Putting the pieces in place to begin the digital journey

Interview with Barbara Ostrander, CPA, Partner, Vanacore, DeBenedictus, DiGovanni & Weddell LLP

How are client accounting services different today than 5 years ago? The adoption of cloud computing has transformed how accountants and clients are collaborating and communicating. When traditional accounting services are part of your DNA, it’s hard to reimagine what they can be. We had a conversation with Barbara Ostrander, CPA who shares why and how Vanacore, DeBenedictus, DiGovanni & Weddell LLP approached this growing opportunity.

HW: Why did you decide to expand into outsourced accounting and advisory services?

BO: We were receiving an increasing number of requests for added assistance with accounting in areas such as paying bills and processing payroll, but we weren’t set up to manage this type of work. We didn’t have an answer for clients, so we began thinking: what if we could do it all for our clients? The challenge was how we could deliver these services.

HW: How did you develop your strategy for offering these new services?

BO: We weren’t sure where to get started, so we decided to attend the Client Advisory Services workshop to ensure that we had the right strategy in place and that our client accounting services department was set up properly and structured most effectively to deliver these services.

HW: What part of offering these services excited you most?

BO: I got very excited about focusing on a vertical; that’s where I could really see the value. This isn’t just low-level write-up and bookkeeping work. We’re gathering data because it’s necessary to get to the level of virtual CFO services and provide real-time, relevant information, instead of being in the month of September and reporting their second quarter financial statement information.

HW: What was your approach to technology?

BO: We weren’t familiar with the current technology options and didn’t have time to conduct product trials so we turned to the to help us identify the best solutions. We could immediately see the benefits of providing these services to clients very efficiently. We decided to take the time to increase our knowledge and proficiency of these cloud solutions before transitioning clients and marketing to prospects.

HW: How do you feel about the future of your firm now?

BO: I’m no longer worried about being left behind and becoming obsolete to clients. I’m excited to continue our digital journey and the opportunities that await. I’m confident we have the tools and support to be successful.

Read the full success story to learn more.

What has helped you on your digital journey?

Do I have to think about that anymore?

For years I spoke to firms about integration. With appropriate setup you click a button and everything happens automagically! When you did the setup right this is what it looked like to everyone else, magic. In that same vein what amazes me today is the new concept of Internet of Me.

Have you stopped to look at how many devices and function you can have set up to be interconnected and at the ready? I recently bought a new house so have made many trips to the hardware store! One trip I came across an entire display of detectors, timers, etc. that can all be interconnected via the web and I can access via apps on my phone. We are getting to a day where the thermostat will start when my alarm clock goes off eliminating one more thing for me to do in the morning. It all just seems to happen automagically.

I am a “Big Bang Theory” fan and all this automation got me thinking about the episode when Sheldon used the dice to make all the minor decisions for him so he could free himself up to contemplate deeper questions. It seems to me using this automation gives us that same opportunity! This ability to have so many tasks in our daily life automated, i.e. turn my phone on silent as soon as I arrive at the office, without even having to think about them. Without giving our attention to those tasks we really do have a chance to go deeper and get more advanced in our work.

So many surveys and studies are showing the concern over staffing in accounting firms, be it retention or recruitment. When we look at giving accounting firm staff tools to automate and eliminate the basic tasks you can accomplish more with fewer staff, and engage your staff by employing their real talents! Give each of your staff an assistant through technology and see where your services can go.

Do you agree? How do you use the available automation?

A Closer Look at Our Startup Accelerator Companies

The of International Certified Professional Accountants Startup Accelerator is an annual program that finds, invests in, and guides early-stage tech companies with solutions that support accounting and finance professionals. This blog series provides a deeper look at the five companies in the 2021 cohort.