Your path to CAS success: 5 essential steps

What does it take to build and sustain a successful client advisory services (CAS) practice? With more firms placing CAS in the driver’s seat of client relationships, the answer has never been more important. Leading CAS practices not only deepen client relationships through a spectrum of accounting, financial and advisory-related services—they also provide the firm with a valuable driver of long-term revenue growth. So, it makes sense that leaders at firms of all sizes are looking for ways to make sure their CAS practices are set up to succeed.

That’s why we recently published 5 Steps to CAS Success, an eBook that shares the latest insights from leaders in the field on what it takes to build and grow a successful CAS practice today.

Here’s a look at some key insights from this valuable new guide—which any CAS leader or practitioner should read.

Five foundational steps

Every CAS practice is different. But they typically rely on the same types of enabling technologies, serve similar client needs and face similar challenges on the path to maturity—they’re more alike than they are different. Across CAS practices, we've identified five key steps that firm and CAS leaders should consider in order to establish or expand their own thriving CAS practice.

Step 1: Define CAS strategy and firm metrics.

Leaders at established CAS practices often observe that their practices started opportunistically, with little regard for longer-term structure and product pricing considerations. These practices started by responding to immediate client needs, and as they grew and evolved, structure and pricing strategies evolved and were formalized. Today, several key approaches have emerged from these experiences:

  • Structure your practice to fit your firm’s strengths and client needs.
  • Update firm metrics to drive long-term success.
  • Plan for flexibility and customization.
  • Sharpen the team’s ability to communicate value.
  • Give clients more focused choices with product package.

Step 2: Standardize processes and technology.

CAS practices succeed by delivering services to clients at scale, and the only way to achieve scale is through standardizing processes and technologies. Standardizing has other benefits, too. For example, when CAS professionals are able to avoid rework by applying the same tools and approaches used for one client to the next client, higher job satisfaction usually follows. As CAS has matured, leading firms have refined their approach to standardization. Some key insights from their experiences include:

  • Gain more speed through fewer steps.
  • Build around processes designed into CAS solutions—don’t start from scratch.
  • Work with solution providers that really listen to you and incorporate your feedback.

Step 3: Align teams with technology.

CAS is a technology-driven practice, but without capable people at the controls empowered to do their best work on behalf of clients, even the best solutions will come up short. Here are some ways CAS leaders are helping their people succeed:

  • Plan for automation with your team.
  • Seek new skillsets.
  • To help teams be more successful, use fewer tools.
  • Build a disciplined, repeatable onboarding process.

Step 4: Build the business development plan.

Doing great work and getting referrals from satisfied clients is a time-honored business development strategy in the accounting profession. But CAS leaders say that referrals are only the start—the baseline of a more complete, multifaceted CAS expansion plan. Some of the ways they’re going beyond referrals to fill the CAS pipeline quarter after quarter include:

  • Focus on key influencers with lots of reach.
  • Don’t overlook internal channels.
  • The fundamentals are still fundamental: Do great work and new clients will follow.

Step 5: Focus on the right clients and industries.

While many firms that are just starting their CAS journey often do not have the luxury of specializing from the start, most CAS leaders agree that specialization is the goal. It’s a proven way to gain efficiencies, develop deep expertise, achieve scale quickly, and ensure a robust pipeline. Here’s how CAS leaders are leveraging specialization allowing their teams to work smarter and more effectively.

  • Learn how to say “no” to prospective clients who don’t align with your industry focus.
  • Adopt technology solutions that match up with industry/sector focus.
  • Choose your CAS specialties wisely.

One step at a time

Any successful CAS practice is continuously evaluating and adapting—so, if this list seems daunting at first, keep in mind that it’s okay to focus primarily on the areas that need the most attention. As you notch progress in one area, use these steps as a big-picture guide for keeping the CAS practice on track, referring to them frequently and shifting your focus as needed as the practice evolves.

Our 5 Steps to CAS Success eBook provides a more detailed, in-depth look at each of these steps, along with first-hand advice from leaders at some of the most successful CAS practices operating today. Take a moment to download it. Also be sure to visit's CAS web page which offers a host of resources for CAS practices at every stage of maturity, including webinars, articles, eBooks, and other thought leadership resources.

About the author: Kimberly K. Blascoe, CPA, leads’s CAS 2.0 practice transformation programs, focusing on helping firms establish and grow optimized CAS practices through consulting, practice development and training offerings. Prior to joining, Kim spent more than 30 years in public accounting, which included leading the CAS practice for a Top 20 firm.

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