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How to Become an Agile Accounting Firm

December 9, 2021

The business management principle of agility is all about rapidly responding to changes in the marketplace, no matter what they are or when they occur.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the ultimate test for the agility of accounting firms across the globe. Almost overnight, firms had to adopt new technologies, a new organisational structure and even new service offerings to survive.

The health crisis forced CPAs to reexamine their business models and how they work to generate as much value as possible. Both clients and employees now rely on leaders to make agile changes in preparation for future crises.

Continue reading to learn how you can make your firm more agile and resilient.

The Benefits of Being Agile

Before we explain how you can become more agile, we want to highlight some of the benefits:

  • More effective change management: Agile organisations are more nimble and can adapt seamlessly to market changes.
  • Improved service quality: There’s a distinct focus on driving value for the business and the client.
  • High-performing, self-sufficient teams: Teams can ‘own’ their work and work collaboratively towards a common goal.
  • Quicker decision-making processes: Agile operating models are characterised by rapid learning and decision-making cycles.

Happier clients: More efficient internal processes and high-quality services ensure greater customer satisfaction.

Different Areas of Agility in Accounting Firms

Technological Agility

During the pandemic, many professionals were forced to work from home. Traditional organisations had to grapple with new technology and hastily implement new digital ways of working. 

Technologically agile organisations would have been one step ahead. Companies that were already working on the cloud or had a hybrid approach to working (a combination of in-office and at-home working), for example, would have been less overwhelmed and more prepared to deal with the challenging situation.

Technological agility empowers firm leaders to manage problems of the future with digital tools and the right expertise.

 

Service Agility

Currently, the main driver behind service agility in the accounting profession is technological advances. With software primarily dealing with number-crunching, accountants have had to increase the scope of their advisory services to be more helpful to their clients. 

In the future, evolving client needs will also heavily dictate the need for more agile approaches to service delivery. Forward-thinking, agile business leaders will continuously ask themselves what clients need from them and how they can adapt to stay competitive. 

 

Leadership Agility

Agile organisations require a fundamentally different approach to leadership, given that leadership is one of the main barriers to — and enablers of — successful agile transformations.

According to McKinsey, leaders need three new skills to become more agile. First, they must transform themselves to evolve new personal mindsets and behaviours by shifting from reactive to creative thinking. 

Secondly, they need to transform their teams to work in new ways. Leaders can do this by encouraging employees to always think about the clients’ evolving needs and how to meet them, as well as promoting more efficient ways of working.

Thirdly, it’s critical to build the capability to transform the entire firm by embedding agility into the organisation’s culture.

How to Become More Agile

Discover the steps that you need to take to become an agile, change-ready accounting firm.

Define Your Goal

Being an agile accounting firm means being value- and outcome-driven. As a first step, it’s important to define a common goal that everyone in the firm can work towards. You must be able to outline everything about how the future will unfold if your plan goes well. In addition, you should have a plan in mind for each department and its roles and responsibilities.

Once you have a goal, it’s important to communicate it clearly to your employees and explain what’s expected of them in their role. Be sure to inform them of the benefits of the plan and the ‘why’ behind it.

Here are some broad examples of agile goals:

  • Become a client-centric firm
  • Achieve greater efficiency in auditing tasks
  • Become a digital-first firm within one year
  • Become cloud-based
  • Deliver a wider range of services

Run Sprints

The backbone of agile approaches to working is sprints, whereas the conventional approach to accounting was to deliver what was expected by running a marathon (often dotted with unforeseen hurdles).

Essentially, working in sprints means tackling a large project by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Typically, sprints last between one and three weeks. After each one, you must set time aside to evaluate the impact and success of the sprint. This retrospective gives you the chance to implement changes in the next sprint for greater efficiency and continued success.


Leverage Next Gen Technology

Agility is often only possible by leveraging technology. Switching to technologies such as cloud hosting promotes agility by helping firms keep their business structure agile.

For instance, moving accounting processes to the cloud means anyone within the firm can access critical client information from any location at any time.


Embed Agility in the Culture

Without people, you don’t have a business. It’s therefore not enough to simply say you’re agile. You need to make sure your people are too. Truly agile accounting firms put people at the heart of culture and leadership, engaging and empowering everyone in their organisation to create value quickly and collaboratively. 

The best way to achieve a culture of agility is to split your employees into smaller teams. In that way, they maintain a stable structure but replace the traditional hierarchy with a flexible and scalable network of teams.

Expand Your Accounting Network with INAA

Here at INAA, we connect accounting firms who aim to deliver quality professional services around a shared vision to make global business personal, and take personal business global. 

With every industry change, our collaborative association of international businesses is committed to being a part of the conversation around auditing and accounting.

Join today to start building powerful business relationships.