The expression ugly on the inside is used to describe someone who is not very nice although they may be good looking.

A business analogy could be a firm with really nice premises in a premier location but a back office in disarray.

This is all too common in accounting and financial advice.

There has been minimal investment in the systems, processes and technology that underpin the structure and operations of advisory firms.

This invisible blueprint is often described as an organisation’s ‘enterprise architecture’ and it determines how efficiently a business can deliver goods and services and, ultimately, achieve its goals and objectives.

The industry’s lack of investment in systems, processes and technology stems from its product selling roots.

Advice, in the past, was synonymous with distribution and treated as a means to an end.

As such, it did not attract the capital it needed and deserved to build robust, flexible and scalable operations.

Today, there is widespread acceptance of the growing value of the advice margin, evidenced by the significant multiples professional advisory businesses are commanding, but there still isn’t enough investment in enterprise architecture.

For advisory businesses that aspire to become a leading firm of the future, a defined enterprise architecture is one of five critical ingredients alongside a world-class employee value proposition; client value proposition; shareholder value proposition; and a strong culture.

What is enterprise architecture?

When designing a house or building, experts including architects, engineers and interior designers work to ensure the final structure is appealing, functional and safe. Behind the scenes, there is a lot of planning, compliance and project management.

Similarly, an information architect is someone who designs an organisation’s information technology and digital infrastructure for maximum usability and efficiency.

The average accounting and advisory SME is too small to warrant a dedicated information architect, however, business leaders should be more intentional about analysing, planning and implementing the optimal structure and operating environment.