For the remainder of the week, I'm in DC covering the 2012 CPA2Biz Digital CPA conference. This 3-day event is the first of its kind offered by CPA2Biz and promised to highlight best practices for adopting cloud and mobile technologies so firms can offer higher value, higher margin services for their clients. Whatever that means.
I'll leave the deep analysis and repetition of talking points to other websites that shall not be named and get right to the main question that this conference has me asking as I sit here staring blankly at slides with buzzwords floating in and out of my ears: why should anyone care about this?
Granted, this conference was intended to be fly paper for early adopters who are passionate about this stuff, but how exactly are Luddite clients and Stone Age practitioners supposed to get on board when all everyone talks about is "leveraging dynamics"? What the hell does leveraging dynamics even mean? That question is not rhetorical, I really want to know.
The more the buzzwords are repeated, the less valuable they become as a concept and a directive, leaving me in a room of tech-loving dogs leveraging the dynamic of chasing their tails. You know, like when you say a word over and over and over until suddenly you don't recognize the word at all and continue to repeat it in your head, completely unable to recall what it means. Try it right now. Let's do it with something benign like… road. Road. Road. Road. Road. Road. Road? What is a ro-ad? See where I'm going with this?
I kid you not, just this morning, the word leverage was thrown around more times than the word girl on The New Kids on the Block's hit 1988 album Hangin' Tough (that's exactly 136 if you were wondering, I counted when I was 9).
I Googled it just to be safe because though I've heard the word more times than one person should in a lifetime just this morning, I'm still unclear on what exactly it means and – more importantly – how repeating it turns into action.
1. a. The action of a lever. b. The mechanical advantage of a lever.
2. Positional advantage; power to act effectively: "started his . . . career with far more social leverage than his father had enjoyed" (Doris Kearns Goodwin).
3. The use of credit or borrowed funds to improve one's speculative capacity and increase the rate of return from an investment, as in buying securities on margin.
Okay, awesome. I still have no idea what this has to do with changing the status quo of the billable hour, fax machines, Post-it™ notes and office hours to a virtual world of working when we work best and accessing everything in this mythical cloud and collaborating on data without getting buried in email attachments.
Luckily, I sat down with keynote speaker Geoffrey Moore this afternoon and got to pick his brain a little on how all this translates into real change in the accounting profession. I left feeling way better about all this leveraging and dynamics than I did walking in this morning.
You're going to have to wait until tomorrow to see what he had to say but the short version is that the Big 4 behemoth model has a limited shelf life in this environment. Sure, the Big 4 will always be needed in some capacity but as these technologies advance and become as mainstream as basics like having a website, the smaller practitioners are going to have a much easier go of staying ahead of the "tornado" Moore refers to in his book Crossing the Chasm.
Here's the idea: change is disruptive. That's a good thing, especially in a profession like this where Same As Last Year is a model not only for audits but for how and why practitioners work. It has become less and less about client service and more about raking in the money and sticking to whatever has seemed to work all this time. Except as Moore said in his keynote this morning, "125 year old anything is old." It's time for the profession to evolve, and we're not talking leverage, we're talking real evolution. In how we think and work; in how we derive, offer and – most importantly – quantify value.
I admit, I was a little skeptical walking into this thinking I didn't need another hoo-rah on the cloud but after talking to Moore, I feel a little better about the idea of real innovators actually having a chance to change the Profession (yes, capital P) as we know it while the old school stands around and wonders why their clients are jumping ship in droves.
*If you don't get the reference, here.