Randy Smith – Clark Schaefer Hackett Business Advisors
Founded as an accounting firm in 1938, Clark Schaefer Hackett Business Advisors has greatly expanded over the years, and it now offers everything from accounting and auditing to consulting in areas including technology and risk management.
But since 2018, the company has really hit the gas, acquiring at least four other businesses.
Though CSH had operated mostly in Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky, the firm opened a new office in Mumbai, India, in January 2022. Today, the company has 600 employees, including about 200 CPAs. It’s been a period of growth for the firm—and Chief Information Officer Randy Smith has been in the thick of it.
“My role is very much about building relationships, understanding what people need from a technological perspective,” Smith says. “The goal is to integrate systems and automate processes throughout the organization while helping employees understand the importance and value of cybersecurity.”
Finding the flow
In January 2021, Smith helped CSH implement CCH Axcess Workflow software to provide better detail about the company’s client projects. For example, it tracks the progress of projects, including deadlines, the scope of the work and what’s been accomplished—real-time information that’s easily shared with staff and clients.
Though CSH was using some digital tools to monitor projects, such as billing platforms and workflow tracking software, Smith says the tools couldn’t be merged.
“Our leaders just couldn’t quickly find the status on client projects. It took too many calls and emails to get an update,” he adds.
According to Smith, CCH Axcess Workflow can be applied to all the company’s business lines, tying them together without requiring a change in the financial system or other business software CSH uses. The workflow platform also helps distribute the workload better by showing who’s handling projects—which is especially crucial during tax season, Smith says.
Speaking with Toggle in December 2022, Smith said the company was about 70 percent integrated on Axcess Workflow. While CSH’s largest service lines now use the platform, the integration process was paused because the firm was adding a tool with job-scheduling capabilities that will match employees with the right experience, skillset and interest for a project.
Coping with change
Smith is also launching an internal data warehouse to pool and report accounting, billing and project management information (though it excludes customer financial data). The cloud-based warehouse uses Microsoft Azure and features Power BI dashboards that provide insights for business decisions.
The warehouse and data governance policies and processes were built in collaboration with analysts at Info-Tech Research Group, a membership-based organization and resource for IT leaders like Smith, who is a member.
“We need to make better use of data with new tools and through building employee skillsets on interpreting and leveraging data,” Smith explains. “But it’s a journey. There’s not a completion date as we work to build a data-driven culture.”
While implementing technology presents challenges, Smith says managing cultural change can be just as daunting.
“Public accounting firms deal in large volumes of work so even a small process change could add to or lessen the time involved in providing a client service,” Smith says. “If people know why and they have the support, they’re more accepting.”
The door is open
Smith wasn’t envisioning a career guiding colleagues through tech changes when he joined the U.S. Army after high school. But, later, he became interested in the maintenance and repair of equipment while working as a medical lab technician from 1994 to 1999.
So, he enrolled in a correspondence course to earn his CompTIA A+ certification, which included building a desktop computer and installing its operating system. Smith also earned an associate degree in medical laboratory sciences from George Washington University in 1997.
After leaving the military, he returned to the Cincinnati area where he grew up and worked in a desktop support role at Procter and Gamble. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in IT from American InterContinental University in 2003.
Smith moved into a leadership role as IT Manager with S&S Healthcare Strategies in October 2005. In June 2007, he became director of IT infrastructure with Fechheimer Bros. Co. While there, he earned his MBA from Xavier University in 2010.
Smith left Fechheimer to become global IT manager for dunnhumby, a Cincinnati marketing company. In April 2015, he joined 84.51˚, the digital and marketing division of Kroger. About 18 months later in 2016, he was recruited to join CSH.
Smith says building the systems, culture and IT team linking CSH’s portfolio of services and data requires him to be accessible, too.
“I’m a technology and business leader who is focused on teamwork,” Smith says. “For instance, something I like to ask my team members in performance evaluations is, ‘What am I doing well or not so well? How can I improve and be better?’ If people don’t feel the door is open, they won’t walk through it.”
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