Innovative Practitioner 2018

The Innovative Practitioner Award shines light on exemplary practitioners. They embrace new strategies and technology by taking the initial steps of a long-term plan or by continually benefiting from early adoption. We received several submissions from the CPA community members, and the profession and an advisory committee voted on the winners.

We are proud to announce the Innovative Practitioner Award 2018 winners and runner-up recipients. You can read their inspirational stories below and consider these ideas for your own firm.


Samantha Bowling, CPA, CGMA

Garbelman Winslow

Samantha is the first small firm to successfully use artificial intelligence in auditing for small businesses, non-profits, and local government. In a firm of only 15 people in southern Maryland, Samantha led the way after doing a google search for small firms and AI in audit. In the past six months she has been testing this innovative application. The significance is that just over a year and a half ago, KPMG and IBM Watson shook up the world with their announcement. She is the first firm to show that this technology is available to all firms of all sizes.
Samantha started implementing AI in her small firm of 15 people to improve the audit process and reduce risk of material misstatements. She began this process in Fall of 2017. She also uses the same AI platform to determine whether to accept new clients and plans to expand this into the outsource CFO role and create additional earning potential for her firm.
Samantha has been working with Mindbridge not only to implement it in her firm but to help develop the tool to make it easily usable for many other firms.

Jagruti Solanki

Senior Manager
Aprio, LLP

Across industries visionary CEOs are turning to blockchain to reinvent the nature of commercial transactions and increase the value of their businesses. With this shift and the emergence of more cryptocurrencies and crypto-businesses, Jagruti Solanki, senior manager at Aprio, has been instrumental in the development of blockchain accounting best practices and the launch of Aprio's blockchain services group.
Jagruti and her blockchain team at Aprio are pioneers in blockchain accounting having provided tax, audit, audit readiness and consulting services to companies on the blockchain for more than five years. This experience has allowed Jagruti and her team to develop accounting and financial reporting best practices that help companies navigate the domestic and international accounting and tax obstacles associated with tokenization, initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency.
Today, Jagruti speaks at blockchain conferences across the U.S. providing companies with insights, best practices and pitfalls related to blockchain accounting, audit, tax, regulatory, valuation and cyber security risk considerations.
It is because of these innovations in blockchain accounting that Jagruti deserves to be recognized as the DCPA 2018 Innovation Practitioner of the Year.



Matt Armanino

Chief Operating Officer, Partner, CFO Advisory Services Practice Lead
Armanino LLP

Since joining the firm in 2008, Matt Armanino has introduced a deeper range of CFO solutions―more than tripling the department's revenues. The results of this year's Armanino annual CFO Evolution client survey confirmed that disruptive changes are having a huge impact on business landscapes and the role CFOs are being asked to play.
In response to these changes, Matt launched a Strategy and Transformation practice area to help clients when they are experiencing VUCA – Vulnerability, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Matt has employed a five-step methodology to provide Armanino's clients in the small- and mid-market with actionable recommendations. His team's cross functional skills act like a Swiss Army knife, leveraging subject matter expertise from across the firm – audit, tax and consulting – to drive improvements related to strategy, operations, process and technology.
To date, more than 80 percent of assessment engagements have led to follow-on work, with those follow-on assignments averaging five times the assessment fees. In its first full year, the Strategy and Transformation practice area will produce over $1 million in direct revenues for 2017, and it has already created more than $4 million in opportunities for Armanino's other practice areas.







David Butler

Rosenbloom & Butler, CPAs

Read bio

David Butler operates a small CPA firm in Rockville, Maryland. The practice primarily focuses on tax and audit work for local entrepreneurial families and small businesses.
Over the past few years, David noticed that some of the families he worked with had become quite complex on account of direct investments in various businesses and real estate, elaborate estate planning, and multi-generational issues. Further, he saw that while these wealth creators (his clients) were adept at growing their estates, they did not have the time nor interest in keeping up with the myriad of details that arise from the accompanying legal and financial complexity. David saw risk to his clients and their families because 1) mistakes can be made if the details are not properly tracked and 2) failure to memorialize the complexity in a digestible format left the family at risk should death or forgetfulness befall the wealth creator.
David concluded that for this select group of clients the way to mitigate against the risks the families faced was to establish a discipline of stewardship over complex family wealth. Thus, David launched a new practice area at his firm whereby his firm would offer to serve as stewards over the financial and legal details impacting these families.
Ultimately, David implemented Complex Interests software at his firm. The software allows David and his colleagues to take their practice of stewardship and turn it into work product for the firm's clients. Among other things the software automatically generates diagrams of the complex entity relationships found in the families' estates.
David's favorite story to share is of the client, who upon seeing all his legal and financial relationships laid out clearly in Complex Interests' software, said "I can finally sleep at night. If something were to happen to me, my wife and kids have a chance of understanding what I've built so that they can maintain it and protect it."
These days, when David describes his firm's practice he says "tax, audit, and stewardship of family wealth." This last component has allowed him to distinguish his practice from others and has added to his billables this year.
If asked, David will tell you that this new level of service is the future for CPA firms who want to be indispensable to their clients.
Recently, other accounting firms across the country have begun experimenting with offering stewardship a service and implementing Complex Interests. But David was the first.
Hide bio

Michael L. Duke

Principal Healthcare Consulting Practice
Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP

Read bio

Michael is one of the leading forward thinkers in our consulting practice and is continually driving our Healthcare Provider practice to approach solving client problems in unique ways that add significant and sustainable value. Michael is continually challenging Baker Tilly leadership and practitioners to ensure that we are adding value in the healthcare provider space.
Baker Tilly, revenue cycle process specialists, partnered with very specific technology leaders: Ontario Systems, Tableau Software, Datawatch Corporation, Recondo Technologies and Waystar to form the Baker Tilly Revenue Cycle Innovation Center (RCIC). The RCIC drives innovation by bringing knowledgeable specialists together to create a radically new approach to optimizing healthcare providers' revenue cycle operations that provides significant financial performance improvement. The RCIC can help healthcare organizations increase annual net revenue, reduce costs and obtain flexibility in processes and systems that provides sustainable results.
Michael constructed the overall vision for the RCIC solution and personally selected the various enabling technologies, developed the platform that would allow for a single solution and then worked tirelessly to bring the various parties together. From a tactical perspective, Michael developed all the overarching approaches to the solution. He developed the initial best in class workflow processes and automation so that the solution could be "plug and play" for clients in order to drive immediate adoption and see results within 60 days of implementation start date. To do so, Michael leveraged his understanding of Star data schema to ingest client data and enable his envisioned processes to normalize it regardless of the source system and at a level of granularity rarely seen in healthcare. Michael has developed a unique concept of Revenue Cycle analytics that is different than what is currently available in the marketplace and fundamentally changes the ability to manage Revenue Cycle operations.
Michael's vision and exceptional level of detailed understanding were the primary drivers to the creation and deployment of the RCIC. His ability to simultaneously see the entire landscape of Revenue Cycle operations, coupled with advanced technologies and analytics, allows Baker Tilly to serve our clients in ways not previously possible. Additionally, the target financial results for clients will prove to be a serious departure from traditional consulting approaches in the industry. As a matter of fact, Michael is leveraging his vision of the RCIC to help a new Baker Tilly campaign to put $1 billion back into the healthcare provider market through improved operations, higher annual net revenues and lower cost models.
Hide bio

John (Rusty) Davis, CPA

Davis & Associates, P.A.

Read bio

Leveraging his 20 years as partner in a traditional regional firm, and the high-growth firm he founded, Davis really went to work in 2010. The new job was to demolish a traditional firm and rebuild a firm for the digital age. Brick, mortar, and paper – all to the cloud. Staff to flex, remote, and mobile workspaces. Clients culled to SMB groups with value-added needs only. Services streamlined into bundled, high-end advisory/reporting/tax/technology engagements. Client data accessible in real time. Timesheets trashed. Revenues transitioned to fixed fee monthly ACH agreements. Document management all portal, e-signature, and cloud-secured. Relationships upgraded to support consistent face time visits at client sites. Firm apps adjusted to best-in-class and SAAS or hosted. Software R&D and data-analytics invested into. Digital marketing enhanced. Early adopters we became.
After construction was completed in 2016, fine tuning followed, resulting in a 2018 firm that is clearly future-ready. Service mix is lean and powerful. Client satisfaction is highest ever. Staff work week is time-efficient. Data security advanced. IT support outsourced. Firm financial KPI's are strong. Culture is sustainable, green, healthy, and fit. A simple long-term reinvention that required research, learning, and doing by many folks, plus profits reinvested. Moving forward we welcome the changes and challenges that will come.
Visioning for the next few years is in process – AI, block chain, big data, and new forms of advisory – more tools into the toolbox. Succession transformed into a millennial-friendly long-term annuity. Staff work-life balance is optimized for families. Services focused on profits and growth for our clients. After a multi-year integration of best practices in process, people, and technology, we have a rebuilt foundation for the future. Scalable, vendor neutral, diversified industries, balanced client list, modern services, and financially sound. We are Digital CPA's.
Hide bio