In part one of this series, we discussed how the accountant role is transforming and evolving from a compliance-driven role to a specialty role through the delivery of consultative and advisory services, backed by specialized education and extensive knowledge. By highlighting the legislative environment and the market demand, we outlined an area of growth and opportunity for specialization through SUT (sales & use tax) services, by introducing the concept of the 21st century business dynamic by Geoffrey Moore. In the earlier article, the focus was on outsourcing, automation, and commoditization. In this second part, we focus on the shift to differentiation, specialization, and finally optimization.
As technology evolves and the accountant continues to grow professionally, it is important to define what differentiates the accountant from his or her colleagues, internally and externally. It is through differentiation that the accountant can chart his or her own path as a sales and use tax (SUT) leader and subject matter expert.
As more firms evolve their SUT service offerings, we continue to see the need for expanded employee knowledge and resources. Therefore, education will play a large role throughout this transition, challenging accountants to expand their horizons. A 2016 survey of 2,200 CFOs, conducted by the staffing firm Accountemps, a Robert Half Company, found that CFOs place their largest value on learning, professional development and “soft skills.”
The survey results illustrate that, as an accountant, one of the key takeaways in which you can continue to enhance your value is through education and the adoption of new skillsets.
In the digital world in which we live, education can come from a range of different sources, including advanced SALT educational certificates, workshops, conferences, webcasts, podcasts, blogs, and networking, to name a few. To be successful, it is important the accountant be an independent learner.
Not only do we see differentiation in the role of the accountant, we also see a correlation with what skills the accountant can provide to the expansion of firm services, setting the firm apart in the market.
The transition to SUT specialization will likely be gradual over time, without a monumental defining moment. However, specialization from a firm perspective can be viewed as empowering individuals to be SUT leaders, specializing in SUT tax law and SUT services.
When this occurs, the accountant is defined by the services they can provide to clients not only from a compliance perspective but through guidance and advisory services in a consultative role, too.
The following diagram shows the spectrum of SUT services, that require a certain level of specialization based on knowledge and complexity.
At the point of optimization, the accountant has solidified their position as a SUT subject matter expert, opening the doors to possible advancement, in position to lead a well-tuned, efficient, high-value SUT service model that continues to grow year over year.
As our economy continues to evolve from brick-and-mortar operations to digital, we are seeing similar change throughout the accounting profession. Not only are we seeing the shift to consultative and advisory services, we are seeing an increase in client demands, enhanced services, introduction to new technologies such as blockchain, and an ever-changing regulatory environment.
As I interact with firms both large and small, helping them to understand their SUT practice and build out their SUT business model, there is one common theme I continue to hear: “How can we find the employee resources that can help us grow?”
By embracing change and understanding the framework outlined by Geoffrey Moore, accountants have the opportunity to grow professionally by challenging themselves and filling the need within their firm to meet client demands.