Programme

Day 1  | Tuesday 19 March 2019

9:30 am

Registration and coffee

10:00 am

Welcome and chairman’s opening remarks

10:10 am

Keynote plenary: Our practice’s innovation/transformation journey

Three accountancy leaders (ideally a managing partner, an innovation director and an IT director/lead) will each present a fast-paced presentation looking at innovation and technology in their practice, the challenges and obstacles they have faced, how they’ve made it work and particularly how they are overcoming the challenges of getting accountants and the business on board.

10:50 am

Keynote plenary: A cross-sector case study on the tech and innovation challenges facing mid-market law firms – and what accountancy practices can learn from our experience

11:30 am

Networking break

12:00 pm

Keynote plenary: the psychology of change and change management

Digital transformation is all about the perennial problem of persuading people to change their behaviour.  What got us to where we are now won’t take us into the future. But change is risky and uncomfortable - and most people are resistant.  How can we bring our reluctant firms and people along on our innovation journey? How can we keep our people moving ahead with us?  How can we persuade our people to trust us and the changes we propose? How can we sell change as an exciting opportunity?  As a continuous journey rather than a fixed destination?

12:45 pm

Your right to reply: Managing Partners & IT Directors have their say

Following our keynote speaker’s expert approach to change management, a Managing Partner and an IT Director come to the stage to pose the questions that most IT Partners/Directors and Managing Partners will have for our expert. We’ll also take questions from the floor and via Sli.do.

1:00 pm

Lunch and networking

2:00 pm

Facilitated round table discussions (A)

This series of hosted round table discussions (A1 – A8) will focus entirely on how other practices 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        Achieving an end-to-end service – how can we get disparate systems to work together in harmony?
Can we get best of breed systems to connect / communicate?

A2        Creating a collaborative workspace (or, can you run an accountancy practice without email?)
There must be a better way than email to chivvy projects along, identify bottlenecks and make people accountable. We’ll look at ways to get people off email and interacting more productively.

A3        Making the most of data analytics and reporting tools in practice
How can we make better use of the data we hold? How can we pull data from the disparate systems we use and turn it into intelligence we can use effectively in the firm?

A4        Blockchain – what problems do we have that blockchain can solve?  What exactly can it do for our practice?

A5        Getting a balance between security and ease of client access
How can we secure our data without making access too “clunky” for our clients?  What are the options for data sharing with clients beyond email?
Paul Farrell, Head of IT, Mitchell Charlesworth

A6        Data analytics: building the team
What do we need to know to effectively hire, manage and develop data scientists? Should we be renting data expertise, or buying?

A7        MTD: how can we help our smaller clients convert to digital record-keeping?
Many of our clients are not ready for MTD. We’ll share ideas and advice on what we can do now to help them.

Speaker

2:00 pm

Managing Partners’ stream part one – by invitation only

Managing partners will gather for discussion and conversation, with the emphasis on networking, discussion and learning among peers.

  1. Moving from compliance to advisory
    The challenges facing mid-market accountancy practices are huge.  Most of us aim to move to an advisory service in response to MTD and the commoditisation of compliance work. But do we understand exactly what we mean by “advisory”?  Do our people? What does the move to advisory services mean for our staff? For our clients? What should we be doing differently to position ourselves as trusted advisors?  What training should we provide to enable our people to become advisors?  How should we price for advisory services? Which percentage of income should we seek from advisory?  During the transition, how can we supplant compliance fees?In this facilitated panel discussion, three managing partners will discuss their steps away from compliance work and towards consultancy, acknowledging the challenges and stumbling blocks along the way.
    Paul Crichton, Managing Partner, MMG Archbold

  2. Who’s in charge in mid-market accountancy?
    Equity in the firm does not equal a right to leadership – contrary to what many equity partners believe.  As managing partners, we must balance their assumption of leadership rights with the need to run our practice like a business.In this frank discussion, three managing partners will consider:
    - Is the partnership still a valid ownership model for mid-market practices?
    - What can we do to get equity partners to engage with the business as leaders and owners?
    - How can we focus the management team on driving the business forward, not just on keeping equity partners happy?-
    - How can we, as managing partners, motivate the management team to take on the risks and responsibilities that come with running the practice as a business?
    Ian Carlson, Managing Director, Old Mill

Speakers

3:30 pm

Networking break

4:00 pm

Facilitated round table discussions (B)

This series of hosted round table discussions (B1 – B8) 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        Extracting data from multiple, unconnected systems
We’ll share hints and tips for data extraction and integration across the practice.

B2        Securing the firm’s, and our clients’, data – how can we get our staff to follow the security policies we’ve created?
We’ll share ideas and advice on this perennial problem of getting the whole firm to take responsibility for data security.

B3        How can we enhance the client’s experience of our systems?
What are our options for better supporting our clients digitally? And how can this improve our service?

B4        GDPR one year on: what’s next?
We’ll look at some of the headaches that have emerged over GDPR in the first year, such as data breaches and how to avoid them, dealing with subject access requests and record deletion and we’ll consider how mid-tier IT systems cope with data integrity.

B5        Back to school for Office 365 – Are you using it to the max?
We all want to use the technology we own to its full potential.  But few of us are confident that we can exploit familiar software and devices to the maximum. Are you sure you are using Office 365 to its full capability? We’ll share ideas about how to make the most of this office staple – helping you and your practice to get more out of what you are already paying for.

B6        AI – what problems do we have that AI can solve?  What exactly can it do for our practice?
As we move out of the AI “trough of despair” and into a more realistic stage of the technology’s development, what can AI offer mid-sized practices at this stage?

4:00 pm

Managing Partners’ stream part two – by invitation only

Managing partners will gather for discussion and conversation, with the emphasis on networking, discussion and learning among peers.

  1. In conversation:  Moving towards a tech-enabled consultancy business
    How can we use technology to drive innovation in our practice? To make our firms more efficient, to make it easier for our staff to work and to provide a better service for clients?  Many practices suffer from a disconnect between what technology promises and what it delivers.  As managing partners, we need an overview of what tech we have, why we have it, how disparate systems work together and what is missing. But this gap analysis is very difficult.

    Two managing partners who have done the work will talk about their conclusions and what they’ve learned along the way.

  2. What can we do to improve partner productivity? 
    How can we ensure that partners spend their time on the things that will make the biggest difference to the business?  How can we close the productivity gap in our firms? Can we identify why fee-earner time doesn’t always feed through to the bottom line? How can we re-set partners’ priorities?
5:30 pm

Networking break

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

5:40 pm

The Samoan Circle – an Alternative panel discussion: Do we have the rights skills for data services? For advisory services?

We’ll re-convene for an informal and interactive session using the “Samoan Circle” format.  Set up in the round, delegates will gather around a central circle to eavesdrop on a conversation which will initially be between two managing partners and two IT leaders about the skills and recruitment challenges facing innovative mid-market practices.  Audience members can join in the discussion by entering the “inner discussion circle” and sitting down.

We’ll address the questions that are keeping accountancy leaders up at night:

  1. Are we recruiting the right people to deliver tech-enabled advisory services? Should we be hiring accountants, or technologist, or a hybrid?
  2. Is the problem that technology tools aren’t designed for accountants?
  3. Do we (why do we) need data scientists to use data analytics tools?
  4. Should we aim to recruit / train tech-enabled accountants rather than put IT and accountants into separate silos?
  5. How can we make accountants good users of technology? Or should we just hire IT graduates and teach them to use accounting software?

The working principles of the Samoan Circle are:

  • Only those in the inner circle may speak, until prompted to retire
  • You can enter the inner circle at any time if you want to join the discussion
  • You must finish your point and leave the inner circle when prompted by the facilitator

The bar is open, Sli.do awaits your questions / comments and we hope you’ll join in the conversation.

6:15 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 2 | Wednesday 20 March 2019

9:15 am

Morning and coffee

9:45 am

Chairman’s welcome and opening remarks

10:00 am

Keynotes: Vendor technology development and thought leadership

Mirroring yesterday’s opening keynotes and anticipating the playful Room 101 discussion between vendors and practices, we’ll bring together senior product development 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.

Topics addressed will also include:
- Practices struggle to extract data from unconnected systems.  How can vendors work together to help practices connect disparate accountancy systems?
- what can vendors do to help practices get full functionality out of their systems?
- how close are vendors to offering truly cloud-based services? To software-as-a-service?
- what are vendors doing to mitigate the risks of software-as-a-service?
- how are vendors working towards MTD – in the absence of clear guidance from HMRC?

Followed by a joint Q&A.

10:45 am

The Alternative Legal Management / Legal IT Room 101: How can we better align accountancy practices and technology vendors?

We’ll give two managing partners and two IT directors each the chance to nominate what they see as the number one barrier to productive partnerships between accountancy practices and vendors.  Will it be that IT solutions are over-promised and under-delivered?  Or that practices have unrealistic expectations or don’t understand what’s needed to sponsor a project to its fruition?  Based on the BBC format, each panellist will propose an issue that, if it were banished to that room of no return,would help mid-sized practices improve the procurement and implementation of technology to drive innovation.

Using Sli.do – anonymously - the audience will debate and vote on each proposal before deciding which issue most deserves to be banished forever to Room 101.  This is your chance to close help mid-market practices overcome a significant obstacle on the journey towards becoming tech-enabled trusted advisors.

11:15 am

Networking break

11:45 am

Keynote panel discussion: Dude, where’s my data? (Or, how can we move towards data centralisation and away from desk-top hoarding?)

A panel from a range of practices will talk about how to get data off the laptops and into the cloud.

- How do tech giants such as Amazon manage, store and share data, and what can we learn?
- Can we (how can we) move our firms to federated and distributed data systems?
- How can we stop our staff from hoarding data and convince them to return data to Sharepoint?
- Are there tools that can help us track data use within the firm?
- How can we oversee/ensure client permissions to use data?

12:30 pm

Closing keynote: How can we price and sell data analytics to clients as a product or service?

And how can we convince clients to pay for data analytics?

Speaker

1:00 pm

Networking lunch and close of conference

 

If you have an interesting story to tell and would like to join our speaker panel, please contact:
Sarah Katherine Bagshaw
07701 091 664
Sarahkatherine.bagshaw@alternativeevents.co.uk