Reinventing the organization charts of accounting firms to enrich the board
How can accounting firms provide the consulting services clients seek when firms are already overwhelmed? They should try to rearrange their organizational charts
“I would like to offer more services to customers, but I am barely able to meet my current commitments to customers.”
Unfortunately, this sentiment and similar sentiments are expressed by tax and accounting professionals across the country. To solve this problem, executives are screening clients, exploring outsourcing and split staffing options, turning to automation technology, and hiring additional staff.
Staffing concerns have been on the minds of tax and accounting firm executives, according to the PCPS Top Firm Issues polls, and the events of the previous two years have only exacerbated talent issues.
Not only are more experienced team members retiring, but demand for services is increasing, consulting services are experiencing double-digit growth, automation is advancing, and companies are developing new, high-value services that customers indicate they want. These changes impact many areas of practice; but more importantly, it should include changes to the business organization chart.
Development of a new organizational structure
Over the past few years, Barry Melancon, President and CEO of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), has spoken of the shift from a triangle-shaped organizational structure to a diamond-shaped one. The corners of the base of the traditional triangular flowchart are automated; So, in this new paradigm, more experienced talent is needed with additional skills to bring about and manage these changes.
When it comes to staffing needs for consulting services in particular, a more diverse skill set is needed to provide technical expertise, provide customers with a seamless digital experience, and develop greater efficiency in service delivery – and this is especially true in the practice of Accounts Receivable Services (CAS). . Unfortunately, finding the right candidate with all the skills you want can be difficult.
Instead of chasing thewhite unicorn” with all the desired attributes, and if we rather review the configuration of the team? Consider how a realignment of roles and responsibilities could lead talent to work where they excel the most (which is often where they are most passionate). Alan Anderson, CPA and thought leader in the profession, has written about applying a similar strategy to audits, suggesting taking a task-based approach to assignments. Instead of the traditional model of assigning a team to each audit, managers could assign tasks to individuals based on their expertise. For example, data analysts could leverage their skills across all audit clients rather than one audit at a time; moreover, they could add value to the consultancy services.
Identify the skills needed
Automation reduces the number of staff needed to perform transactional work and becomes more accessible to accounting firms of all sizes. Automating predictable, routine tasks frees up talent to engage in higher-level work and interact with the customer in more value-creating ways. However, this change requires more focus on the so-called soft, tender Where power skills for success.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has identified the top 10 skills of 2025 as part of their Future of Jobs Report 2020. From this list, the WEF has broken down the four types of skills needed:
- problem solving
- self management
- work with people, and
- use and development of technology.
This list aligns directly with what the chiefs of staff and practice I’ve spoken with say they’re looking for in their future key hires. Additionally, among the skills needed for the future of work, business leaders specifically ask for:
- communication skills (written and oral)
- critical thinking and problem solving
- adaptability and comfort with new technologies, processes and tasks
- industry technical expertise, and
- self-starting skills
In addition, accounting firms need forward-thinking, proactive and innovative team members, especially among their young recruits, who will shape the future of the profession when the baby boomer generation retires.
Add roles to the org chart
Tax and accounting professionals have a unique skill set unto themselves. One way for leaders to address talent issues is to examine the tasks that prevent their staff from providing billable services and the tasks for which they are particularly qualified.
Some innovative companies are adding non-traditional roles to their service teams. They create customer service positions, so experienced tax and accounting professionals don’t get bogged down answering emails and routine questions. Customer service professionals are specially trained in communication skills, problem solving and relationship building. Some companies have even added a leadership role to focus on improving the customer experience.
In addition to innovations in hiring, the client’s work itself could benefit from the application of project management principles. Onboarding customers and staff, implementing technological change, and rolling out new services to customers are all activities in businesses that need structure. Many in the profession are well organized, but they haven’t been trained in project management.
Thus, there is often a lot of time and money wasted on initiatives that are started and never completed, mainly because there is no one to move a project forward, during and outside of busy tax season. industry. Project managers know how to collaborate with a team, how to track and design an effective project plan, and how to drive the project through to completion.
Practice leaders also create teams of individuals who focus on customer onboarding, data conversion, training others to use new technologies, and more. The skills needed to perform all of these tasks do not exist in all individuals. By identifying professionals who have the skills and interest to perform these functions, these teams can perform at a higher level.
Instead of asking “where to find qualified personnel?” you need to identify the skills you need; then determine if the skills of a professional accountant are required to perform this task. Also, explore how specific tasks could be reassigned to additional staff or, perhaps, how non-traditional team members could use their strengths to provide a better customer experience and increase profitability.