Do You Know How Blockchain is Changing Business?

April 3, 2017By Jason Bainter, CPABlog, Changing Role of the CPA, Innovation, Technology

If you don’t know what blockchain is, you should because it is going to change the way all businesses transact financial information in the future.

Blockchain is widely known as the technology that underpins bitcoin, but it is a lot more than just bitcoin. Blockchain is the technology that backs distributed ledger technology, which is a trusted way to track the ownership of assets without the need for a central authority. As a result, it could speed up transactions and cut costs while lowering the chance of fraud, according to an article in CIO Journal.

Per Business Insider, blockchains are basically ledgers that accept inputs from a host of different parties. The ledgers can only be changed if all parties consent. These ledgers can be shared publicly. They are housed on servers, or nodes, which maintain the entries (known as blocks) and every node sees the transaction data stored in the blocks when created. Since these blocks are publicly shared, there is no central authority to approve the transactions. The ledgers and underlying databases are immutable and irreversible. The date can’t be revised or tampered with even by database operators. The distributed nature of the network requires that the computer servers reach a consensus, which allows for transactions to occur between unknown parties. The software behind blockchain is written so that no conflicting or double transactions can be written in the data set and thus, transactions can occur automatically.

So what does all of this mean? In basic terms, let’s take a personal transaction and break it down. Let’s say that you have a child in daycare and every week, you have to pay the daycare for the services they provide. You write a check and update your checkbook ledger, or do you? The daycare provider deposits the check and updates their checkbook ledger. But things could go wrong. Although you wrote the check, you just picked your child up and they are excited to see you and tell you about their day. So you go off to hear about their day, but wait, you forgot to update your check register for that check you just wrote. And your bank doesn’t know immediately upon you writing that check if you have enough funds in the account to cover that check.

With blockchain, instead of two separate checkbook registers with debits and credits, both you and the daycare would both be looking at the same ledger of transactions. It’s private (encrypted) and decentralized, so neither one of you control the ledger. Since the ledger is decentralized, you both can look at the ledger and each transaction is put into a “block.” Then if you and the daycare provider validate that block of information, it’s added to a chain. That chain is then protected by a sophisticated cryptography, and no one can change the chain after it is created. In this way, you know how much is left in your bank account and your bank immediately knows if there are funds in your account to cover the check. The transaction is instantaneous and there is no more “float.” Also, because of these chains, there is no longer any additional work on the daycare provider’s part on having to issue year-end statements for taxes because you would now have the availability to look at the chain to see your annual payments. Do you think this would assist in year-end tax planning?

Although blockchain is in its infancy, it is quickly gathering speed among financial institutions, trading companies and the health care industry. There are still challenges to overcome such as regulation, cost and security issues. However, financial institutions are big proponents of moving this forward as they see this as a huge cost cutting method by removing back office staff that have to approve trades and transfers.

As this system develops, clients are going to be utilizing these blockchains, and CPAs must keep up-to-date on this technology in order to audit the system. However, based on the premise of this technology, our audit procedures could be reduced or eliminated because there really would no longer be a reason to confirm A/R, contracts or bank accounts. That would all be within the chain of transactions validated by each party.

How do you think your clients could benefit from this technology?

#8: Collaborate!

January 13, 2017By Justin Hayes, CPABlog, Changing Role of the CPA, Collaboration

There is nothing to fear in sharing knowledge

There is a newer trend that is starting to occur in the CPA profession, and that is collaboration. For years, many CPAs wanted to hold onto their own thoughts/ideas/strategies for fear that the competition would use their thoughts/ideas/strategies against them and steal clients. Fortunately that fear has begun to wane as CPAs clearly see the benefits of collaborating with other CPAs and even other professionals to better themselves and strengthen the profession for the benefit of all. Specialization and hyperspecialization are among the environmental factors that are driving the need for collaboration.

There will always be competition, of course, which does help drive innovation and growth. We all tend to be smart individuals, but part of being smart is knowing when you don’t know the answer and not being afraid to ask for help. Part of being confident in your work and reputation is in knowing that if you share your thoughts with others it will not have a negative impact on you. I am not saying that when you collaborate you need to give out any proprietor information or “trade secrets,” but don’t be afraid to ask other people for help in areas that you don’t have knowledge or experience in.

Think of the following example. You are a smaller firm (about 10 employees) and you a have client, who happened to be one of your largest clients, who wants to become set up in an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). This is something you have never dealt with in your career. But you do recall that one of your classmates from college works at a larger firm that has a specialty in ESOPs. What do you do?

Historically, I’m guessing that you would not want to admit to your client that you don’t know the answer. Even if you did admit it, I’m guessing that you would have fear of reaching out to your college buddy for concerns of losing the client to the larger firm. However, this is a perfect example of when you could collaborate and better serve your client. You need to be willing to step outside of your boundaries and collaborate with the larger firm. This will better serve your client and also help you to grow in the profession. Now on the flip side, what do you do if you are the college buddy at the larger firm? Your first thought might be that you have a great chance at a new client. But let’s say there is no chance that this company is going to make a change and now you have a voicemail from your old college friend asking about ESOP 101 training. Historically, I am guessing that the answer would be to try and deflect the question, for fear that this would give away some of your advantage in the market.

I would argue the opposite. By collaborating with the smaller firm you are allowing your professional skills and knowledge to be out in the market more. Who knows where those connections could lead to. I do know that you would eliminate all opportunity by not collaborating with the smaller firm.

As we begin the new year, I’d encourage everyone to think about ways you can grow professional (and personally) through collaborating with other CPAs and other professionals. Who can you collaborate with today?

Justin Hayes, CPA, CGMA, is a director in Katz, Sapper & Miller’s Audit and Assurance Services Group. His primary responsibilities include auditing and reviewing financial statements and advising clients on accounting, reporting, compliance and internal control-related matters. Hayes serves on the INCPAS Leadership Cabinet and Diversity Advisory Council. He is a graduate of Opportunity Indianapolis 2010 and Leadership Education and Development 2011 with the Lacy Leadership Association. Hayes is a member of the Fusion Network, a group of Indiana CPA Society member CPAs who blog on trends, new ideas and innovation in the CPA profession. 

#5: Stand Out

January 10, 2017By John Kane, CPA, CGMABlog, Changing Role of the CPA, Critical Thinking and Non-Technical Skills

Improve your soft skills to for real career success

Whether you are considering a job change this year or are just trying to get to the next level in your career, it’s time to consider your soft skills. Even if you are a long time CPA professional in public accounting or industry, soft skills are a key differentiator.

Employment experts agree that tech skills may get you an interview, but these soft skills will get you the job — and help you keep it. Soft skills are important, and are popping up in many job descriptions, according to Larry Buhl’s article on

The soft skills that are so important are:

  • Communication skills — being able to express yourself well
  • Team work and collaboration — being able to work effectively as a team
  • Adaptability — willingness to continue to learn and stretch your skills to adapt
  • Problem solving — being able to approach a problem, solve the problem, and share with others
  • Critical observation — being able to collect the information, manipulate the information, and determine the next steps for solutions
  • Conflict resolution — the ability to persuade, negotiate, and resolve conflicts.

Do these topics look familiar to you? They should, as the new CPA Exam, debuting in 2017, is moving in this direction. Employers will be expecting a certain level of proficiency in soft skills at the onset of your career, so the new exam is being designed to test the readiness of both your technical and nontechnical expertise.

As seasoned professionals we are tested on this daily. Our firm found the CPA Center for Excellence® Insight Toolkit to be a good method to evaluate these skills. Insight considers multiple different attributes including Adaptability, Communication, Leadership, as well as Integration and Collaboration. This 360-degree view is revealing in many ways as it paints a picture of your various competency levels.

We began the process by creating a 360-degree assessment of ourselves and asked team members and others with whom we interact to also evaluate us, including peers from community volunteer experiences.

Some who rated us felt the assessment was time consuming, but found value in the process. Overall, the results are interesting. Although we do not know our individual scores from separate raters, we are able to see how we rated ourselves compared to the averages of our raters’ perceptions based on our behaviors. It provides an opportunity to drill down by competency, allowing us to see a more in-depth explanation of the competency and, by rater type, how we’re viewed.

The purpose of the 360º evaluation is to identify the gaps where we can improve. We are then able to start adding actions related to the competencies we need to develop. A good benefit is the availability of additional support if it is needed, such as an opportunity to connect with others, or even connecting with a peer coach or professional coach.

It’s also a good idea to continue the evaluation process and track your development over the years.

This year, resolve to improve your soft skills and truly differentiate yourself.

John Kane, CPA, CGMA, has been the managing member of a local CPA firm in Anderson, Ind., since 1997. Prior to this, he was a CPA with another local firm for 10 years after spending three years in banking. He has been active in the profession since 1989 serving on various INCPAS committees, the initial Leadership Cabinet, the Society’s Board of Directors, and the AICPA Council. In 2010, Kane was appointed by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels to the Indiana Board of Accountancy. He is a member of the Fusion Network, a group of Indiana CPA Society member CPAs who blog on trends, new ideas and innovation in the CPA profession. 

#4: Stop Speaking Like an Accountant

January 9, 2017By John Minnich, CPA, CGMABlog, Changing Role of the CPA, Critical Thinking and Non-Technical Skills

Five communication skills that transcend professions

Every profession and organization has its jargon, whether it’s words, phrases or even the dreaded acronyms. For example, my accounting colleagues speak in tongues of accrual, current ratio, debt-to-equity, EBITDA, GAAP, internal controls, net assets, reconciliations, return on assets and subledgers.


Software consultants say, “Crystal Reports, integrations, modules, ODBC, ports and offsets, relational databases, Remote Desktop, SQL, and thin clients.”

“What did you say?”

And educators refer to block scheduling, cooperative learning, Didactic and Socratic teaching models, flipped classrooms, learning outcomes, lesson plans, pedagogy, retention, rubric, and syllabi.


As an accountant, consultant and educator, I’ve discovered that at least one thing transcends every profession: Strong communication skills, including the ability to speak with and listen to those outside your field. Below are some tips on how to stop speaking like an accountant (or consultant or educator).

1. Simplify.

From clients to students, a best practice involves speaking in simplified terms. Instead of describing the entire process in depth, describe the outcome in simple terms. Focus on using common terminology when possible as opposed to technical jargon.

2. Paint a picture and use creative communication tools.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Rather than solely blanketing your audience with data, use visuals. Sharing financial results at a finance committee meeting? Paint a picture, use props, and share the story in understandable terms.

3. Be equipped with relevant models/frameworks to improve your communication skills.

Be clear and concise with a focus on coherency. From calls and emails to presentations, we spend a significant amount of time communicating with colleagues. Have you ever considered whether your messages are clear and meaningful? Various resources exist to help strengthen your communication from composing and delivering a message to receiving and making revisions. I encourage you to learn and implement what works best for you.

4. Understand and empathize with your audience to craft good messages and deliver effective presentations

I’ve trained clients, developed and led finance/communication and operations management sessions for a Fortune 500 company, taught graduate and undergraduate university courses, and served as a discussion leader for continuing professional education courses. Every audience is different, even when the topic or course remains the same. Find ways to engage your audience whether in a large group or small workplace setting. Put yourself in your listener’s seat. Anticipate how they might react. Realize that several generations are currently in the workforce and each vary in communication preference (i.e., face-to-face, email, text). Show humility as your listener(s) might not be familiar with the topic and could feel clueless.

5. Realize the importance of nonverbal communication.

All studies indicate that nonverbal communication represents the majority of all communication. Always pay attention to things like your appearance, eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, movement, posture, and tone of voice.

Effective communication strategies transcend professions. It is critical to know what communication skills are, how they relate to “doing business” today, and how communication happens. As professionals, we should all raise awareness of the pitfalls of poor communication skills and work toward better communication practice.

John J. Minnich, CPA, CGMA, oversees operations in education administration as chief financial officer and member of the administrative leadership team for a private high school in the Fort Wayne area. His career has straddled consulting, higher education, and public accounting. Minnich serves on several nonprofit boards and committees, and is the current president of the Indiana CPA Educational Foundation. He is also a member of the Fusion Network, a group of Indiana CPA Society member CPAs who blog on trends, new ideas and innovation in the CPA profession. 

Three Tactical Steps to Destroy Information Overload and Become Infomagical

February 16, 2016By Jess Halverson BowyerBlog, Changing Role of the CPA, Innovation

Learn for me. Not for them.

This is my new information mantra. It’s what I declared after cutting my feelings of burnout in half and learning how to learn despite a busy schedule and daily distractions.

Keep reading, and I’ll tell you how to in three steps. 

This sounds clickbait-y, but it’s true. What better skill to have today than the ability to combat your own information overload? How many hours do you lose from constant notifications, emails, headlines and the stress of feeling like we can’t keep up with it all? In order to be excellent public service providers, with the ability to synthesize all of the data that is available into true insights, I would argue CPAs and others involved in this data and knowledge-based economy need to build the essential skills of skewering information overwhelm by creating a personal system and mantra of focus and attention to serve their clients and organizations.

I was lucky enough to have my five-day journey spurred on by a great podcast — WYNC’s Note to Self by Manoush Zomorodi.

Note to Self is a lively and self-aware podcast about our real lives with tech. Things I’ve learned from the podcast so far include: the reason Two Dots is so addictive, how to get organized using principles of neuroscience, and how to cut photo clutter. Then they launched the Infomagical project.

For a week, Manoush (purposely using her first name, because that’s how close I feel we are after this experience) and her team prompted listeners with information overload reduction tasks, with the purpose of achieving one of five goals of your choice. For my quest, I chose to learn more about a certain subject over the week. As a lifelong learning addict, I never feel like I have enough time to learn everything I want to, so I thought it would be telling if I saw results.
And the crazy thing is, I really did.

The tasks for the week weren’t huge commitments, but they challenged me to think about how much control I could have over my time if I didn’t sacrifice it to distraction and the internet. Monday I tried to single task (#jessfail). Tuesday I was told to clear the clutter from my phone and computer desktop. Then there was avoiding a meme or trend all day, having a seven-minute long conversation on one topic, and lastly, creating your personal mantra.

How did this play out in real life? Essentially, I was teaching myself that whenever I wanted to be entertained by my phone, I would use that time to learn about my topic. I was also structuring my environment to encourage myself to focus on the task at hand (because structuring your environment is 80 percent of the battle). I was connecting with people more. And, if any of these tactics failed, I had my mantra to remind myself why I love information and technology in the first place — to learn what I want to learn, not read whatever someone else is pushing. Let’s face it, the internet can be a drug.  

After five days, I’m a believer. I’ve cleared a learning hurdle in my quest — not knowing where to start. After revisiting my focus every day, the consistency made what I needed to learn clear. I’m now closer to doing that.

This is the same strategy we all need to employ at work to synthesize intelligence and data into insight. Without that level of depth and focus, it’s hard to reach any level close to qualifying as insight.

I’ve boiled down my experience into the three main tactics for destroying information overload. They are:

  1. Strategically eliminate distractions from your environment.
    Think about what distracts you and create a plan that allows you to avoid stimuli until you have time for it. Our human nature is programmed to react to the most stimulating experiences, and you never know what’s behind that next notification bubble, right? What if it’s important?! Remove your notification bubbles from your apps, hide the apps that cause you problems, reduce clutter in general and keep tabs to a minimum and your email closed when you really need to focus. It takes 23 minutes to refocus after becoming distracted. Give yourself the gift of uninterrupted blocks of time when you have an important project or deadline, and let your coworkers know you are doing it and when you’ll next be available. Maybe they will follow your example.
  2. Use your intermittent time.
    The number one thing I learned in this experience? I actually DO have the time I need, if I use it properly. You would be amazed how much time you can find redirecting energy from when you would usually be checking Facebook or Instagram or reading the latest headlines. Instead, use that time you are already standing around looking at your phone to do tasks that require short bursts of attention, like answering emails, reading that one article you really need to, or making the quick phone call to catch up. I heard a great interview on the Harvard Business Review’s Ideacast podcast with Neil deGrasse Tyson where he’s asked, essentially, how do you do it all? He talks about using all of that intermittent time. Does this mean you can never have fun again? No, but have fun doing something fun when it’s time. Listen to audio books or podcasts on your drive to work. Read an actual book on the bus or the train. Using my intermittent time, I feel less stressed because I know I’m on top of everything, and when it’s time to relax I can actually relax.
  3. Create your mantra.
    We are all human. Sometimes humans are weak. Create a mantra for yourself to chant when you are more prone to distraction (usually when we are tired or overwhelmed). It’s ok if we need to trick ourselves to focus. Too much of today’s stimuli is designed to work towards our baser desires and away from our best interests.

Give yourself the gift being less overwhelmed. You’re not imagining it — the amount of information we consume, and more so the way we consume, is different than ever before. Take back your data consumption, and use these strategies to help you create true insights in your life and work. Use the knowledge for your goals. What’s your mantra?

Note to Self  is continuing to run it’s Infomagical project for as long as there is demand. You can sign up online and start next week. Have fun!