2019 AICPA Engage Conference

My Top 5 Takeaways from AICPA ENGAGE

It’s conference season for accountants. I recently had the great pleasure of attending the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) ENGAGE Conference. This was the second year I attended the conference, and it was just as informative as last year’s.

In fact, the 2018 conference inspired me to turn my part-time accounting practice into a full-time business. Making this year’s conference even more special was the opportunity to network with my fellow AICPA Leadership Academy graduates for the first time since graduating.

Suffice it to say, this particular conference holds a special place in my heart. The opportunity to network and learn from accounting’s top minds is truly special. Here are my top 5 takeaways from this year’s conference.

1. Global Hard Trends

While at ENGAGE, I took a few classes on technology. Specifically, “Futuristic Technologies that are Affecting the World.” There was a lot of information to take in, but it basically focused on hard and soft trends. If you’re a frequent visitor to my blog or social media, you know I talk about hard and soft trends all the time.

Strategy built on hard trends is low risk. Strategy built on soft trends is risky, but better than nothing.

Not using any trends at all?

Now you’re off the reservation. Here is what you need to know:

Datafication & Big Data

As far as data goes, there’s going to be more of it. Also, a variety of different types of accessible data will increase exponentially.

Artificial Intelligence

(I’ll talk about this more below). AI is a hard trend that’s being used to predict everything from traffic to what toothpaste you should buy.

5G

5G is 4G on steroids.

If you look at your cellphone, at the top left corner, it’ll likely say, “4G, LTE.” 5G is the next iteration of 4G. It’s going to be much faster, with lower latency and multi-device connections to the Internet. When we think about the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G is a catalyst.

The most interesting 5G use case shown is self-driving cars. To prove the point, the presenter played a video of an obstruction coming into the roadway; the car stopped but bumped the obstruction. With 5G (and the much lower latency), the vehicle stopped in a much faster time, never hitting the obstruction. Lower latency plus more devices will enable vast quantities of data.

Personalization

During the conference, I took a course on AI and marketing. I know what you’re thinking: “What is a marketing course doing at an accounting conference?”

You would be surprised.

The marketing and accounting conference is one of the conferences that’s rolled into AICPA ENGAGE with a lot of great content. Since I have developed a niche in my practice for marketing agencies, I found this particular topic about the need for personalization particularly interesting.

When we think about all this data (see aforementioned points), what we end up with is more personalization — hyper-personalization.

Case in point: Recent articles about Facebook indicate that private communities are the future of this social media platform. In this case, communities are defined as people who like the same things. When you think about some of today’s major websites — such as Amazon and Netflix — they use personalization for recommended products and shows.

The personalization trend will continue forward. And your business will need to keep up with hyper-personalization to stay competitive. After all, we have the data to segment and to target specific audiences.

Five billion new connected individuals

Finally, five billion new connected individuals!

Right now, there are three billion people who are connected to the Internet. That gap is going to close within five years. In other words, every individual on Earth will be connected to the Internet in some way over the next five years, thanks to 5G. Whether or not this is true, false or hyperbole, I don’t know.

What does this mean for business? It’s going to broaden our marketplace so that every business will be a global business.

2. Cloud Accounting

I always make a point to walk the exhibit hall to discover what’s new and exciting and to ask a million questions.

During this networking time, I discovered that Cloud Accounting is still on the rise because it allows for automation and remote work — which are necessary for Outsourced Accounting. Cloud Accounting also is popular with software providers because it relies on a subscription based model.

By now, you should all know how I feel about Cloud Accounting…

3. Business Intelligence

One thing that struck me, along with others, was the sheer number of Business Intelligence (BI) vendors in attendance. Finally, firm owners and practitioners in the accounting industry are beginning to realize the inevitability of moving toward advisory services.

Software providers are now beginning to catch up with that trend, as well as the need to analyze the treasure trove of client data.

Based on the points I made about data above, this trend will continue. For more about how Business Intelligence can help grow your business, check out this Quora post.

4. AI

AI is a buzzword that everybody loves to talk about. However, not many seem to understand what it is. Practitioners and software providers alike are feverishly trying to find use cases for AI. For the most part, it’s still a marketing ploy in accounting. Below is a picture I took of a great slide which explains what AI is and isn’t. (Don’t judge my photography skills).

5. Niche-ing

As data, human knowledge, commoditization and personalization continue to proliferate, niching your business grows increasingly more important. It won’t be enough to have a marketing agency — you’ll need to be a digital marketing agency for accountants. It won’t be enough to be a CPA, you’ll need to be a CPA specializing in the QBI Deduction for marketing agencies.

John Elway gave an awesome keynote at the conference. He got into the car business in the early ’90s, as a lot of professional athletes do. Elway said the smartest thing he ever did was to hire a CPA who had experience in the car business.

The takeaway? The more complex our world becomes, the less value you provide as a generalist.

Tying it all together…

The AICPA does a great job with all of their conferences, and this was no exception. I always come back with heightened excitement for my profession and an increased knowledge base. There were a lot of great takeaways, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.

For a deeper dive on the topics above, check out my recent YouTube video:

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