January 31, 2020

The Age of Disruption

robot hand and human hand touching digital brain

Disruption seems to be the new normal these days. More and more C-suite leaders are recognizing that complacency is the ticket to irrelevance, and innovation is the key to growth. It’s either disrupt or be disrupted – there’s no in between where companies can keep their heads down and hope that no one goes after their market.

So I was heartened to see in the newest Marcum-Hofstra CEO survey this week that 94% of business leaders expressed an interest in artificial intelligence – AI – and its business applications. That number was so high it surprised me a bit.

Maybe it shouldn’t have. AI really is a real game-changer that can not only potentially improve operating efficiency and cost effectiveness, but also drive innovation by unlocking data that can be leveraged in any number of ways to support new product and service development. Thirty-six percent of our survey respondents said they had already invested in AI and seen positive impacts.

As many leaders realize, AI is going to play a starring role in the future of their industries. Companies that embrace it may be able to participate in one of the biggest opportunities to scale the impact of their businesses.

Yes, there are potential pitfalls to consider with any emerging technology but just think about what many companies could accomplish with AI. Imagine, for instance, what your own company culture would be like if no one had to do routine, repetitive tasks thanks to robotic process automation, and you could refocus your team on the more challenging assignments that require original thinking and innovation. Every employee wants to grow, and AI could be a chance to set your team free.

It’s all about recognizing the potential for disruption in any industry and positioning your organization among the disruptors, not the disrupted. Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, who died on January 23, was ahead of his time when he made the case, back in 1997, that our biggest rival probably isn’t the giant company we worry about every day. It’s more likely to be a nimble and fast-moving startup that has the power to shake up our industry overnight through “disruptive innovation,” the famous phrase he coined. In the middle-market world, the greatest threat could just as easily come from a firm very similar to your own that’s taken a fresh approach to business processes that are bogging down your team.

Disruptive innovation is a bit scary to contemplate, but the truth is that no company can afford to be complacent. We’ve all got to stay on our toes, try new things and keep our companies evolving. And we need to help our teams embrace that mindset, too, so everyone is prepared for change at any time. It’s the only way to win.

Given that reality, we’ve made a major commitment to technology across Marcum. It’s one that’s gotten us some industry recognition. I’m proud to say we were named a Best Firm for Technology by Accounting Today last May, and our Chief Information & Digital Officer Peter Scavuzzo is a regular presenter at roundtables and business forums dedicated to sharing best practices and discussing what’s next for technology.

One reason is the internal centers of excellence and digital ecosystems we have created around AI, machine learning, robotic process automation and data analytics. We’ve also introduced the Marcum Pulse System, an enterprise platform that provides us with advanced analytical dashboards offering real-time views into not only the status of all active client work but also real-time metrics on employee performance and goals.

These efforts require an investment of both time and money, but we are committed to positioning Marcum for the future. It’s an exciting challenge: If there’s one legacy Christensen left behind, it’s the inspiration to stay focused on what’s ahead, think boldly and keep a business evolving, so we stay relevant for the long haul. Accounting may be a profession that’s slow to change, but here at Marcum, we’re comfortable with shaking things up if it means serving our clients better.

Last year, my daughter Lily (10) and I attended her first Super Bowl, in Atlanta. The weekend became our first daddy/daughter trip. Well, since Lily is a crazed football super fan, we decided to make Super Bowl an annual event; thus tomorrow has us heading to Miami for Super Bowl LIV. When my son Leo (25) heard we were going again, since he has never been to a Super Bowl, he asked to tag along as well. This is one of those trips that makes the hard work and travel away from home and family worth it.