A look at your firm’s digital growth journey. (Last Updated August 8, 2023)
Some accounting firms have committed to digital transformation, spending the last five, even 10 years adopting new technology and creating a digital-friendly environment. While firms like that exist and are arguably leading the market, many firms have barely even begun.
The COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed the adoption of digital technology, largely out of necessity. Now, what looked like disruption has become a new normal. How can firms take these short-term measures, or first steps, and turn them into long-term digital growth strategies?
At Winding River Consulting, we help some of the nation’s largest accounting firms accelerate progress toward full digital adoption, charting a clear, phased path to ensure the best outcomes. We want to share some of our best tips about our digital philosophy.
Digital strategy begins with an honest assessment of your firm’s current state.
Are You A Digital Novice?
A firm still in the initial stages of digital adoption may self-identify with the following:
- I have a strategy, but with disconnected tactics
- I have a digital presence (website, email), but not a larger digital strategy
- My end goal is desired visibility and credibility, but I’m unsure where to begin
- I have piecemeal use of technology
- I feel like we lack a leadership champion and a knowledgeable digital professional
- Confusion over why no leads of significance are converting
These may be an apt description of your firm’s current state, in which case, at least you know your starting point. A firm that will answer very few or none of these in the affirmative may be a candidate for the next step up.
Are You Digitally Competent?
You may be a novice, or you may not be. But in this section, let’s look at if your firm is moving towards digital competency. Firms that are moving in this direction may self-describe like this:
- We are discovering new strategies
- Our firm possesses a high level of desire for full digital adoption and is fully prepared to build a digital culture
- We have one foot in technology and possess groups of competent users
- Our team has confidence in digital marketing but we may lack leadership support
- The firm is still not seeing the desired or expected results from digital marketing
- Our team is working toward digital reliance, but we’re unable to affirm the right trajectory
Competence is great, but it is a mid-range level in the journey toward full digital adoption. There is a step beyond this, and reaching the next level is when real change starts to take place for firms.
Are You A Digital Expert?
Digital expertise is a superpower in an age where businesses operate online or in remote contexts. Digital mastery looks like this:
- Seamless integration of a full-scale digital strategy
- Digital has become a reliable revenue driver and is ingrained in the firm’s culture
- The firm has and uses a full, functioning tech stack
- Resources are regularly allocated to growing digital
- Accomplished marketing professionals are committed and empowered to leverage digital in ways that are meaningful and profitable to the firm
- Members of firm leadership are active participants driving digital success
- All cylinders are firing, driving a meaningful and measurable ROI
Even in digital expertise, there is always a challenge for “what’s next.” Because so few accounting firms have achieved this level of adoption and execution, it’s important that you don’t conflate expertise with mastery. In the online world, there are endless possibilities and horizons for growth. Since digital tools and technology are ever-evolving, being aware of the latest iterations, offerings, and capabilities is critical for firms using them to implement and adapt to compete and grow.
Related Article: What to Prioritize with a Digital Strategy
Prioritizing a Digital Journey
Each of these stages of the digital growth journey needs support, and improvement is possible. To make strategic decisions every step of the way, we recommend that a firm analyzes the following:
- What are your firm’s financial goals?
- How do you aim to achieve those goals?
- What do you need to be successful?
- How will you measure success?
There is an industry temptation to diminish the importance of digital, but time has proven that it isn’t going anywhere. Because of this, we diagnose firms that have a problem with digital as firms that have a problem with culture. Digital culture is a norm and a common denominator in firms of the future, which makes sense, because before you can change anyone’s behavior, you have to change their mindset.
Building a Digital Culture
Consider the following foundational principle upon which digital growth is predicated: digital matters for our firm’s growth and is worth investing in. There may be a huge variety of opinions about that statement alone, starting from the managing partner and partner group, cascading all the way through a firm.
All change starts at the top, which is why one of our preliminary exercises for digital growth is to align leadership to the principles and goals around digital adoption at the firm level.
Core Drivers for Digital Growth
Client-first mentalities, employee empowerment, an adaptive environment, and effective collaboration are all core values that drive digital culture. No change will happen without them, and leaders who want to see predictable growth will make an investment in digital strategy. Starting now. The market demands it, and the future of the firm depends on it.
How to Chart a Path for Digital Growth
Accurate self-assessment is step one. The steps beyond that need to be part of your overall strategy. How will your firm progress from being digital novices or digitally competent into digital expertise, and beyond? Do you adequately support digital growth by making the right investments, getting your people trained, and upholding digital as a measure of success?
Last year’s Rosenberg Survey underscored the unprecedented velocity of change since the COVID-19 pandemic. It emphasized the importance of adapting to a virtual environment and improving digital communication platforms to provide more advisory services.
The facts are clear: Digital is the way forward. Does your firm have a digital growth plan?
For consultancy services, or to learn more about how we provide guidance in digital growth for accounting firms, contact Winding River Consulting today.