Last week, at Wolters Kluwer's 2016 CCH Connections User Conference in Washington, D.C., Accounting Today sat down with Jason Marx, CEO of Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting North American division (who also served as a keynote speaker) and Josh Braunstein, executive vice president and general manager of CCH Research and Learning at Wolters Kluwer, to discuss current changes and how firms can best manage themselves amongst an industry in flux.

[IMGCAP(1)] Marx commented that there are six prominent themes in business and the market today: Complexity, Global Changes, Talent Pressure, Competitive Pressure, Workplace in Transition, and Efficiency Needs. These factors, says Marx, are "being driven by the parallels of regulatory change, the markets and compliance changing, and the technology that is driving that operational shift and the efficiencies through that."

Wolters Kluwer, Marx added, is aiming to offerthe products and resources necessaryto help firms grow and manage these changes.

"We wanted to make sure we had an opportunity as small firms become mid-sized firms, as mid-sized become large-sized, that we had assets and solutions for customers to grow all along that continuum," he said. "So if they’re on ProSystem for small firms, they can continue to grow and add capabilities as they grow into a large firm. We have capabilities of workflow, like iFirm, that cut across that, so iFirm is being used across the small and mid-sized firms, and then when they evolve as a larger firm, and move to the cloud, they can evolve to some of the practice and workflow tools we have in the cloud, through Axcess."

Furthermore, Marx foresees that firms can soon be reaching a point where they'll have to weigh the options on what changes need to be made to ensure they remain competitive.

"No. 1, [firms] have to be willing to listen and consider the options that are available," he said.
"I don’t think there’s an endpoint where they get 'left behind,' [but] over the next two or three years, I think you’re going to see that pace of adoption continue to evolve as firms continue to understand the costs of change versus the costs of not changing."

"If you look at the client of the firm, pick an industry – manufacturing, industry, agriculture -- they’re all going through those same changes," he added. "So the customers and the clients are looking for that same change. We’re already seeing that." [IMGCAP(2)]

Braunstein added that he doesn't feel that firms are necessarily slow to change, but may not have the foresight to what innovations can bring about.

"They’re intensely proud of the value they bring their customers," he said. "I think when someone says they don’t want to change, it’s not that they don’t want to do what’s right for their customers; it’s that they know this [current situation] works. I think our job together, with our customers, is to help show them the value of the change."

"The challenge for us and our customers is able to turn that value statement and get that into their thinking moving forward," Braunstein continued. "I don’t think right now they see the endgame, they don’t see where’s this is going, why it’s going to get them there. I don’t think they’re scared of change, but they always don’t see the value. So that’s our job together is to help them see that value."

Braunstein also felt that as automation of firm processes become more commonplace, successful firms will need to be able to bring value that technology can't replicate. 

"I think being able to find the extra value in places that they wouldn’t expect is going to be absolutely critical," he said. "It’s when a firm can get back to a customer and be able to say, 'Yeah we did this and this, but here’s something you’re not even thinking about. Here’s something that’s going to hit two years from now.' The more firms can do things like that, and show their value now, it’s going to let them pull away from the pack and be as competitive as they want to be."

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