[IMGCAP(1)]It’s an old adage that most firms will appreciate today: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

My conversations during the past year with managing partners of Accounting Today’s Top 100 Firms have centered on the affinity between financial outperformance and high-performance culture. I wondered whether technology offers the chance to harness both culture and margin. I believe it can. I believe it must. And I believe that, at its best, it does.

Technology can drive both culture and front-line action—beliefs held sacred by firms serious about servicing the client. The majority of organizations are striving to set themselves apart and proclaim and preserve whatever allows them to outperform their rivals.

I would like to concentrate on two principal points:

• How technology can help underpin culture and values across your firm, and;
• How it paves the way for a more rounded response to the all-important client.

Underpin Your Values Across Your Firm
To my mind, the best argument in favor of the principle of aligning technology with culture is not simply an appeal to rationality, but to its place at the heart of any organization.

Highly motivated, technologically sophisticated firms appreciate that culture is a business issue that has a significant impact on their ability to generate a return on investment. For the vast majority of my clients, it’s a huge shift away from the jumbled, half-examined information to transparent data at a well-defined point, with user-friendly systems and accessibility anytime, anywhere in the world. The restoration of technology to the sphere of the personal is the nettle that all firms must grasp in order to compete.

The firm’s values must be underpinned across the organization throughout multiple geographies. We routinely see that a standardized solution is crucial to promoting a unified culture. It provides firms with an edge and efficiency based on their own business principles. This especially holds true for companies on the virtuous cycle of mergers and acquisitions. We frequently see how important adopting a cultural, governance and due diligence process is to a firm’s post-merger integration, to realize the full value of the deal. It encourages employees to drive performance and have a bias toward action.

It should also be obvious that any limitation placed on employees to collaborate and share a common language of engagement and efficiency interferes with what is essential to the business: namely to converge, innovate and break barriers. What we want is to provide employees with the means to act in the best interest of the firm and with a solution that supports new business propositions.

Think of the way social collaboration tools have evolved to suit the architecture of the firm. For example, one of my clients uses a collaboration tool to manage its tax clients. They have moved beyond the traditional approach to offering a far more dynamic and rewarding interaction. From the moment engagement is initiated to the time they receive their tax return, tax advisors are able to provide their clients with richer perspectives and real-time responses to issues such as deadlines and document requirements.

Managing a line of business this way has allowed them to raise their productivity and knowledge and given their customers more power, influence and effective interaction in this increasingly mobile world.

The right technology allows my clients to transform themselves to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving market place as well as their increasingly empowered clients.

What’s in it for the Client?
The right technology gives top-performing companies the ability to orient outwards. They are better equipped to pre-empt issues and pressures for a meaningful and sharp focus on their client needs.

Today it’s very much about reconciling with connectivity so we can maintain the same quality, be it regionally or internally across firms, and deliver consistent and exceptional standards anywhere that our projects and clients take us. In this age of globalization there is little that provides companies with an edge. Therefore culture needs to be aligned with technology across the entire organization so people can deliver their best work and put the customer’s needs at the forefront.

Winning cultures are not solely about making everyone feel good but giving employees the means to be performance focused, unabashedly achieve results and most importantly, provide well-rounded, quality deliverables to the client.

I am bullish that today we can and will maintain a coalition between business culture and technology. Strong organizations understand the right technology can carry their culture throughout the organization. I once read that "the paintings exist to illustrate the text.” Perhaps the same can be said about technology. It drives the emphasis and certainty that keeps the culture obstinately alive.

Dan DiStefano is a senior product manager at Deltek, a Herndon, Va.-based global provider of enterprise software and information solutions for professional services firms.

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