The Alternative Accountancy Strategic IT Conference 2018.


To download a pdf version of the programme, click here

 Day one, Tuesday 20 March 2018

8:45 am

Registration and coffee

9:00 am

Get up to speed on blockchain – everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask

Optional introductory session

  • exactly what is it and what does it look like?
  • how does it work?
  • which industries will be most affected?
  • which industries are using it now, and how?
10:00 am

Chairman’s welcome and opening remarks


10:05 am

Emerging technologies for accountancy: what’s out there, what it can do for you and what you should do about it?

- what forces of change are impacting the professional services sector?
- what are the technology trends affecting the accountancy profession and how is it reacting?
- what tech is out there and how is it being used – to drive customer service, foster loyalty or enhance profitability?
- what are the latest developments in AI, cloud computing, VR/AR, quantum computing?
- how might accountancy practices better exploit the potential of technology?

10:35 am

Making Tax Digital (MTD) – an update from HMRC on the journey towards digital filing and what’s next in MTD

    • what technology is needed to make MTD work?
    • how will MTD affect the provision of accountancy services such as audit and tax advice?
    • what impact will the development of technologies such as blockchain and AI have on MTD?

Keynote Speaker

11:05 am

Morning Coffee and Networking

11:35 am

What will blockchain do for / to the accountancy profession?

  • will accountancy practices go away, just like bookstores?
  • how will accountants interact with clients once clients have access to a public shared ledger?
  • what will happen to the audit function?
  • what will happen to tax returns and how will tax advisory services change?
  • if not audit, tax and traditional accounting, what will accountants do?
  • who should we be recruiting to help us manage and deliver blockchain-enabled services? What kind of team will be required?
  • what will blockchain mean for the training and qualification of accountants?
  • can blockchain work for mid-tier accountants? And when?
12:35 pm

Networking Lunch

1:35 pm

Facilitated round table discussions

This series of hosted round table discussions (A1 – A9) will focus entirely on how other firms deal with the challenges you face.  These interactive and informal discussions follow Chatham House rules – giving you the freedom to speak your mind.  Small groups allow everyone to participate and each group feeds back, giving all attendees access to the knowledge pool.  These brainstorming sessions will give insight into your peers’ challenges and provide solutions to your own.

There will be two 40-minute sessions.

A1|Are AI-assisted network defences the right way forward?
Traditional cyberdefences may not be enough to counter new threats - here we look at a different approach – Darktrace’s innovative
Enterprise Immune System - which uses advanced Artificial Intelligence techniques to monitor your network traffic and spot anomalous activity. Is this the future of cybersecurity?
Dave Woolcock, Operations Director, MHA Moore and Smalley

A2 | Counting down to G(DPR)-Day
Your checklist and final action points 2 months out from GDPR implementation.  We’ll look at:
- data retention/deletion issues
- are internal functions like payroll and marketing ready for GDPR-compliance?
- what you can do now to protect your firm against data “ambulance chasers”
- the communications checklist for clients and internal teams
- practical advice on privacy impact assessments
Deirdre Moynihan, Solicitor, Kemp IT Law

A3 | The rise of the innovation director – does the IT director’s role have a best-before date?
Is the developing role of innovation - and the advent of AI, block chain, cloud services, client services and big data -  a threat or an opportunity for the IT function?  What impact will these developments have on your career path?  How can you ensure that you stay at the centre of your firm’s innovation strategy?

Chris Downing, Business Intelligence Partner, Milsted Langdon

A4 | Making a success of the technology you’ve already invested in - are you getting the best out of what you already have?
Accountancy practices spend significant amounts on IT, much of which is regarded at the point of purchase as a must-have.  But many systems remain underutilised.  How can you ensure you get the most out of the technologies you have already invested in?
Philip Woodgate, Partner, Goodman Jones

A5| What has flexible working ever done for us?
Has flexible working had a positive effect on your business?  On your staff?  On your clients? Or has the effect been neutral, or negative?  Can you prove that your practice’s investment in agile working has delivered a return?  We’ll examine the consequences of agile practices on measures such as headcount, use of office space, hardware investments, productivity, staff recruitment and retention and client service.
Elizabeth Lloyd, Partner, Larking Gowen and Richard White, IT Manager, Larking Gowen

A6 | Managing the impact of rapid technological change on your staff
For every advantage to using technology, there’s also a disadvantage for the staff in your practice.  The sheer pace of change can be overwhelming and it’s increasingly difficult for human brains to keep up with increased software complexity.  AI and machine learning offer solutions but could lead to the loss of many jobs.  Technology offers flexibility and efficiency but does our current workforce have the necessary skills to make the most of it?  How can we harness the benefits of technology without leaving our staff behind?
Steve Runnacles, IT Partner, Ensors

A7 |  Embracing the cloud journey – moving towards a cloud-based, automated digital accounting practice
What will a fully digital practice look like and what steps do we need to take to get there?  How can social media and digital marketing help us with service delivery and market positioning? How can we work more closely with software vendors to achieve our digital aims? What can we learn from others who have already begun this journey? What issues and challenges do firms typically face on this journey and what are the options for overcoming these?
Nathan Keeley, Partner, MHA Carpenter Box

A8 | How can the right tech platform help you grow your practice, and grow your clients’ businesses?
We’ll look at how French Duncan has grown their hotel sector practice thanks to a range of integrated tech investments that meet clients’ more complex accounting needs while improving efficiency and reducing overheads.
Ian Bremner, Hotel Accounting Director, French Duncan

A9 | Now that you’re on the cloud, what are the next steps for clients and employees?
We’ll look at cloud-based services from the back end.  What do your clients want from you now? Does your team have the advisory and consultancy skills needed to support your clients?
Paul Lodder, Partner, Sagars

1:35 pm

Managing Partners’ stream – by invitation only

Managing Partners’ stream – People and culture in this rapidly changing technology environment
by invitation only

Managing partners will gather for a series of case studies with extensive Q&A and discussion, with the emphasis on networking, discussion and learning among peers.
Paul Richmond, Managing Director, theGroGroup

Part 1: Culture trumps strategy

How does a 150 year old, traditional business, transform itself to become the fastest growing accountancy firm in the country, the 12th  Sunday Times Best Company to work for and the British Accountancy Awards Most Innovative firm of the year?

Come and hear how PKF Cooper Parry, have challenged every stereotype of accountants, ripped up the rule book and created the ‘Google’ of our profession with a mission to 'disrupt, lead and make life count' and how they are now facing into the challenge of Automation & AI.
Ade Cheatham, Chief Executive, PKF Cooper Parry and April Bembridge, People & Culture Director, PKF Cooper Parry

Part 2:  The people and skills challenges facing the future accountancy practice

All forward-thinking managing partners are wrestling with fundamental questions about people, skills and organisational culture.  This has probably always been the case, but is arguably more important now than ever due to the way in which IT and technological advances are changing our profession. In the future, will the traditional skills of Chartered Accountants continue to be relevant? How can we make sure our firms can deliver value services that are supported by the strategic use of technology?  What new skills and organisational structures will be needed to do this? After a career spent primarily in industry, Ian Carlson joined Old Mill in 2008 and was appointed Managing Director in 2015. He sees addressing these issues as his number one challenge, including:

  • ensuring we recruit and retain employees who are not simply good technical accountants but advisors/consultants/partners of the future – in short, getting the right calibre of staff for the challenges we face now and in the near future
  •  how technology can help us develop these roles in which tech and AI do the rote work and accountants are valued advisors
  • making sure our practices have both the consultancy skills to provide value services and the technical skills to support strategic IT staff

Ian Carlson, Managing Director, Old Mill

3:05 pm

Afternoon Tea and Networking

3:35 pm

Facilitated round table discussions

This series of hosted round table discussions (B1 – B10) will focus entirely on how other firms deal with the challenges you face.  These interactive and informal discussions follow Chatham House rules – giving you the freedom to speak your mind.  Small groups allow everyone to participate and each group feeds back, giving all attendees access to the knowledge pool.  These brainstorming sessions will give insight into your peers’ challenges and provide solutions to your own.

There will be two 40-minute sessions.

B1 | Cloud transition case study: moving five offices into the cloud using remote desktops and hosted servers
We’ll look at the steps we took to achieve a seamless link between our five offices by examining the challenges and opportunities that this transition offered us, what we learned and what we’d do differently. Session canceled due to illness
Mary Jane Campbell, Partner, Simpkins Edwards

B2 | Using AI in mid-tier accountancy:  leveraging the power of AI to detect fraud in the audit process
Becky Shields, Partner, Kingston Smith

B3 |The journey to a cloud-based accountancy
In the not too distant future, accountancy practices will run most, if not all, of their business in the cloud. This extends well beyond SaaS accounting, add-ons and practice management, but also includes communications, collaboration, knowledge and document management, storage of client data, back-office systems - even sales and marketing. For many, this transition will require a carefully considered, phased approach. This roundtable discussion will explore what this journey will look like, covering:
- how to migrate legacy, on-premise software and infrastructure
- the security, data protection and business continuity issues to be considered
- how to manage the required cultural change
- the IT strategy roadmap - to ensure ROI and minimise risk
Sean Farnell, Partner, Burgis & Bullock

B4 | Practice software implementation case study – how to deliver a transformational software project
First hand experiences on implementation and delivering change from a firm that’s been there and done that.
Chris Madden, IT & Operations Director, Kreston Reeves

B5 | Making the most of Office 365
Hints and tips on getting more out of Office 365.
Mark Butcher, Head of IT, Saffery Champness

B6 | Augmented intelligence: combining RPA, machine learning, AI and humans to become the firm of the future

We’ll share how firms of all sizes can commence the journey to taking advantage of advanced and emerging technologies. Discussion topics include:
- the AI expectation gap and status of emerging technologies
- protecting the role of the future accountant and the skills required
- making annual compliance the by-product of valuable, real-time advisory services
Adam Grainger, Director of IT & Projects, Baker Tilly International and Andrew Moyser, Partner, MHA MacIntyre Hudson

B7| Developing IT as a revenue stream for the practice
For over 10 years, PEM provided a range of IT services as part of the accountancy firm, offering services from consultancy and data protection through to full outsourced IT support for clients.  In April 2017, PEM took this service a stage further and launched a separate IT company – 4Cambridge.  We’ll look at how we took this from inception to a separate business including: our challenges and successes, identifying chargeable service lines, potential business models and working with vendors.

Jon Stanton, Director, 4Cambridge and formerly Director of IT, PEM

B8 | Preparing for Making Tax Digital
Is MTD an opportunity or a threat? What can you do now to be ready for the transition?

Chris Downing, Business Intelligence Partner, Milsted Langdon

B9| Building a business case for document management
Obtaining buy in from the business for a new system can often be a challenge, and once that business case has been signed off the next obstacle can often be managing the change with the end users and ensuring successful adoption. Join this session to understand how the Grant Thornton tax division put together the case for iManage Work and the benefits they are now reaping.

Sandra Gleeson, Associate Director, Tax Training, Grant Thornton

3:35 pm

Managing Partners’ stream continued – by invitation only

Managing Partners’ stream continued - The Digital Accountancy Practice
by invitation only

Managing partners will gather for a series of case studies followed by extensive Q&A and discussion, with the emphasis on networking and learning among peers.
Paul Richmond, Managing Director, theGroGroup

 Part 3:  Moving technology to a strategic position in the firm – it’s time to put IT on the board

John Warner, Managing Partner, Barber Harrison Platt

Part 4:  Now is the time to shift to advisory services (as we move towards the automation of most time- based work)

But where and how to begin? How do we define advisory services and ensure our teams have the skills to provide them? How can we demonstrate the value of our advice? Now is the time to work out our value strategy – while we still have the safety net of time-based billing.  What products will best support value services and how can we bill for these?  How can we take both our accountants and our clients along in the move towards advisory? How can we help both move away from the mind-set of compliance-based services and hourly charges and toward a fixed-fee model?
Will Farnell, Director & Founder, Farnell Clarke

Part 5: Leveraging IT from an advisory perspective
We’ll look at our move away from compliance- to advisory-based services, particularly our investment in technology to support this change.
Paul Crichton, Managing Partner, MMG Archbold

5:05 pm

Networking Break

Take a quick breather and grab a drink before joining us for the final engaging sessions of the day.

5:15 pm

The Alternative Accountancy Strategic IT Live Survey: Working with accountancy tech vendors

Using, we’ll take a live snapshot of accountancy leaders’ thoughts on

  • how tech vendors serve the accountancy mid-market
  • what is the justification for the ever-escalating cost of software?
  • how can firms be sure that they are investing in systems/vendors that will last?
  • what firms do, and should, expect from vendors
  • do mid-tier firms need a different procurement approach?
  • do firms spend enough time understanding technology products?
  • should firms adapt practices to what systems can deliver?
  • can we balance the convenience and price of off-the-shelf systems and our desire to tailor and tinker?
  • is it that vendors often don’t deliver, or that firms expect too much?
  • are the problems that mid-tier firms face universal or unique - can solutions be standardised?
  • the opportunities for collaboration in coding, web development, AI
5:25 pm

Vendor Tech Development Panel

We’ll bring together three senior leaders from key technology vendors to ask what concepts their development teams are working on and what they think the future holds for the sector.  Plus, we’ll get their thoughts on:

  • the latest tech developments in accountancy
  • their preparations for MTD
  • how tech vendors work with accountancy clients
  • how accountancy practices can recognise the firms and products that will stay the distance
  • the ever-escalating costs of software
  • will traditional vendors be overtaken by nimbler competitors and new business models?
  • the impact of moving to the cloud and the pricing of cloud services

6:05 pm

Chairman’s closing remarks and end of day one

7:30 pm

Drinks reception

8:00 pm

Dinner and entertainment followed by overnight stay


Day two, Wednesday 21 March 2018


9:30 am

Registration and coffee

10:00 am

Chairman’s welcome and opening remarks


10:05 am

How social engineering threatens your company’s security (and therefore your data and your reputation) and how you can mitigate against it

Social engineering is an ongoing and persistent threat to data security in organisations and businesses of all types and sizes:

  • what constitutes social engineering and how you can protect against it
  • updates on access controls to mitigate against insiders with malicious intent
  • how you can change behaviours and increase awareness to help employees avoid malicious or compromised set-ups
  • updates on education, training and processes that can minimise this threat
10:50 am

Alternative Accountancy IT Room 101

We’ll give an IT Director, an Operations Director and a Managing Director each the chance to nominate what they see as the biggest cause of the communication gap between management and IT.  Based on the BBC format, each panellist will propose an issue that, if it were banished to that room of no return, would help management and IT to work better together.  Will it be that IT projects that are over-promised and under-delivered?  That leadership teams don’t understand what’s needed to sponsor a project to its fruition?  Or that tech vendors promise tailored solutions and but deliver off-the-shelf?

Using – anonymously - the audience will debate and vote on each proposal before deciding which issue most deserves to go into Room 101.  Which issues will be rejected? And which banished forever to Room 101?  This is your chance to close the communications gap between management and IT.



11:20 am

Morning Coffee and Networking

11:50 am

Think Tank on the psychology of innovation: how you and your team can learn to innovate and keep up with the exponential pace of technological change

Technology is changing the world of work in ways that significantly impact your ability to gain and maintain a competitive advantage. The pace of technological change has increased substantially, meaning that staying on top of it, and “at the top”, is becoming increasingly difficult. But whilst many people and organisations recognise the need to become more innovative and entrepreneurial, very few have a clear strategy for it.

We will look at the latest evidence-based insights into increasing innovation and developing an innovative mindset. The workshop will provide in-depth understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of innovation, disruptive talent and entrepreneurial culture, and their measurement and management. The focus will be on using these tools to help you foster innovation.

This session is presented by Dr Gorkan Ahmetoglu, Lecturer of I/O & Business Psychology, University College London & Co-Founder, Meta Profiling, META has conducted more than 100 empirical studies, with over 300,000 people, across 25 different countries. Its research hosts around 20 empirical studies a year, in collaboration with 3 of the world’s highest ranked universities.

1:00 pm

IT Leadership Think Tank: Influencing skills for the mid-market accountancy IT director

This interactive session will help you, the IT director, enhance your personal brand and develop more sophisticated influencing skills to get internal and external support for your projects and objectives.

2:00 pm

Close of Conference