As we gear up for the MACPA’s annual Innovation Summit on June 16, we thought this would be a perfect time to have a conversation about the future with some of the Summit’s most forward-thinking sponsorship partners.

We asked each of them to give us their thoughts on the trends that are impacting the profession, the changing role of CPAs, and how their relationships with CPAs might be changing as a result. We’ll be featuring their answers here over the next few days.

Kicking off the conversation is Jennifer Warawa, vice president and general manager for Sage Accountant Solutions at Sage North America.

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We all know the trends that are impacting the profession today – social, mobile, the cloud. What are the next big trends that CPAs need to pay attention to?
Jennifer Warawa: The shift to the cloud is obviously having a huge impact on the profession, and it’s not just the cloud technology. It’s that the cloud fundamentally changes the way accountants work. I feel as though the focus (or trend) has been more on the technology side, which is simply the enabler. The future will be about harnessing the cloud and determining how it enables CPAs to better serve their clients, ultimately allowing them to reinvent the way they do business.

How will the role that CPAs play change as time moves forward?
JW: We will see CPAs becoming more integrated with their clients’ day-to-day business activities and more involved in their success and growth as they become not just trusted advisors, but also valuable (and valued) advisors. There is a shift away from CPAs primarily providing services that are focused on reporting the past — such as tax preparation — to more consultative, real-time services like business advice. You will see CPAs collaborating with their clients in the cloud, and anytime-anywhere access to data is unlocking a huge opportunity for CPAs, particularly those that are open to new ways of doing business.

Is your relationship with the profession changing as a result?
JW: Yes, and we’re very excited about it. Accountants are an important part of the Sage ecosystem, and we’ve been a longtime supporter of the profession. Sage continues to manage the Sage Accountants Network, a membership program that equips accountants and bookkeepers with education, product knowledge, and support to better serve their clients.

We recognize the importance of technology to the accountant. As a result, last year we created a new business unit, Sage Accountant Solutions, that works to bring accountant-focused solutions to market. We want to help accountants prepare for the future and be prepared to shift their business models to better meet their clients’ needs. As a result, we have also introduced Leadership Education for Accounting Professionals, or LEAP. LEAP is an education program in partnership with the Business Learning Institute that helps accountants better manage changing client expectations, trends, and technologies, all ensuring accountants are better equipped to handle the next generation of accounting. In addition, there is a lot more in store for 2015!

What’s the most important thing Innovation Summit attendees need to know about your business?
JW: The direction of the profession is changing, and Sage is locked and loaded with the technology, tools, resources, and education accountants need to revamp their firms to better meet their clients’ changing needs, transforming the CPA from a trusted advisor to a trusted, valuable (and valued) advisor … and their clients’ hero.

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