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If you look at great organizations throughout history, you’ll likely see a common theme: They all have a clear and consistent direction that guides their every action. Well, the Society has taken a page out of the same book. In November 2013, the Society’s Board of Directors, senior staff and young professional leaders met with the goal of answering the question, “Based on what members are facing, is the Society’s current mission on track?”


Todd M. Shapiro

Any conversation about the future needs to start with a frank discussion of upcoming changes and ongoing challenges, and ours was no different. Here’s what we concluded:


Providing a higher level of to clients and companies will challenge CPAs.


While compliance work will continue to be important, work will provide the greatest growth opportunity. Demand for

SPECIALIZATION will increase.

TECHNOLOGY will remain a double-edged sword: Overwhelming to keep up with, but absolutely essential in moving us forward.

COMPETITION will be fierce, from CPAs and non-CPAs alike. Successful organizations will embrace DIVERSITY— thinking styles ethnicity, age, national origin, and more. Our next question was, “How can the Illinois CPA Society help the CPA of today transition into the CPA of tomorrow?” which went a long way in reaffirming our current mission of “Enhancing the value of the CPA profession” and helping us chart our path forward. Our aim is to deliver relevant information and services through the four strategic pillars of Advocacy, Information, Education, and Connections. These pillars will serve as guideposts as we strive to fulfill the mission of the Illinois CPA Society. Over the next few years you’ll experience the Illinois CPA Society as a premier provider of education and learning, with enhanced OnDemand programming, access to the Knowledgehub Learning Management System, and in-person events featuring the latest in learning innovations—all things you, our members, have asked for in an increasingly custom-fit world. You’ll also see the Society working to advance the professional interests of our members through legislative monitoring, regulatory intervention, CPA image initiatives, and attracting and engaging the next generation of professionals. You’ll have direct access to relevant information through a newly designed innovative and interactive website, digital and print publications, and our various highly anticipated events such as our Young Professional Leadership Conference and the annual Midwest Accounting & Finance Showcase. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how all of us—members, leadership and staff—can move the mission of our Society forward. Send me an email at or connect with me on Twitter anytime at @Todd_ICPAS.

The Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS) is a $9.5 million, 501c6 individual professional state membership organization dedicated to enhancing the value of the CPA profession. Founded in 1903, ICPAS is the fifth largest state CPA society in the nation, serving over 23,000 Illinois CPAs in public accounting and consulting, corporate accounting and finance, government, education and not-for-profit organizations, as well as four non-CPA affiliate member groups: Students, educators, international and related finance professionals. The Society’s Board of Directors also governs two 501c3 organizations: The Illinois CPA Foundation, dedicated to member education, and CPAs for the Public Interest, dedicated to pro-bono services for individuals and not-for-profits in need. The Society also oversees the Illinois CPA Political Action Committee and works in tandem with the CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois, which raises funds to support CPA professional entry in Illinois. The Society employs 55 professional staff with offices in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois.

Serving as a preeminent provider of training and development for finance and accounting professionals.

Providing relevant, customized information to satisfy the various needs of ICPAS member segments.

Advancing the professional interests of CPAs and the CPA profession by providing a respected and influential voice in state and federal regulatory processes, promoting a positive image of CPAs, and working to ensure and retain a strong pipeline of qualified, diverse CPAs.

Facilitating and serving as a central hub for professional connections among ICPAS members and other professionals, with the goal of enhancing professional growth and recognition, and ensuring access to indispensable resources throughout one’s career.

While the typical refrain of “technology, regulatory overload, globalization, specialization, competition, and changing demographics� continues to be relevant when discussing the top trends and issues impacting CPAs over the next 3 to 5 years, the following issues hold a particular resonance: Depth of knowledge; generational synergies; diversity in the workforce and methods of learning.

Trends indicate that CPAs will need a deeper knowledge base in order to remain competitive and successful. Specifically, as technological advances give rise to automation and outsourcing of traditional compliance functions, CPAs will be challenged to provide a higher level of strategic business advice, and to put real-time financial information in the hands of clients and business owners. CPAs also will be challenged to keep pace with ever-growing business complexity resulting from regulatory changes and globalization. Big data will drive everything, and CPAs have a tremendous opportunity to help businesses interpret, analyze and make sense of that data. Compliance work will continue to be important; however, consulting work will provide the greatest growth opportunity. There will be a natural trending towards specialization versus generalists due to the depth of knowledge needed. The competition will be fierce from non-CPA sources. Future automation of areas such as federal individual income tax returns, real-time auditing, and the monthly close also will have a major impact. The challenge is ensuring members will be prepared to make the shift or know where to shift.

Explore More: 5 Trends Transforming Tomorrow's CPA

The next generation of CPAs will influence accounting workplace business norms and practices. The younger CPA considers work-life balance essential and will demand fewer hours and shorter commutes. Fewer and fewer younger CPAs will choose to stay to become partner in CPA firms; there will be many more career jumps in a professional’s lifetime. The preferred virtual communication methods of younger CPAs will impact traditional methods of making connections in the business world. In addition, younger generations who grow up adept at gaming will come to expect gamification in the workplace in areas such as talent acquisition, professional development, and incentives for achieving business goals.

Explore More: Gen B — The Blended Generation

One of the biggest issues facing the CPA profession is its need to increase the diversity of its workforce. At one time, the term “diversity” generally related to underrepresented groups, such as women and ethnic minorities. However, the term now has come to embrace diversity of gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin, thinking styles, religion, and physical ability, to name a few. Enhancing diversity has become a business issue not just for the accounting profession but for many industries. The profession will need to be attractive to diverse talent in order to win its fair share of top students. Diverse clients and business associates will prefer to do business with organizations that are comprised of diverse professionals. Diverse talent is more likely to accept and stay in a job where it sees diversity.

Explore More: Diversity Now

Given the massive changes in technology, regulation, demographics, globalization, specialization, and more, the CPA profession’s core competency of lifelong learning as stated in the AICPA’s CPA Horizons 2025 vision has never been more important. Technology, again, is playing an integral role in driving changes in what, when, where, how and how much people learn. From gamification to ‘flipped’ classrooms and social learning approaches, the concept of the traditional classroom will begin to experience a dramatic shift over the next 10 years. The classroom for today’s business professional is a 24/7, 365-day experience that can occur face-to-face or on computers, tablets or smartphones. You will be able to customize your learning based on how you learn best, and when and how you want and need the information. Even the ways in which education and learning are regulated likely will evolve to better reflect the reality of real learning in real time. Soon the traditional 50-minute ‘hour’ of CPE (continuing professional education) credit likely will give way to the ability to earn 10-15 minute bytes of learning. This shift alone will open up many avenues of learning and development.

Explore More: Reinventing the Business of Learning

The Society engaged an outside consultant to conduct a thorough member needs assessment. The study helped the Society view its relationship with its members through three key lenses: Awareness, engagement, and connection. Fortunately, most ICPAS members are aware of our core service offerings in Advocacy, Information, Education, and Connections, and a significant majority reported that they are highly satisfied with their membership. However, the awareness level of key services greatly fluctuates according to age. The Society has the opportunity to increase member engagement in both online education and in-person networking events – particularly if the in-person events are located closer to where members work or live. Members also are interested in meeting with fellow professionals in similar positions or industries.

The concept of “connecting” is defined personby-person. Some members feel connected if they are active on committees or other Society initiatives. Some feel connected just because they feel good about the organization and belonging to an association. Others may not feel connected at all, but continue to retain their membership. It is essential for the Society to continually develop services and to fine-tune its message in the context of whether it is of greatest value to membership segments - CPAs in public accounting, industry & business, not-for-profit, government or education, and at all stages of their career (early, mid-career, or experienced). Local advocacy, education, information, and networking are considered to be the Society’s ‘sweet spots’ for all member segments.

strategic priorities The Society’s Board of Directors concluded that the following five areas are essential to the Society’s success over the next three years:


Aligning and effectively delivering the Society’s programs and services with the mission of enhancing the value of the CPA profession through four strategic pillars: Advocacy, Information, Education, and Connections.

a preeminent provider (within the top 2-3 choices) of training and 2. Becoming development to accounting and finance professionals by offering high-quality education that provides the depth and breadth of knowledge needed, when and how members/customers want it. ICPAS membership by communicating the benefits of membership 3. Growing at every opportunity and cementing our relationships with and securing the support of employers. opportunities for members to connect with each other and 4. Increasing the Society. and engaging young professionals as the next generation of ICPAS 5. Recruiting leaders and active members. Key initiatives have been developed accordingly and will be reviewed and updated annually. All ICPAS programs and services, continuing or new, will be assessed in the context of the Society’s mission and strategic pillars.

next steps The Society’s Strategic Planning Committee is charged with overseeing a strategic planning process that monitors and periodically assesses the impact of trends on the CPA profession and the long-term viability of the Illinois CPA Society. The Committee is comprised of Board members representing the diversity of the Society’s membership by areas of practice, age and geography. The Strategic Planning Committee reports to the Board of Directors annually to flag trends and issues of significance and to help the Board and Society continue to chart a successful path forward.

For more information about the Illinois CPA Society, visit QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS:

Todd Shapiro - President & CEO | | 312.601.4601 | @Todd_ICPAS Melanie L. Minnix - Vice President, Planning & Communications | | 312.601.4602

2014 Strategic Leadership Update - Illinois CPA Society  

Helping CPAs Succeed Today and Tomorrow

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