BKD Life 2018

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BKD Provides Assistance for Innovation Within the Firm

BKD is making it easier to transform your innovative ideas into reality—no magic wand required.

"The firm is committing significant resources and funding to promote new revenue-generating ideas," says Gary Farrar, BKD’s chief innovation and technology officer. According to Gary, the goal is to involve more people in creating products and services that help BKD grow, better serve clients and provide career opportunities.

Gary says the firm is taking the right steps to make it easier for more people to innovate. It’s using people, processes and resources to take new ideas from mere concepts to fully developed products.

According to Gary, “In the past, if you had a great idea, it was very difficult to get access to the resources you needed. If you didn’t know the right people, you didn’t get the resources. There also was the tension between charge hours and noncharge hours working on new products. The innovation program addresses that by creating projects in STAR (BKD’s time sheet system) where that time can be charged, just like work for clients.”

The firm’s commitment to innovation isn’t new, but the latest efforts take Principled Innovation to a new level. This was evident at this year’s Leadership Conference, which featured a keynote speaker discussing what innovation is, why it’s important and how innovation occurs. There also was a panel discussion with three BKDers regarding three new products they and their teams developed—Access Analyzer, BKD Outcomes CompassTM and Contribution Margin Analysis.

Trophies were awarded for the innovations, all of which were team efforts.  “The awards were not for the people who presented them but for the innovations. One person doesn’t do it all. There’s always a team involved,” Gary says.

Tournament Time

BKD is encouraging innovation in a variety of ways, including hosting innovation tournaments designed to generate many high-quality new ideas very quickly and efficiently.  

A group of 32 BKDers participated in the firm’s first two-day innovation tournament in Kansas City in June. The participants had varying expertise and experience, and they came from multiple offices.

“It’s very much like ‘American Idol’ meets ‘Shark Tank,’” Gary says.

Participants came with three ideas for new products and services. Each person pitched their ideas to other participants who then voted for those to advance to the next round.

Eight ideas were selected for the final round, in which teams had to pitch them as if they were trying to persuade potential investors. The four winning ideas included a financial forecasting tool, cybersecurity network monitoring services, a private equity portfolio insights tool and a data request queue that would provide resources for those dealing with data-heavy engagements. These ideas are currently working their way through the funding and development phases of the innovation process.

The tournament’s goal was to create a variety of ideas, then identify the best of the best through a democratic process. “Regardless of title or position, each person’s vote carries the same weight as everyone else’s,” Gary says.  

Partner Travis Webb, who participated in the Kansas City tournament, says such events help highlight ideas that might otherwise not be considered. He says firm leaders want to create an environment that embraces innovation and isn’t so risk-averse that chances to innovate are missed or seized by competitors.

“It’s important to stay ahead of disruption and find a better way to do things,” Webb says.

Each of BKD’s five major industries will conduct tournaments later this year and early next year. “Five more tournaments should give us about 500 new ideas to consider,” Gary says.       

He stresses that a tournament is just one way to innovate. Anyone with an idea for a new product or service can submit it directly to an Innovation Navigator who will help determine the idea’s potential and shepherd it through the innovation process.

Gary emphasized that ideas should be effective. “That means they should have the potential to produce at least $1 million in annual revenue when fully operational.”

From Idea to Reality

Sometimes the challenge isn’t coming up with a new idea, but successfully turning it into a new product. That’s what BKD's IT Risk Services divison (ITRS) encountered with Access Analyzer, an idea for a new product that automates the testing of a company’s segregation of duties.

Partner Cindy Boyle says she initially wasn’t thinking of innovation last year when she encouraged her team to find ways to be more efficient. 

However, Access Analyzer began to move from idea to reality when ITRS received assistance from BKD Big Data & Analytics and BKD Technologies in creating software for the product. Senior Managing Consultant Tom Haldiman helped design a dashboard showing all conflicts of interest.    

“It’s super exciting,” Cindy says. “We were amazed that we were able to think of something not already on the market.”

The firm’s new Innovation Project Management office is helping Cindy and the team work through details involved in getting this new product to market.

“It will make things so much easier,” Cindy says. “They’ll help lead us through all the appropriate steps more quickly.”

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