After I gave my keynote on the final day of the Digital CPA Conference last week, I had a chance to take a moment and look out at the crowd in the San Francisco Marriott Marquis conference center. And what hit home to me was just how far we’ve come as a community in the past five years.
The first Digital CPA was scheduled to be held Oct. 28-30, 2012, in a hotel with an impressive all-glass lobby just outside of Washington, D.C. Some of you may remember those dates as the East Coast landfall for Hurricane Sandy. We postponed the conference until December, and were grateful most people tore up their busy schedules and showed up. We had a tight-knit group from the beginning.
Now it’s 2017, and many of the practitioners at this year’s event have played a key role in the fast growth of virtual CFO services and the reinvention of client accounting services. And many of these same lessons learned are now being applied to new opportunities emerging in audit and tax. We’re poised for big things in the profession, and Digital CPA – with its energy, enthusiasm and vibrant setting – was a great reflection of that potential.
Here’s some of my takeaways from the conference:
We have a big tent, and it’s getting bigger all the time. We had 430 people at Digital CPA this year, and another 40 connecting remotely. We had more than two dozen people flying in from five different countries outside of the United States, so the strength of the programming, like the challenges and opportunities it addresses, extends across many borders. That’s a lot of momentum, and I want to thank all of you who have helped build this community from the ground up.
The pace of change offers great opportunity. Technology is rapidly transforming the practice of accounting, and all of the discussions at the event made me feel even stronger that there has never been a better opportunity for CPA firms to grow and thrive.
Complementary skills are going to be more important than ever going forward. AICPA Chairman Kimberly Ellison-Taylor talked about this during my Digital CPA keynote, and it was underscored in conference sessions. Technical skills and good judgment are never going to go out of style, but CPAs are going to need expertise in communications, technology and marketing, among other areas, if they’re going to successfully establish high-value advisory practices.
Mistakes and failure aren’t fatal – they’re prerequisites to growth and innovation. This was one of the lessons from Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph’s fantastic presentation. Not everything works out. As a profession, we’re devoted to service quality, and that’s always the goal. But we can’t be afraid to move fast to try something, and move on if it’s clear an approach isn’t working.
Education will move us forward. Blockchain will bring huge changes to the audit, in ways that aren’t fully clear yet. Digital CPA attendees have a high curiosity about this area. This is why we teamed up with the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance this past fall, and why we’re committed to providing context and insight to CPAs on this topic. There’s a whole new world forming in finance and accounting, thanks to blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics. At CPA.com, it’s our mission to provide thought leadership and guidance for firms navigating these changes. We’ll be here for you.
And if you missed this year’s conference but are curious about next year, check back at digitalcpa.com for updates. We’ll be in Washington, D.C. again from Dec. 3-5, 2018.