Why technology is critical to the performance of a professional services firm

by Sean Boyce

Technology is changing the way everything operates and professional services firms are no exception.

If you haven’t adopted the latest that technology has to offer your firm then you need to get onboard quickly before you get left behind.

If you’re not careful, the industry will shift under you and you could find yourself on the path to extinction.  Don’t let this happen to your firm.


The technology being developed for professional services firms offers critical upgrades to the old way of doing business.  If you take a more proactive approach, your firm stands to benefit from those advantages in a big way.

I can certainly understand the frustration that comes along with having to learn what feels like constantly changing technology trends.  However, if you wait too long you’ll have less time to evolve and the learning curve will be even steeper.

I’m constantly studying how trends are developing in the accounting industry.  What we’re seeing is a strong push for your work to be completed faster, in digital format and to be focused more on generating the proper outcome instead of just output.  This is a paradigm shift for CPA firms that are used to the T&M (time and materials or hourly) model.

Let’s see some examples of this shift in action so you have a better understanding of what I mean and how it’s expected to impact your firm.

Old School

At every CPA firm I work with there’s always at least one partner that is particularly averse to adopting new technology.  These partners are quick to say things like ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and ‘I’ve been doing it this way for 15 years!’.

Some firms prefer to still be working with physical paper and Excel spreadsheets instead of more modern tools.  What these firms don’t realize is that while they are busy with pen, paper and spreadsheets, the industry is passing them by.  These tools are considered archaic by today’s standards and if you aren’t aware of that you need to be immediately.

These and other outdated methods of running a CPA firm were out years ago in favor of new tools that can do twice the work in half the time.  If your firm doesn’t  have these tools and know how to use them properly then your expenses will be upwards of double than your more progressive competitors AND your work will be taking twice as long.  That’s going to hurt.

Your firm can only sustain a path like this for so long before you go extinct.  Those ‘loyal’ clients you’ve always worked with will eventually jump ship to a firm that can do it faster, more accurately and more cost effectively than you.

New School

When one of my engagements with a CPA firm draws to a natural conclusion, it’s relatively obvious that their transformation was significant.  More work is getting done with less resources.  This type of transformation can really provide a boost to an underperforming firm with a high stress level – especially during tax season!

Many are reluctant to replace paper and spreadsheets with the newer tools, but once they understand the advantages they give it a shot and no one goes back.  This is a trend I’ve seen across segments within professional services throughout my career as a technologist.

Those fears regarding new technology quickly fade away once the results are experienced.  Completing work in half the time is a bizarre thing to get used to for someone who has done it ‘that way’ for years.  However, I’ve yet to meet someone who ends up being disappointed by it.

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Another huge advantage is when the adopting firm realizes the transformation this new technology has enabled members of their firm to make.  People are less stressed out and happier to be doing their work.  Learning new tools is, dare I say it…kind of exciting for people!  Plus, the boring monotonous work becomes rather automated and they can instead focus their efforts on bigger challenges providing them an opportunity to learn new skills once again.

The advantages don’t stop there, the benefits just keep coming.  This is why you need to start making these investments if you haven’t already.  You’ll be VERY glad that you did.

Risks of Rejection

Fighting developing technology trends in professional services is only going to hurt your firm by an increasingly significant amount overtime.

Without modern and well established tools, work at your firm will take longer, be more error prone, be less secure, increase your expense and overhead, and lower your margins.  Does anyone that runs a firm anywhere really want to experience even one of these?

Unfortunately, according to a report from the American Accounting Association from 2020, it appears that there is a troubling trend among CPA firms regarding resisting technology.  From their synopsis of this report, “A call to action has been sounded in accounting: Become a profession utilizing data analytics or become a profession bound for the history books.”

The risk of rejecting new technology in your industry is higher than ever.  Previously you had more time to ‘wait it out’, but now you need to hit the gas before it’s too late for your firm.

Advantages of Adoption

Embracing what technology has to offer your firm won’t just have an immediate (positive) impact on everything you do, it will continue to pay dividends over a longer period of time as your firm accelerates progress.

Firms who have adopted modern but established technology in their industry have experienced improvements with speed, efficiency, accuracy, lower overhead and higher margins.  These improvements have led to happy partners, team members and clients.

If there’s anything the new school AND the old school folks can agree on, it’s that there’s value in listening to and responding to the needs of their clients and customers.  What those clients are saying is that they want you to embrace these changes.

Listen to your clients, they can be the best source of information as it pertains to the latest developments in your industry and market.  If they need something you don’t have them you should investigate whether or not it’s time for you to add it.

Getting Started

You need a technology roadmap for your firm.  With this roadmap you can answer the critical questions of where you are currently, where you need to be and how you are going to get there.

Hiring Help

I can help your CPA firm evaluate your current and future technology needs.  Take a closer look at my technology roadmap or strategy session options on my website to find the help you need most at your firm.

If you still have questions email me at sean@nxtstep.io and consider joining my free mailing list where I talk about new technology and strategy for professional services firms like yours on a daily basis.

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