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A Range of Online CPD Resources with Accountingcpd

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At accountingcpd we help accountants grow by providing high quality, AIA approved online CPD, that will genuinely make a difference to you in your career. Whether you want to keep up to date with the latest changes and trends, develop new skills, or prepare yourself for the next job, accountingcpd has what you need to succeed.

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Accountingcpd provides free blogs. New blogs posted weekly. Written by their expert authors their blogs are full of the latest news and information you need to know.

https://www.accountingcpd.net/blog?pb=AIA

If you’re not much of a reader. Accountingcpd also have a YouTube channel with lots of great content all about helping accountants to grow, sharing info, tips and tricks on a range of accounting topics.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC289c69CGEXufX4b_o-NZ3A

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Picture the scene. One of your most loyal clients has had a year of terrible bad luck. Things look bleak. They need your help to present the numbers to their stakeholders. Tell the story right, and you can help your client to bounce back. Tell it wrong, and it could be the end of their business.       

The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) held its 2020 annual global conference in early December. A key theme of the conference was that of 'trust and transparency'. Many conference presentations highlighted the need for credible and honest reporting by organisations to ensure that stakeholders are provided with a range of appropriate information to meet their needs. This is especially the case now, when the impact of the Covid pandemic will be significant for many businesses, so stakeholders need to understand how an organisation’s current and future value has been impacted by the current situation.

I work at a university. We do not produce an Integrated Report but if we did, we would be better placed to explain the impact of the Covid pandemic for our organisation. Our financial statements will of course focus on 'financial capital' (to use the terminology of the International Integrated Reporting Framework), and whilst I do not know the details, I imagine that our financial capital, has been depleted this year, for example because of a reduction in income from tuition fees and other sources. The same is probably true at most universities and for many other types of organisation where the financial situation may look at best gloomy, at worst disastous. However, the pandemic may have brought some benefits, or enhancements of organisational value, which integrated reporting could highlight and explain. For example, in my university department, huge efforts have been made to create innovative online teaching platforms and learning materials – an integrated report would explain this as an increase in intellectual property – something which of course would not be reflected in the financial statements. The skills of the lecturers have been enhanced through learning new methods of teaching, enhancing our human capital. Working from home must have a positive impact on natural capital – think of all of the long haul plane journeys, which are no longer happening as students study remotely, and conferences take place virtually.

This to me is a good illustration of how traditional financial statements simply cannot provide a complete set of information to an organisation's stakeholders. No one is saying that finances are not important – of course they are – and financial capital is a crucial part of the integrated reporting model. But a focus just on finance is not enough, especially in the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in.

Momentum for integrated reporting is gathering pace, with more and more organisations seeing the benefits and adopting each year. For example, 79% of Australian ASX200 companies are now adopting integrated reporting, according to a KPMG survey1. There is also a significant change in terms of regulation, with the announcement that the IIRC is to merge with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board to create the Value Reporting Foundation. According to an IIRC press release2 'the merger directly responds to calls from global investors and corporates to simplify the corporate reporting landscape, providing the market with a clear solution for communicating about the drivers of enterprise value'. Such simplification of the regulations will surely encourage implementation of integrated reporting and provide more stakeholders with effective communications regarding long term value creation and sustainability, which is much needed in these uncertain times.

1https://home.kpmg/au/en/home/insights/2020/11/asx200-corporate-reporting-trends-2020.html

2https://integratedreporting.org/news/iirc-and-sasb-announce-intent-to-merge-in-major-step-towards-simplifying-the-corporate-reporting-system/

Coaching is a process designed to improve performance by enabling learning and development and can be particularly important in the finance function. Yet coaching is one of the skills that many accountants mark themselves low on. Here are some tips on how to become a better coach.

A coach is a person who gives honest feedback and support, who inspires, challenges and facilitates growth and change, and who partners with another person to achieve agreed goals.

When you are coaching, you are trying to help the individuals in your team to succeed.

It's useful to look at this in three parts:

1. What they do

You can’t prepare the published accounts or complete the audit on your own. The achievement of your own objectives is likely to be heavily, if not entirely, dependent on the individuals in your team achieving their objectives, so you have a vested interest in getting them to succeed. Helping them to focus on their objectives, to spot when they are going off track and to correct that, is a crucial part of your role.

2. How they do it

You will have some beliefs about what people need to do to be successful. They will need the right competencies and have to follow some rules or standards - these are not objectives in themselves but are designed to help people achieve objectives. A financial controller might need really good communication skills and to be able to secure the cooperation of those in other departments. No-one gets a bonus for working well with colleagues, but it will help determine their success and should, therefore, be a focus of your coaching.

3. How they can do it better

Following on from the fact that how each person currently does their job and uses their skills determines how successful they are now, the way their skills or competencies develop will be the key to their ability to achieve targets in future years. So, you need to work with them on development goals just as much as you do on specific short-term targets. This doesn’t mean you spend your whole time talking about training, it means you agree upon the issues they should work on and how you can then help them.

Successful managers are great coaches. They help their team understand "how” to do what they do. Through effective coaching, managers communicate and reinforce the way they want people to behave, sending messages out to their team as a whole through the way they deal with each individual.

Did you know that 1 in 5 accountants end up scrambling to complete at least 50% of their CPD in the last 30 days before the deadline? Watch accountingcpd’s short YouTube video and learn how to get ahead, stay on track, and ultimately get value from your CPD.

by John Taylor

In 2018 KFC in the UK ran out of chicken in about 800 of its 900 or so locations which was a major disappointment to those customers looking for their Mighty Bucket for One Meal and a huge embarrassment for the company. As might be expected the press had a lovely time mocking the company and this incident, caused by problems with the logistics chain after a change in suppliers, looked to be seriously devaluing the brand in a fiercely competitive market.

So how to deal with this? The standard PR response goes something on the lines of ‘we are really sorry’,’ we value our customers', 'lessons will be learned', 'we're working hard to make sure it never happens again' ….etc etc. A formulaic apology trotted out many times which- for all its effectiveness might as well be written on gossamer and thrown to the wind.

Wisely KFC didn’t do that. What they did do was take out a full-page ad in the London newspapers showing its standard KFC bucket but with the logo replaced with 'FCK', a brief explanation of what happened and a pledge to make sure it wouldn't happen again. By injecting some humour into the situation and admitting their fault straight away they went a long way towards restoring the damage that had been done.

So why do so many companies and organisations find it so hard to say 'sorry' or issue mealy mouthed 'apologies' written directly from the PR handbook?

Research data has analysed various types of apology made by organisations. Firstly there is what might be termed the 'basic apology' – 'We note that you've had a bad experience and we're sorry'. Then there's the enhanced version 'We note that you've had a bad experience and we're sorry. We'll try and make sure it doesn't happen again'. Finally there's the one that actually works 'We note that you've had a bad experience and we're sorry. We'll try and make sure it doesn't happen again. To make up for your bad experience here's a £5 voucher towards your next purchase.'

This is not being foolishly generous; what it's doing is helping to tie the customer in to future purchases. The customer recognises that the organisation means what it says because they have given the wronged customer something for nothing – something that cements the apology and makes it real. The customer feels heard and this encourages loyalty to the business. This lasts until there is a second or third bad experience with the same organisation by which time the customer is dissatisfied and any apology in this form adds insult to injury.

Clearly this works on a small scale but what about the major disaster when things go badly wrong on a larger scale – a KFC size event? Well a formulaic PR statement will simply not cut it – customers are too used to seeing these types of statement and, as there is no demonstration of a commitment to the apology, it fails to have any real effect.

Clearly it may not be possible or appropriate to give away a voucher or some other incentive, so it has to be a PR based effort. There are some approaches which have proven to be better than others.

Just say you're sorry.

Be unequivocal, sincere, truthful and clear. 'We messed up', 'We were wrong', 'We will do everything we can to correct this.' An apology that sounds like it was orchestrated by the PR team and cleared by the legal department is possibly worse than no apology at all. Admit the mistake and explain what happened clearly and without making excuses.

Using humour can work but it needs to be handled very carefully. If the apology looks as if the organisation is not taking matters seriously or the event that is being apologised for is a tragedy rather more serious than people not being able to get a KFC bucket then humour is definitely not appropriate.

Face the cameras.

This has to come from the top. It is not sufficient to delegate the task of issuing an apology for a major cock-up to some senior manager or the PR team. Instead the highest-ranking manager, the CEO if necessary, should face the press and explain and apologise for what has happened.

People, customers, want to see that the organisation is taking it seriously and that the apology has meaning. The Metropolitan Police in London sent a senior officer round to apologise personally to a woman and her husband who had been stopped and searched in a rather brutal manner by officers who had stopped them because they were black and driving a BMW. They were, in fact, international athletes. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, also publicly apologised over the affair.

Do it now

This is the age of social media. News spreads on Twitter and similar sites with blistering speed and this is then picked up by the mainstream media. Organisations cannot afford to wait until they can formulate a considered response - even if they don't have all the facts they can say they are taking the situation seriously and will respond in more detail when they do. Get the apology in early and demonstrate commitment to solving the problem.

It's not about you.

Don't make excuses or try to justify what has happened. It went wrong – it may not be entirely your fault. Nobody cares – just fix it or apologise - preferably both. Customers will not react to self-serving justifications of what your organisation was trying to do or what let it down or why it failed – what they want is a demonstrable commitment to making good.

Promise to do better.

Make clear that what happened doesn't reflect the values of your organisation or its hard-working employees. Instead explain what the constructive measures going forward will ensure that this will prevent this from happening again.

In Scotland the Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood visited her holiday home in contravention of the COVID 19 lockdown rules. She was fired by Chief Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

When Dominic Cummings, senior advisor to Boris Johnson made a trip to Durham also in defiance of the lockdown rule Prime Minister Johnson defended and tried to justify his actions. He then allowed Cummings to hold a press conference at which he failed to apologise at all.

Subsequent research has shown that this sent a wrong message to the public and was a contributing factor to the ignoring of the lockdown rules in England by mostly younger people and encouraged the spread of the virus. The message that this sent to the public was 'If it's alright for him then it's alright for you' which was clearly not what was intended.

As the old cliché has it 'you never get a second chance to make a first impression.' There is one opportunity to get it right, to rescue the reputation of the organisation and build credibility. This is the first step to regaining the trust of customers and the public.

Why do some organisations find it so hard?

The UK accountancy industry is spending more money on technology than it ever has. The top 50 + 50 UK Accountancy Firms survey shows that since their last survey, these firms have invested more than £73 million in technology and what has become apparent is that there is a direct link between how much has been invested and growth in revenue.

As a result of the pandemic, there has been a blatant need to invest in technology to ensure businesses can operate successfully whether staff are working remotely or in the office. And it has also highlighted what types of technology are most important to invest in, and the areas where human skills remain essential. In August, PwC chairman, Kevin Ellis, said he expects to see a blend of office and home working once the pandemic is over, stating that: "Automation will continue, but the pandemic has highlighted the inherently human skills that AI cannot mimic, such as resilience, adaptability, empathy, creativity and critical thinking."

In terms of growth, the firms from the survey that reported investing in technology in 2020 benefited from an increase in fee income of 10.26%, which is 2.9% more than those firms that didn't. The report also stated that while it's clear there is a correlation between companies that invest in technology and growth, the impact of the pandemic on investment in technology going forward is still unknown. What is becoming apparent is that investment in technology needs to be directed at the right areas to ensure that during a crisis a business has seamless infrastructure in which to operate.

Posted: 27 October 2020

At a time of great change and uncertainty, people will look to their managers for leadership. Your organisation may be changing – some are completely reinventing themselves – so your role in organising your team effectively and helping them to align with the organisation's new priorities will be key.

But that doesn't mean that you are going to be required to deliver a great motivational speech. Indeed, with so many people working remotely, some of those skills that involve the force of an individual's presence may be less important than they were, meaning managers will need new ways to establish their credibility. So, what is your role as a finance leader, and how may that need to change as we define a new future for our organisations?

Why is emotional intelligence more important than ever?

By being open and honest – and by communicating clearly and frequently – you will find that people come to trust you and look to you for guidance. Through activities like giving feedback, allocating tasks and distributing resources, leaders can affect the emotions of their team. In turn, this directly affects employee behaviour and productivity, so it is vital that you consider how people will respond to your actions.

When we can't be face-to-face with people, emotional intelligence becomes even more important. Your ability to understand and manage moods and emotions in yourself and others is the key to your success.

Does your organisational culture need to adapt to the new ‘normal’?

Every organisation has a culture within which everyone operates. We may have our own preferred style, but we must match that up against the environment in which we are working. Thinking about your organisation,

  • Does it have a predominant leadership culture?
  • Has this culture been affected by the pandemic?
  • If so, will that mean you have to adapt your own style in future?

As an example, one big thing that may change – particularly with an increase in remote working – is that some aspects of leadership that may have helped you get promoted through the ranks (such as being a very capable and charismatic person who gains people’s respect through networking events, or influencing people by presenting compelling cases and doing PowerPoint presentations) are more useful when you've got everybody in the same office together.

So, if you do end up working in a new structure and a new setup, you're going to have to find new ways of becoming that credible and significant leader, and it may not just be through the force of your presence.

How can your organisation embrace new strategic opportunities?

With change comes large-scale strategic opportunities. Many organisations will decide that they don't want to return to the way things were and that, in fact, the new world that they're going to emerge into requires a tweak – or even a significant change – in strategic direction. You may have a role in setting that strategy, or at least an input into it, but certainly you have a big role in helping to reinforce it. As a finance function, you need to be nimble and line up with that.

That means you need to understand what the new set of imperatives are and what their implications are for the organisation as a whole. You might need to design reporting systems, help people to understand them and help people to measure their progress. And you need to communicate to people, through the forecasting, budgeting KPI-setting process, for example, to provide support for that new strategic direction.

Embrace change and bring your team with you

At a more operational level, we might decide not to do everything that we used to do and to adopt new working practices. Such changes aren't necessarily mandated from the top, they also come up from the bottom. By involving everybody in the team you can get them to come up with ideas for how you can create a new, future world that's better than the one you left behind.

Learn more about how accountingcpd can help you and your team create a stronger post-pandemic finance function through access to relevant, flexible online CPD designed to help accountants grow.

Posted: 27 October 2020

A study of 600 IT leaders by the Xerox Future of Work study has shown the impact of the pandemic on the finance sector's technological abilities. According to the data, around 11% of finance companies intend to permanently change their approach when it comes to working in the office. Going forward, when some sense of normality resumes, the firms say their employees will be allowed to spend more time working from home.

However, the data, which was the result of surveys of IT leaders across five countries, reveal that there is a big need for technological advancement following the COVID-19 pandemic. 76% of IT leaders say they are not technologically ready for the shift to remote working and further on from that 36% say that technology was the biggest issue they face while they are working from home.

As a result it does appear then that finance firms are the most likely to make investments in technology. 57% of the IT leaders surveyed say they are allocating more budget to improving technology to support their employees at home and ease the technological barriers that employees can come up against when remote working.

However, although the leaders all state that there will be more remote working in the future, Steve Bandrowczak, Xerox President and Chief Operations Officer, says: "While there is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work, our research found that over time many companies plan to have most employees back in an office environment.

This could be for a variety of reasons, including communication, speed of decision-making and talent development. At the same time, the sudden shutdown and ongoing hybrid work environment has exposed technology gaps that require new or additional investment in the coming months.”

Posted: 27 October 2020

At accountingcpd, we're passionate about providing flexible and effective online CPD that is designed specifically for accountants. Understanding what employees need from CPD is a vital part of this, which is why we conduct a survey twice a year to learn what's important to your team. This whitepaper presents the latest learnings and trends for 2020. What employees want from their CPD?

To keep reading download the whitepaper here.

Posted: 10 September 2020

As we navigate the whirlwind that 2020 threw us into, working life has been changed forever for many organisations. Back in 2018 we might have found it surprising that a survey conducted by Buffer found 90% of the remote workforce plan to work remotely for the rest of their careers, and 94% of those who work remote would recommend it to others*. A more recent Garner Inc. survey of CFOs and Finance leaders in March revealed that 74% of survey respondents plan to shift at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they will move at least 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions**. Now, as we near towards seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, these figures may no longer be so surprising.

So, what should you be doing to make sure your team has effectively adapted to the new workplace reality? Continue reading to discover our 6 top tips for effective remote management.

1. Set clear expectations for the year

In most organisations, the finance department is full of people who work hard and hit deadlines. They have demonstrated their commitment to their careers by becoming professionally qualified. But are you sure that everyone is always pushing in the same direction? It’s important to identify the deliverables, behaviour and level of contribution that will support the business’s and personal goals. When each team member sees the bigger picture of how their work fits into the business’ goals, it gets everyone lined up and pushing in the same direction.

2. Check in

Reduce remote workers' feelings of isolation by calling regularly to check in informally and facilitating face-to-face interactions with colleagues. Just because you’ve set the expectation for the year doesn’t mean you now don’t need to speak to your team regularly. Working remotely removes the office chit-chat and opportunity to stop by someone’s desk for a catch up. Regular and informal conversations with colleagues should be facilitated to continue building relationships and encouraging a good team dynamic.

3. Provide frequent feedback

Another key advantage of regularly checking in is that it gives you and your team the time to informally provide feedback to each other. It enables both parties to check their progress and measure it against expectations. Feedback in these situations needs to include the positive as well! Recognising the achievements of team members in a group setting is crucial in making sure each member of your team feels appreciated in their role. Negative feedback needs to be provided in a way that is sensitive and appropriate – keep in mind that body language and tone may be lost in some forms of digital communication.

4. Spot when you yourself are off-balance

When you’re working at a distance, your colleagues aren’t there to let you know you’re looking stressed or under pressure. You need to look out for signs yourself and encourage your team to do the same. Are you finding it difficult to concentrate? Are you feeling anxious, irritable or emotional? Or are you feeling some physical changes, such as experiencing headaches or struggling to sleep? These are all indicators of stress and you may need to re-evaluate the separation between your professional and personal lives or devote more time to activities that promote well-being. When you do this for yourself, you model the behaviour for the rest of your team to do the same. Which brings us on to our next point.

5. Model good practice

Your team will be looking to you to set the boundaries of what is acceptable. If you are seen working extra hours and taking on too much of a workload, they will inadvertently feel pressured to do the same. Long term, this just isn’t effective and will create a stressful working environment for yourself and your team. It’s crucial for you to be modelling good remote working practices and encourage a healthy division between working life and personal life, even if those do feel blurred at the moment.

6. Encourage employees to take responsibility for their own development

Regular feedback will help develop good practice and allow your team members to gauge how they’re doing and where they may need improvement. They can then set actionable goals to boost their own learning and performance. Each team member will need your support and encouragement to continue learning, but this shouldn’t be micromanaged. What your team does need is access to learning materials and a range of topics and learning styles so they can take control of their own performance.

When you’re working at a distance, it can be easy to lose the friendly, encouraging environment of an office. By following the above steps, you can make sure you and your team have a healthy work life balance which allows your team to thrive in the post-pandemic world.

With over 1,000 hours of learning tailored to accountants and finance professionals on a wide range of topics, an accountingcpd team subscription will help your team grow, even in the toughest of times.

Find out more about how an accountingcpd team subscription can help your team grow.

*https://buffer.com/resources/state-remote-work-2018/
**https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-04-03-gartner-cfo-surey-reveals-74-percent-of-organizations-to-shift-some-employees-to-remote-work-permanently2

Whether you are looking for negotiating a reduction in rent on your business premises or simply resolving the key question of who takes priority on the home broadband, one unexpected consequence of the lock down is that we are all engaged in more negotiations than we are used to. But are you any good at it?

Many people tend to assume that you either are or are not a good negotiator. But in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Negotiation is a process. You can get good at it by learning some key skills. What's more, there are some simple tools you can use that will help you succeed, that most people don't know about.

So, here are my top 5 tips for successful negotiations during the crisis:

1. A bit of empathy goes a long way

Try to put yourselves in the other person's shoes. I know it's hard to imagine right now but one day this will be over, and we will return to whatever people are by then calling the new normal. Business relationships will resume and the way you behaved during the lock down will be remembered. So don't give them a reason to want to get back at you. Think about the situation from their point of view as well as your own, and wherever possible, find a solution that is a win for both parties.

2. Listening, speaking and understanding

When most people think about negotiators, they think about their ability to pitch a compelling idea. Being clear and articulate, and positioning what you want in a way that sounds reasonable and hard to knock down, is indeed a key skill, but there are two other skills that are just as important, if not more so.

The first is listening. You should spend at least as much time listening as you do speaking. Only by listening can you understand their position and find the win-win outcome.

Alongside listening is the third key skill: understanding. Good negotiators are very good at understanding the other party's position. By quickly appreciating the key issues the other party cares about, they are able to position their own requirements in a way that is acceptable to the other party.

Most people aren't good at all three of these skills. So, reflect a little on your strengths. If you are a nervous talker, then prepare for negotiations by thinking about the words you might use when articulating the things that really matter to you. If you tend to talk too much, then prepare some questions. And if you find it hard to understand what the other person cares about, get yourself a pen and paper and make notes while they speak.

3. Understand the trades

Negotiation is all about trading concessions. We start in one pace and then we trade concessions. So, make a list of all the things you have to trade. In making that list, divide them into what negotiators call constants and variables. Constants are those things that have the same apparent value to both parties – where more for one party means less for the other. The most obvious is price. But sometimes variables are just as important. This is where you have something you could do that costs you very little, but which is a big deal for the other party. So for example it might be fantastic for the other party if you could deliver before 9.00am. That might be easy for you and cost you nothing and so our tendency is to be helpful and agree because it's easy. But in doing so you could be giving away your ace card and getting nothing in return. So, include in your list everything you could trade, whether it is important to you or not.

4. "If" is the hardest word

And all that time, you thought it was sorry! Once you have your list of things you could trade, think about phrases you could use that include the word if.

"If I could deliver to you before 9.00pm every Tuesday, could you commit to a minimum order of x?"

That will help to ensure that you don’t give things away from nothing.

5. And finally ...plan, plan, plan

This is something that finance people should be good at. Spend time before the negotiation planning your approach. The four tips given above provide a pretty good list of headings for your plan: 

 

 Empathy   What will the other party want and what will they find hard to accept? How can   I position what I want so that they will understand and want to help me? What   could I give them that might make it acceptable?
 Skills  Which of the skills do I need to focus on because it is not my natural strength   and how can I prepare to listen more, understand better, or speak more   confidently? 
 Trading  Prepare your list of constant and variables and think about could be traded for   what.
 IF  Write your if questions to help you trade naturally


And that's it. Good luck with negotiating those difficult conversations we are all having to have during this weirdest of times. Stay calm and professional and try to remember that you want to work with these people when all this is over!

Alan Nelson is an author for accountingcpd. To see his courses, click here.

CPD is easy to put off until the last minute. But good professional development comes from knowing what changes you need to make each year and making them. CPD is the perfect tool for reflecting on your career as well as knowing how to move forward in it.

When thinking about your CPD, you can make it easier by following these simple rules:

  1. Plan early
  2. Think about your broader skills and knowledge as well as the technical updates
  3. Be prepared to change your plan during the year to address any issues that arise

Plan early

You know yourself better than anyone else, therefore you know how you like to learn and where CPD best fits into your life. Take some time to consider what the best approach to tackling your CPD is and plan around your schedule and learning style.

You have the power to make your yearly CPD process much more manageable, and ultimately even enjoyable, once you've understood your ideal learning style. For example, it makes sense that if you prefer shorter durations of learning you might want to complete your CPD little and often, and ideally integrate it into your working day. However, if you prefer dedicating time to longer CPD sessions these need to be planned out in advance to make sure you have ample time set aside for learning.

Technical vs Professional skills

Just as you know how best to manage your time, you’re also the best person to identify your skill gaps and know where you should focus your professional development. Your CPD is all about benefitting you, after all.

However, it can be so overwhelming to try and figure it out by yourself. So, we have some statistics and advice we hope can help you realise where you want to focus.

We questioned over 1000 accountants about their choice of CPD topics and found that 85% wanted just professional skills or a mix of technical and professional skills. Considering how the accounting role is changing, this isn't surprising. Technical skills alone won't cut it. With technology and automation affecting many areas of business there is a desire and a need for CPD to prepare accountants for a changing future.

The accountant of the future will need an optimal and changing combination of professional competencies. Yes, this needs to include technical knowledge, but there are key skills the accountant will be expected to master which include:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Strategic decision making
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership

Preparing for change

The earlier you plan your CPD the more opportunities you give yourself for reflection and to take part in discussions with peers and colleagues around chosen topics, all of which embeds learning and allows the benefits to translate into the workplace.

Of course, life is never simple, and we don't know what is around the corner. New laws and regulations could be released, and new technology can disrupt the industry at any given moment. We simply can't predict what the year ahead will bring!

Allow yourself the time to adjust your professional development as and when you might need it.

Compile these thoughts to ensure a strong plan of action, making sure your professional goals in 2020 are reached.

In the changing world of accounting, being a digital firm involves more than just technology. Here we look at the ten elements of a digital firm.

1. Client experience

Client experience is at the heart of digital firm transformation. With marketing disruption and low-cost alternatives around us, simply providing good customer service is no longer enough. If you want to sell at a premium you need to have a USP (unique selling point) to justify the premium price.

2. Strategy

For the other nine elements to be successful, we rely on strategy, a crucial element of digital firms. What are the missions, objectives and values of your firm? You need to understand these to figure out the how.

3. Internal technology

We need to decide on the technology that will drive and underpin our own firms. What systems and processes currently exist and how can you use technology to improve them?

4. Client technology

As well as the technology used internally, it is essential to use the right technology to improve efficiency for the client experience too. Cloud accounting and machine learning are examples of technologies for digital firms.

5. Process

Firms need to lead processes, and not continue to let the clients do so. When you own your processes, you can control the data quality and the profitability. Processes need to be developed around everything. This does not just include the core service delivery but also the organisation of customer touch points, from the very first client interaction.

6. Marketing

As accountants, we're notoriously poor marketers. But to successfully market your services, you first need to have the right brand. It should reflect the set of values that reinforces the culture and attitude of a firm.

7. Pricing

It is necessary for a digital firm to adopt fixed fee pricing as this helps you to create processes around your billing and cash collection. Charging per hour will not motivate you to automate jobs and complete tasks quicker and clients care more about what they get from a service rather than how long you worked for it.

8. Advisory

To become the accountants of the future, you need to make the shift to advisory. To provide excellent advisory services, a digital firm needs to have the right technology, processes and people. Once you use technology to control the data quality, you can start having meaningful communications with your clients.

9. People

A significant challenge we have today in the world of accounting is recruitment. You need to select the right people to work at the right level with the technology in digital firms. There is no longer the need for accountants to spend as much of their time on bookkeeping tasks, raising questions of whether they need to be doing all the work they do now. So, who should you be hiring to support your digital agenda? And how do you make sure you attract, recruit and retain the right people?

10. Culture

Charles Handy defines culture as "the way we do things around here". It is an essential part of the digital firm as it influences the brand proposition, which is a necessity to successful marketing both the client experience and the people you hire.

To make sure your digital firm performs, you need to consider each of the ten elements and how they work together. The starting point is the strategy, with client experience at the centre. Once you know the objective, you will be able to develop the other areas.

PEST is a methodology for analysing the external factors that affect the sector an organisation operates in. The letters stand for:

      • Political
      • Economic
      • Social
      • Technological

These factors are normally beyond an organisation's control. However, they can have a profound impact on the organisation, either as threats or as opportunities.

You may also have heard it described as a PESTLE analysis. This longer acronym also includes legal and environmental factors.

So why is it important to do a PEST analysis? The answer is that we need to be aware of the context within which we operate if we are to avoid being caught out by events beyond our control, and are going to make ourselves ready to take advantage of opportunities. We spend so much of our time looking inwards, analysing what we do and how we can do it better, that the opportunity to look up and outwards is valuable.