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Beyond the Buzz: Unveiling the True Digital Transformation ROI of Emerging Technologies in Accounting

Updated: May 6

The tech landscape roars with the constant drumbeat of "shiny objects" – promising innovations vying for your attention and budget. From generative AI’s transformative potential to the immersive possibilities of the metaverse, partner-level leaders in accounting firms face a critical choice: succumb to the hype or navigate strategically towards technologies that deliver tangible digital transformation ROI.

This isn't about dismissing innovation. Embracing emerging technologies is crucial for future-proofing your firm. However, discernment is paramount. According to a 2023 study by PwC, 88% of executives admit to struggling to capture value from their technology investments, leaving them without an understanding of their digital transformation ROI. This "innovation gap" can drain resources and derail progress.

So, how can forward-thinking accounting leaders, especially Chief Innovation Officers tasked with ensuring tech investments see benefits across a variety of firm service lines, shift beyond the buzz and identify technologies that unlock true value?

Here's a roadmap to guide you:


1. Align Technology with Business Strategy:

Before diving into the tech pool, map your technology investments to your firm's core objectives. Before investing in new technology, conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to understand your firm's specific challenges and objectives.

This process helps identify the gaps in your current technology stack and determine the features most critical to your operations. By focusing on solving real problems rather than acquiring technology for its own sake, you can ensure that any new investment directly contributes to your firm's efficiency, client satisfaction, and profitability.

Ask yourself:

  • What are our strategic priorities? Is it enhancing audit efficiency, expanding client services, or strengthening internal collaboration?

  • What pain points do we need to address? Are manual processes bogging down productivity? Is data fragmentation hampering insights?

  • What are our clients' evolving needs? Do they demand real-time reporting or customized advisory services? Do they want digital experiences or data security assurances?

By answering these questions, you move beyond the "cool factor" and focus on solutions that directly impact your firm's success.


2. Prioritize Value Over Novelty:

Don't be swayed by the latest tech fad. Prioritize technologies with proven value and ROI in the accounting industry. Industry-specific technology built with the collaboration of accounting professionals will have a better understanding of a firm’s needs you outlined in your needs assessment.

Here’s some steps to help you stay focused:

  • Evaluate Long-Term Viability and Support: Look beyond the initial allure of new technology by assessing its long-term viability and the quality of customer support provided. This includes evaluation the developer’s reputation, the technology’s update history, and whether it integrates well with your existing systems. Additionally, as a large accounting firm, you’re going to be working with complex processes with increased security needs. Ongoing support for these needs will be paramount. Technology that offers solid, ongoing support, and a clear roadmap for future updates is more likely to provide lasting value than those that might become obsolete quickly or lack sufficient support.

  • Quantify the Expected ROI: Prioritize technology where you can quantify the expected ROI. This involves not just looking at upfront costs, but also considering potential savings if you can use across service lines and gain volume discounts, exploring new revenue potential with the new functionality, and upsell potential for existing clients. Calculate how much time the technology will save, its impact on accuracy and compliance, and any positive impacts for your own clients that made bring in value. The more of the boxes that a solution can check, the better indicator that this tool will be a positive ROI instead of chasing down novelty.

  • Leverage Trial and Demos: Take advantage of trials and demos to test how well a technology meets your needs before making a full commitment. This hands-on experience allows you to evaluate the usability, features, and accuracy of the tool’s powers. Try to incorporate a small group of test users that include partners as well as associates who may be using the tool the most day-to-day. It’s an effective way to ensure that the technology not only looks good on paper but also performs well in practice, delivering tangible benefits to your firm.

  • Seek Feedback from Users and Industry Peers: Gather insights from other users, especially those in similar accounting practices, to understand the real-world value of the technology. User reviews, case studies, and discussions with industry peers can reveal how the technology has impacted their operations and whether it has lived up to its promises. Accounting Alliances frequently pre-vet their technology partners and can be a great place to access peer groups to share experiences. This feedback can be invaluable in distinguishing between genuinely transformative solutions and those that are merely trendy.

By applying these techniques, you can more effectively navigate the landscape of accounting technology, focusing on solutions that offer tangible value and support your firm’s strategic goals rather than getting distracted by buzzwords.


3. Foster a Culture of Experimentation:

Don't wait for the "perfect" solution. Instead, embrace a culture of experimentation with emerging technologies. Enable your teams to explore on their own and bring options or solutions to you. Keep your processes agile so that you can better adapt to adding new tools or dropping ones that aren’t working. Incentivize bringing solutions with a big impact to the team.

However you decide to foster experimentation with your team, consider:

  • Proof-of-concept (POC) projects: Implement small-scale projects to test the viability of new technologies in a controlled environment. Create a review process for POC project so that they can be rolled out across the firm, empowering each division to try their own. As leadership, you can then identify successful projects that you can then grow firm-wide.

  • Partnerships with technology vendors: Collaborate with vendors to explore innovative solutions tailored to your firm’s needs. Many vendors will have advisory boards or customer engagement campaigns designed specifically to illicit feedback from customers. Use these to find firms that truly collaborate with their customers and then reach out to see if there are opportunities for specific projects that can be done together.

  • Invest in employee training: Empower your team to understand and leverage new technologies effectively. Nothing kills ROI of a tool like lack of adoption by the team. It doesn’t matter how great the solution may be, if it’s not being used, the firm won’t see any benefits. Additionally, team members will value a growing skillset that training can provide them.

By fostering a culture of experimentation, you create a learning environment where your firm can adapt and thrive in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

Maximize Your Digital Transformation ROI

Navigating the tech terrain in accounting requires a strategic approach, not just chasing the latest shiny object. By aligning technology with your business strategy, prioritizing value over novelty, and fostering experimentation, you can unlock the true potential of emerging technologies and drive your firm towards sustainable success. Remember, effective technology adoption isn't about being the first, but about being the smartest. And Strongbox is here to help you be smart about filling your tech gaps.


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