In order to remain both competitive and profitable amid a rapidly changing accounting landscape, firms need to optimize processes, people and technologies, and adopt a “Best in Process” strategy in order to become a “future ready” practice.

“Future-ready firms define themselves in a number of ways,” said CCH North America president and chief executive Mike Sabbatis in a morning keynote address before 1,300 attendees at CCH Connections, the tax and financial products provider’s user conference, here in San Antonio. “The future-ready firm is one that is resilient, embraces change, follows best practices and is constantly implementing a path to continuous improvement. That leads to best in process.”

“Many of the processes that we work with aren’t in our best interest as they’re often out of synch,” he continued. “Are there broken processes with your clients? Would you choose a broken process if you were just starting out? Some of the best firms out there may not be future ready. Usually best practices are a result of past practices; that can cause complacency.”

Sabbatis referenced the results gleaned from an independent study CCH commissioned titled Future Firm Survey, which took a holistic view of the workflow and ways to optimize performance.

“We see future-ready firms as future empowered,” Sabbatis said. “Best in process gives you a simpler path to success.”

The CCH survey was based on responses from roughly 400 tax and audit firms in areas such as technology, workflow, staffing and practice management and analytics.

The study showed that while progress has been made in terms of leveraging tools and technologies, an eye-opening 80 percent of tax practitioners and nearly 70 percent of auditors reported that their firms could improve in that area.

By contrast, the report found that firms have made significant strides in terms of “foundational technologies”: i.e., scanning and document management, and over the next three years, 60 percent of audit firms and 44 percent of tax practices said they would rely on cloud applications.

Among larger firms (those with over 50 professionals), cloud adoption is higher with 80 percent of audit firms and 74 percent of larger tax concerns using core SaaS applications in each niche.

While the study found the majority of firms have documented processes in place, less than 75 percent follow them consistently, while 83 percent of audit firms and 61 percent of tax firms reported that their current process needs to be reassessed or improved.

With regard to staffing, nearly 60 percent of tax and audit firms reported that they have the right people performing the right work, but that 37 percent of auditors and 21 percent of tax firms have staff performing work for which they were overqualified.

“Ask yourself what processes aren’t working and which ones can be improved?” said Sabbatis.

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