Sustainable pumpkin-growing

Peter Van Laer, CEO BDO Belgium

Do you suffer from “not invented here” syndrome? What you haven’t invented yourself is by definition less good. But things don’t work that way anymore in the 21st century. The world – including the world of business – has become so complex and is changing so quickly that cooperation is necessary to create real added value. I once read how a cooperative innovation model of this kind could be explained using pumpkins. Suppose Company A has come up with a solution for real-time accounting, and Company B for cybersecurity. Both solutions use a different component of the same fruit, the pumpkin. A uses the seeds, B the skin. But both companies want to dominate the world, and demand exclusive rights to the whole pumpkin. It’s a pointless demand, isn’t it? Why pay for the whole pumpkin if you only need the skin? What’s more, you are then preventing Company A from using the seeds. And the pumpkin farmer (Company C) from selling the flesh. Cooperation between A and B will lead to more innovation more quickly, including for third parties.

Moreover, a cooperative model like this works more efficiently and sustainably in a world where we have to be ever more economical and above all smarter with the available resources: equipment, time and so on, but also talent. Sharing knowledge and expertise and investing together in solutions that we can jointly offer without straying into one another’s competitive territory: that’s what I call sustainable cooperation. And that’s the AI-GUST knowledge platform.

“A cooperative model works more efficiently and sustainably in a world where we have to be more economical with the available resources.”

Waiting is not an option

We’ve thought about it very deeply, weighed up the concept carefully, and… we’re doing it! With AI-GUST we’re launching our own fintech company. A platform on which accountants and their client companies receive administrative support and strategic advice, backed up from A to Z by a mountain of data collected within the professional community. “Is BDO now also becoming a developer of accounting software?” I hear you think. Even though we have the in-house expertise to do so, that’s not the goal per se. Let’s work with others and do it even better. What we do plan to do is bring those others on board. And in this way centralise as much talent, knowledge, expertise and data as possible. So we can use artificial intelligence to unlock that enormous potential for accountants and their clients who are looking for effective and innovative solutions to the technological and business challenges they face every day.

Waiting any longer was not an option. We have to be able to give our clients more, better, proactive and more focused advice. This is only possible today if we use artificial intelligence that supports our accountants in formulating these well-founded recommendations. Along with the transition to a new and more sustainable cooperation model or platform, that’s a challenge that we, as responsible stakeholders, are taking on for ourselves, for our clients and for society. It’s a challenge that we would find difficult to address on our own, nor do we wish to do so. In any case, even more challenges lie ahead: the growing threat of cybercrime, the pressure of digitisation and so on. What’s more, tomorrow is not today, and changes in the world and the sector are unpredictable and arriving at an incredible speed.

The message is to join forces. The pumpkins will flourish!