Cloud-based firm solutions have transformed how CPA firms conduct business over the past decade, improving productivity and expanding capabilities. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, these solutions are demonstrating their value in another way – by providing greater resiliency for the business operations of accountants and their clients.
With restrictions in place due to the virus outbreak, most of the nation’s 44,000 CPA firms have been adjusting to working in this new fully remote world. Cloud-based solutions are empowering CPAs to perform their trusted advisor role virtually and in some instances with little impact.
“This is an historic time for CPA firms to help their business clients and play the trusted advisor role,” said Erik Asgeirsson, president and CEO of CPA.com. “We are hearing from many firms that their clients are so thankful they implemented cloud-based operating. Those firms that have already embraced cloud solutions are well positioned to be trusted advisors during this time of need. Firms that have not are scrambling a bit.”
Businesses are facing great challenges going forward. The need for advisors with expertise and creativity will be acute. Many states are already recognizing the critical role CPAs will play in this role by designating the accounting profession an essential service.
“It’s not uncommon for firms to be siloed a bit by practice area, and we often see varying levels of cloud adoption along those lines,” said Mark Koziel, executive vice president of firm services for the AICPA. “For example, many client accounting services practices have been way out in front on technology adoption. But in the same firm, a family office practice might not be as far long. Now there is newfound urgency for these practice leaders to collaborate to get as many clients as possible in the cloud., The good news is many firms can achieve this alignment due to the technology investments they made in recent years.”
Client accounting services (CAS), a service category redefined by the emergence of the cloud, has been the fastest-growing practice line for the CPA profession. It now accounts for roughly 10 percent of firm revenue in most firm segments, according to research by CPA.com. Today, the key technology drivers for CAS are cloud-enabled versions of general ledgers, bill payment services and payroll – and none of these are impacted by businesses operating virtually.
CPA.com has had consistent guidance for firms in recent years and it resonates now more than ever in the current crisis. It’s a three-part message: 1) If you haven’t done so already, move to the cloud. 2) Empower your workforce to perform wherever they find themselves – on the road, in the office or at home. 3) Develop advisory service lines that line up with your firm’s areas of expertise and specialization.
For now, firms should be making use of all available digital tools, from email to video calls, text chat and screensharing sessions, to work with their clients to support them through this crucial time.
“I was part of an interactive scenario planning exercise at the AICPA and CPA.com’s Digital CPA Conference this past December,” said Pascal Finette, Chair of Entrepreneurship and Open Innovation with Singularity University and partner with CPA.com in its ‘Navigating the Future’ program focused on helping firms drive innovation. “Ironically, participants unanimously chose to use “Remote Work Force” as the subject they wanted to explore. I think the implications of the last few weeks are going to profoundly change people’s view of the future of work, and firms are going to need to adapt quickly.”
CPA.com will be providing expanded resources to support firms in the weeks ahead.