will feel like you listen to them and that you only want what is best for them. Design thinking has so many benefits that help enable a healthy culture that the positive benefits will have a direct reflection on your revenue.
Placing your customers and employees at the centre of attention will push you to look at what tools and systems they are using. You can then craft new innovative processes based on feedback and multiple perspectives. The mistake here is to try and fit your current process on a piece of new technology, when in fact, you need to adapt your processes to take full advantage of the solution’s capabilities.
The first step to developing your “Art Of Innovation” is to invest time in what innovation is and how it works. This will enable you to focus on things that make a tangible difference to your practice. My easy rule of thumb to follow is to measure all of your processes, systems, and solutions through 2 specific filters:
1. Is this good for my customer (or employee)?
2. Will this increase our efficiency or give us a competitive advantage?
If you can answer both of these questions and make great arguments as to how these new innovations, processes, and systems will impact your business, it’ll be the right thing to do. Remember, you need to get the opinion of your customers and employees. You do not know all the answers. The greatest pioneering accounting firms I’ve met have developed a Laissez-faire leadership style that allows all of their team to get involved and make decisions for the business based on the impact it can have on the customer.
This is your first step to developing your “Art Of Innovation” within your firm – allowing you to become a cloud pioneering accounting firm.
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Head Of Accounting @ Practice Ignition