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Accounting firms: The next generation

Source: Journal of Accountancy. Authors: Ken Tysiac and Jeff Drew

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Command of data will take precedence as advanced technologies push CPAs to seek new skills, explore different services, and enter into new practice structures.

The structure that’s common at CPA firms has benefited the accounting profession for decades.

CPA firms have been organized to provide opportunities for recent college graduates to develop their skills and advance; for seniors, managers, and supervisors to hone their leadership abilities; and for the brightest and most highly motivated people to advance to the coveted role of partner. But the emergence of new technology and new ways of doing business has the potential to upend — or at least alter — the way accounting firms are managed.

Forward-looking firm leaders are examining the effects that advances in data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain technology may have on the way they do business. For example, Mauldin & Jenkins, a regional firm in the Southeast, formed a Forward and Strategic Thinking Committee in the fall of 2017 to study how the new environment will affect a firm of its size and the audit services it plans to continue to provide in the coming years.

“We all agree that the audit function is not going to go away, but it is going to change dramatically,” said Tommye Barie, CPA, a recently retired partner with Mauldin & Jenkins who served as chair of the AICPA board from 2014 to 2015.

Technology-driven changes in audit and tax services appear likely to lead to changes throughout firms’ organizational charts. Firms may need to recruit people with new skills, provide new opportunities for them to advance, train existing staff to perform more analytical services, consider new billing models, and place increasing emphasis on providing advisory services and strategic thinking.

“Are you ready to embrace the future of accounting?”

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