“Complexity is the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity” were the defining words of an opening keynote speech given by CPA2Biz president and chief executive Erik Asgeirsson here at the 2013 Digital CPA Conference.

The phrasing may have been taken from an earlier speech given by AICPA president Barry Melancon, but they helped to set up the points Asgeirsson was to make about the profession’s reluctance to and need for change. He reiterated points made about why the profession needs to evolve, as well as how – focusing on the oft stated message of client accounting being the first big step in firm evolution as well as cloud adoption in general.

“You need to be able to answer the question of ‘what should I do’ for your accounting clients. That answer used to just be QuickBooks, but not anymore,” said Asgeirsson. He noted that the key drivers of firms moving toward the cloud were collaboration, business intelligence, anytime access, scalability, and simplified IT.

“For firms, it’s not about technology but where you want to go with your business,” Asgeirsson continued. “Change management is the most significant challenge for firms today to move from transactional workflow to trusted advisor. Firms are also still struggling with the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ related to change, but they need to focus on the ‘why’ as well.

Asgeirsson also took the time to allow other firms to discuss how they are changing their practices, adding cloud-based tools for client accounting, invoicing and bill payment.

One example came from Maribel Torres-Pinero, president of MT Pinero, a 12-person Washington, D.C.-area firm that works predominantly with nonprofit clients. Earlier in the year they had switched over to using Intacct and Expensify from other systems they had in place for a long time.

“We had to ask ourselves, what we’ve done for 20 years in outsourced accounting has been working well, so why change? We now know there are even better, more collaborative ways of doing it,” said Pinero. “What worked was showing the platforms, we got volunteers to try them out, put clients on them and learned as we go. It’s been nine-months now and going well.”

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