I have spent two days this week attending the Alternative Accountancy Strategic IT conference in Oxford. I was privileged to have the opportunity to speak to a room of managing partners from leading mid market firms in the UK. My own topic was the transition to advisory and a move to fixed fee billing.
Now this was an IT conference so whilst the audience was mixed in terms of the roles represented from the mid tier market there was of course an emphasis on the role of IT and the strategic relevance and importance of IT in the profession.
The big thing I came away thinking was the way the word innovation is used in the profession now. Those that know me and Farnell Clarke will know that innovation is part of the day job. We take great pride in our willingness and ability to innovate, and did we mention we were named Most Innovative Firm at the British Accountancy Awards in 2016 both independent firm and overall?
I will come on to the topic of innovation in a moment as I first need to say that it was great conference with a really well balanced agenda and interesting and enlightening content. As a firm sitting outside of the mid tier it is also very apparent that this area of the profession are all grappling with the same or very similar issues.
So innovation – my frustration is that there seemed to be a view that innovation relates to technology, a session by Dr Gorkan Ahmetoglu of UCL I hope left the audience with the understanding that it is not just about doing smart stuff with IT and technology. It is about staying relevant, it is about generating competitive advantage. This is the key point from Dr Gorkan’s session, you only have to be more innovative that your competition. For us we want to be significantly more innovative than our competitors but just being more innovative at any level will give you an advantage if you tell people how and why and make it relevant in your marketing messaging.
Technology is an enabler, it gives you tools to be able to innovate but going back to Dr Gorkan’s view you need the talent and the innovation eco-system to successfully work out how to lever technology to deliver innovation. What can you do better, smarter, quicker, more efficiently than everyone else offering the same service. It is no good having great people if you don’t have an environment to develop and foster innovation and likewise the environment alone will not deliver market changing innovation.
I will leave this final thought, for a long time every accountant has said they are ‘proactive’ accountants and business advisors. Are they really? What does proactive actually mean, have we arrived at a time when now every accountancy firm will be an innovative firm of accountants and business advisors. Has innovation simply replaced proactive in accounting marketing speak? How will you demonstrate true innovation in your firms? How will you ensure you build a culture of innovation and make it truly part of the day job?
I would love to hear your views whether you were at the conference of not and if you were not then keep an eye out for next years event.