More than 1900 attendees converged on Las Vegas for the BDO Alliance meeting when the 2022 conference season launched this week. Right Networks was there in full force to meet clients in person and lead various sessions.
I facilitated the Tax Technology Leaders Panel, highlighting the benefits of transformative technologies in the cloud. I also expounded upon SafeSend, SurePrep, and Suralink, dissecting how they effectively replace antiquated accounting firm processes.
After my presentation, I outlined “Today’s Lean Firm,” an innovation occurring within the tax, assurance, and CAAS areas. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a lean firm, watch our latest webinar on the topic.
One of the conference highlights was the announcement of the BDO Digital Labs EBP bot. The ingenious bot ingests data from the most popular Employee Benefit Plan brokers and automatically analyzes and builds reports.
These tools automate traditionally highly manual processes by utilizing advanced OCR, RPA, AI and customized workflows. BDO also announced a hosted AI service called Digital Genesis, which provides artificial intelligence and analysis available as a service.
A notable quote popped up during a discussion about introducing automation technology to firm personnel. Attendees were instructed to start by asking themselves, “What about your job stinks?”. By asking this question, one could introduce technology that alleviates the problem.
Takeaway: Expect OCR, RPA, AI, and machine learning to become as commonplace in firms as tax and audit software and reduce the amount of work that “stinks.”
Another highlight was the CAAS (client accounting and advisory services) automation panel. Here, the examination turned toward how BDO built its technology stack in the cloud. Noteworthy apps discussed included QuickBooks Online and hosted QuickBooks Desktop (where Right Networks is the leader).
The technology also utilized integrated applications for payables and payroll reporting and provided a shout-out to the Transaction Pro Importer for inputting data from any program.
Once any accounting firm builds the information stack for their client, they can advise them on how to improve their performance. Accounting professionals could further leverage that knowledge with other clients already utilizing those applications.
Takeaway: Technology stacks and reporting in the cloud will be the foundation that advisory services rely on.
Mike Platt, President of INSIDE Public Accounting, referenced the movie “City Slickers” when advising us about the film’s primary lesson:
The secret to success is focusing on just one thing and doing it right.
He asked the audience what percentage of their time is spent on “partner-level” work and the majority admitted to 50% or less.
After years of studying the IPA Best of the Best firms, Mike noted that one of the key differentiators in firm success is partners doing partner-level work and putting aside the rest. His sage advice was to focus on one metric or success for each partner by increasing the amount of partner-level work by 10% and reporting results.
Takeaway: Partners focusing on doing higher-level work and delegating what they see as rote will grow their personnel’s skills and the firm.
Barry Melancon, President and CEO of the AICPA closed the conference by touting the “ultra-success” of the accounting profession’s ability to adapt during the COVID pandemic.
He reflected on how individual IRS return filings with the help of a tax professional are, once again, on the rise. Melancon also said tax returns would eventually become a by-product of these other higher-level services and cautioned firms to invest in expanding advisory services.
Barry pointed out that while we live in a world where there is a massive void in trust, CPAs are in a leading position to provide confidence beyond financial information.
As SOC assured control systems led to over three million reports being issued in the last eight years, he discussed potential opportunities to codify standards and provide assurance for ESG (environmental, sustainability, governance) initiatives.
Again, CPAs are ideally suited to assist in standardizing and measuring risk.
Barry also spoke of the upcoming changes to the CPA exam, which will consist of a core of information that all accountants should know and additional expertise in at least one other area: Tax, assurance, or technology.
Takeaway: Partners should take time away from working “IN” their firms to working “ON” their firms and identify future services that their practice could evolve towards.
I learned a lot at the BDO Alliance conference this year and aspire to learn even more. I will be appearing at numerous conferences and symposiums around the country. Stay tuned and hope to see you on the road!
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