With information technology eliminating most geographic boundaries, generalist firms will find it increasingly harder to compete with niche specialists who have differentiated themselves with more expertise and process efficiency, particularly those targeting CAAS (Client Accounting and Advisory Services).
Firms will find that there are different skills required to optimize the delivery of advisory services, including:
Building a comprehensive technology stack that can be leveraged to multiple clients includes knowing how to customize the integration of APIs to work in a standardized fashion.
In this manner, they can be taught and the integration repeated by other firm members.
Basic technical skills will then evolve towards the use of tools for importing data, machine learning and scripting, and dashboard creation. Eventually, these technologically-savvy firm members will start using machine learning, robotic process automation (RPA), and augmented/artificial intelligence applications to automate manual processes.
Advising clients can be optimized and repeated by team members by utilizing a structured consulting approach that teaches facilitation, inquiry, and listening skills.
Firm members with experience in advising, and considered to be strong consultants, can then transfer their expertise by:
More than a dozen organizations are providing advisory skills training specific to the accounting profession, including providers of Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training. I have personally found this training to be an effective tactic for accounting firm process optimization.
Advisory projects are not usually as standardized as many compliance services.
However, standardizing the process to manage these projects is necessary for meeting deadlines, scheduling personnel, and delivering results.
Having administrative and managerial personnel whose function is to monitor the progress of each project (and are proficient in the use of workflow and project management tools) is critical.
Marketing and promotional skills are also critical to the success of a CAAS practice; having rainmaking skills makes firms hyper-competitive. Rainmaking skills need to be taught to all firm members, but in particular to the leaders at the firm who are considered the “famous person” within their chosen segment.
Taking time to assess the different capabilities and skills of your personnel will ensure that your team is suited to meet the evolving changes that CAAS requires.
Before implementing advisory services, differentiate your firm by making sure all these critical needs have been met.
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