FORVIS is a top 10 public accounting firm in the US, focused on providing an Unmatched Client Experience through the delivery of assurance, tax, and consulting services. The firm has a strong internal culture, focused on values such as building remarkable careers and unrivaled relationships. The firm’s name is a portmanteau of the words “forward vision”, which is another foundational element of its culture, and includes a robust commitment to innovation. At the beginning of the year, FORVIS launched its new idea management platform, powered by Qmarkets. Early results are incredibly impressive, with 45% of its 6,500 users having already interacted.
I recently sat down with two of the innovation leaders responsible for the success of FORVIS’ idea management platform, Denny Ard and John Yoo, to learn about why they needed it, and how they’ve managed to achieve such excellent engagement levels so soon in their journey.
Innovation at FORVIS: Taxing Challenges and Exciting Opportunities
FORVIS’ roots reach back a century, but the organization is actually a very young one; the product of a merger of equals between Dixon Hughes Goodman (DHG) and BKD less than 18 months ago. The new firm was born into an industry being pushed to innovate on several fronts. One is the emergence of new technologies. “As the business world continues to evolve, what we’re seeing is the needs of our clients changing too,” says Denny, who leads EDGE, the Innovation Lab of FORVIS.
In practice, this means traditional accounting services being complemented by new data-oriented ones to deliver data strategies, data science, and complex analytics for clients. The industry is also challenged by a war for talent. In recent years, the number of newly qualified professionals has dwindled as fewer college students opt for careers in accounting.
EDGE has two primary missions: to deliver highly relevant technology solutions to the firm and its clients, and to strengthen FORVIS’ culture of innovation. The team, led by Denny, now has close to 40 members and is comprised of innovation success managers, product managers and marketers, software engineers, and business development executives.
While EDGE is the team dedicated to innovation at FORVIS, innovation happens across the firm. FORVIS has three main service lines (assurance, tax, and consulting), each with its own innovation team. FORVIS is proud of its culture of innovation, which is fueled by a percentage of annual revenue being reinvested into innovation activities.
Why FORVIS Needed a New Platform
As great as it is to have a firm-wide culture of innovation, what FORVIS needed was a centralized hub so that the EDGE team could have eyes on innovation on a broad level.
“Since innovation happens throughout the firm, we want to ensure that ideas are captured and directed to the appropriate people for crowdsourcing and evaluation”, says Denny.
“The environment that we came from was multi-team, multi-platform”, says John Yoo, Senior Innovation Success Manager at EDGE. “The siloes represented by different departments innovating across different tools and processes meant that monitoring our full range of innovation activities was a major challenge”.
What they needed was a central hub, a ‘One Door for Innovation’ at FORVIS, through which all innovation initiatives would run. As a new firm formed from a merger of equals, there was an added imperative for all innovation to flow through the same system, from both a practical point of view and as a means of nurturing a new, shared identity.
But more than that, Denny and the team wanted this hub to be a place where everyone in the firm could share ideas knowing that they will be viewed, discussed, evaluated, and acted upon. They also wanted an idea management platform that encouraged and recognized employees for their contributions, to further strengthen FORVIS’ culture of innovation.
Setting Up for Success: The New Platform & How it Works
FORVIS chose Qmarkets’ idea management software Q-ideate, which was custom-branded to match the company’s identity and preferred specifications. The result was a dedicated idea management platform that crowdsources ideas from 6,500 FORVIS employees around the world. Rollout has been managed thoughtfully to ensure that the EDGE team has the capacity to respond to contributors quickly. “We have to be somewhat careful about the top of the funnel when it comes to ideas, because we have limited capacity from an innovation standpoint”, says Denny. “If you’re not responsive enough, you can stifle innovation.”
After shopping around, Denny and his team chose Qmarkets to drive their idea management platform. “We needed a one-stop shop which Qmarkets could offer us. The crowdsourcing capabilities were a big factor too, and then there was the ease of use and intuitiveness of the Q-ideate platform”, says Denny.
So far, the platform is being used to host a mix of firmwide and targeted idea campaigns. Users are most often submitting ideas relating to their daily lives as service providers, but the platform is also generating bigger picture ideas for new products.
With our support, FORVIS is in the process of building a catalyst network of decentralized innovation leaders to scale impact across the company. Taking the lead on campaigns are campaign managers drawn from across the business, in line with the fact that innovation happens on a firmwide level at FORVIS. What’s important for Denny, John, and the EDGE team is that all of this innovation will now flow through the platform so it can be tracked, measured, and optimized.
After users have submit their ideas, the collaboration features of the platform enable the ideas to be enriched through peer-to-peer discussion, while social voting highlights the best ideas. Ideas are then evaluated by a review committee consisting of relevant internal experts who will select the best ideas for further evaluation, and possible development and implementation.
Another important role that the idea management platform plays is as an information hub for innovation at FORVIS where the EDGE team can post content to keep the company updated and educated about innovation.
It’s a channel for us to provide articles, podcasts, videos, and news to sharpen our innovation skills as a firm.
One of the ways that the new platform is already impacting FORVIS is by democratizing innovation at the firm and creating an ‘idea meritocracy’. “If you look at the history of our idea submitters, you see the HIPPO Effect – where the Highest Paid Personnel in the Office were posting ideas”, says John. “But now, the accessibility and crowdsourcing elements of our platform give everybody the ability to post ideas, chime in and comment, and build momentum at any level.”
Crunching the Numbers: How FORVIS Engages and Recognizes Users
Early results from an engagement standpoint have been phenomenal. Having run about 20 campaigns since launching at the beginning of the year, 45% of the platform’s 6,500 users have visited the platform at least once; 32-35% of whom engage on a monthly basis. Convinced that there must be some valuable takeaways to be gleaned, I asked Denny and John to share how they set about raising awareness and encouraging participation in the program. I wasn’t disappointed; their strategy comprises several key best-practices for communication and engagement.
The EDGE team put a lot of effort into producing informative content to educate and engage users. This included significant messaging through email blasts and weekly newsletters and on FORVIS’ internal social platform “Share”, plus high quality, entertaining content that sparked excitement and built buy-in for what the team is trying to do. Within the platform is a welcome video describing how it works and the ways it will help fuel innovation at FORVIS.
Beyond general awareness, the EDGE team is also driving engagement by recognizing users for their contributions. There is a Quarterly Spotlight competition which celebrates the biggest contributors over the past three months. On top of this, the most active participant of the year is celebrated in the company’s Innovation Annual Report and receives recognition from the CEO.
If you get a message from the CEO or a senior leader of the firm and you’re not typically in a position to interact with leadership very often, then that recognition really means a lot.
Another approach they are exploring is to integrate platform points, which participants earn through submitting, liking, commenting and voting on ideas, with the firm’s reward programs that recognize outstanding performance by team members.
Recognition is integral to Denny and his team, who are looking for other ways to recognize and reward participants in the future. “We need to make sure that we provide visibility to the firm’s leadership about the people who are active in innovation and doing a really good job”, says Denny. “Recognition is paramount to the success of innovation at FORVIS”.
It was wonderful to hear about the positive impact their new idea management platform is already having by including everyone at FORVIS in the innovation process, strengthening FORVIS’ shared identity following the recent merger, and generating ideas on all sorts of topics to fuel innovation at the firm.
We’ll reconnect with Denny and John when they’re further along in their journey to hear about the innovations that the platform has produced. Given the amazing engagement levels they have already generated, they certainly seem to be on the right track.
What stands out to me is the passion and commitment of Denny and his team, to make the platform not only a success from an innovation perspective, but as a way of nurturing a culture of innovation that recognizes and rewards its users for their contributions. The platform has been a major catalyst in driving those early engagement levels and helps to put FORVIS in an excellent position for the future.