The DACI framework for accounting firms: How it will help you manage change

Change in life, in business, and in accounting, is inevitable. If a firm isn’t changing, it will eventually descend into obsolescence. Cloud-based accounting, automation, movement to advisory alongside transactional accounting, remote work, and many more features of modern day accounting, all require both minor and significant changes to your accounting firm.

Despite the inevitability of change, it still needs to be carefully considered, introduced, and implemented in order to be effective.

Throwing a half-baked plan with little team buy-in to the wall to see what sticks isn’t a smart use of resources. In fact, it most certainly will cost you. The only uncertainty is how much.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t implement changes at your accounting firm. The trick—if you can distill something this multifaceted to a single defining factor—is considered planning.

And the planning can’t happen successfully without accountability and focus. That’s where the DACI framework comes in.

What is DACI?

DACI is a framework that dedicates roles to help effectively manage and implement change. It’s the scaffolding of change management that ensures a specific team is in control of, and accountable for, a change within your accounting firm—large or small.

DACI comprises four equally important parts: 

  • Driver

  • Approver 

  • Contributors

  • Informed

Driver 

Your driver is the core person who is leading the change. Having two people leading the same change can result in crossover or confusion over accountability, so it’s best to have one person for this role. 

They need to be respected by their peers and someone others listen to. They need a fundamental and detailed understanding of the change and why it’s important. It’s also helpful if they have some level of leadership and change management experience.

Let’s say your accounting firm is implementing a new practice management tool. The implications of this change are far-reaching—from your onboarding team, your production staff, customer success managers and everyone in between.

So, the driver of this change needs to be assigned to someone in a leadership role that touches most of, if not all, the firm. In this case, it would likely be a managing director, practice manager, or similar. This needs to be a respected individual that others will trust and follow.

It’s important to note that the people filling these roles will vary firm-to-firm, depending on size, tenure and organizational structure.

Approver

This is the person who has the final sign-off on the change. But the final sign off isn’t their only role—this is the person who can shuffle things around to make the change happen.

For example, they can reallocate staff members’ time to assist with the change, and if it’s a transformational change, they’re the person making the calls that impact business operations, such as a pause on onboarding new clients until the change has been implemented.

Taking the practice management example from above, the approver would be the firm owner or partner.

Contributors

These are the people with a vested interest in the process you are changing. You want their input because they’re the ones who are going to be using or interacting with the change. 

Contributors make sure the change is implemented according to how the day-to-day operations of the firm run. This is arguably the most important role in the DACI model.

When implementing a new practice management tool at your accounting firm, your contributors  would be your onboarding specialists, accountants, and bookkeepers—whoever is directly using the practice management tool.

Informed

While not necessarily part of the decision-making process, these are the people who should be kept in the loop about the change.

When implementing a new practice management tool, your informed group are members of marketing teams, sales teams, and any other similar departments.

Their role can include offering feedback and any other support needed.

What is the purpose of DACI?

DACI, when used correctly and purposefully, fosters a culture of elegant change in your firm. It normalizes change as a part of everyday accountancy life, and mitigates the fears team members might have around it. 

People often fear change because they don’t understand how it will affect them, or because it seems daunting.

DACI assuages both of those fears because the team has clear understanding of how change will be implemented, and they have reassurance that all the right people are involved in the process.

It also gives accountability and clarity over roles. If something isn’t going quite right, with DACI you know who to look to for answers. And the people who are assigned the different DACI roles know what is expected of them, so everyone can work together to deliver a great outcome.

Implementation and communication

Being that change is difficult, communication with the team is paramount. Getting everyone on the same page, making sure they understand the ‘why’ will pay dividends when it comes to the ‘how’. If the team understands why it needs to happen and who to go to with their questions, you’re much more likely to get total adoption across your firm. 

DACI gets results

If used well, the DACI will facilitate great changes for your firm. It will give your team members ownership over success. You’ll garner respect from your employees as they see you take a professional, thoughtful approach to change.

DACI also helps your team to continue using the new processes. On average, habits don’t form for 66 days, so using a framework like this with people driving and encouraging continued use of the change will help you get to that habit-forming mark. 

The accounting industry is constantly changing. And as a part of the industry, your firm is changing constantly, too. Using the DACI framework takes the guesswork out of change and gives you tangible roles and steps to take to bring positive change out into the light. The more you change, the better you get at it. With the help of DACI, you can become an industry leader and an inspiration to other firms.

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