Practice barrier #9: selecting the right technology for your team & clients
It’s an exciting time to be an accountant. Led by cloud accounting, the industry is being transformed by advancements in technology. Ten years ago it would have been almost impossible to predict what a day in the life of an accountant looks like today—who knows what the next decade will bring.
The journey to the cloud is the mother trend in accounting right now—shaping what is happening not only for you, but also for your clients. Cloud adoption has led to a massive increase in the tools and systems at your disposal. You now rely on many of these to do your job, and they have simplified and advanced many of your processes—technology has become as essential to you as a brush is to a painter.
But for all the opportunity this increase brings, it also creates a whole new set of complications. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available, making it extremely difficult to know what is the right technology to choose. And when you decide to adopt a new system, it’s vital that you introduce it smartly, or you’ll risk complicating your existing processes.
How does it impact you?
You should always be looking to grow your firm, not only through acquiring new clients but also by finding ways to improve its efficiency and scalability. To do this, you can look for opportunities presented by new, tailored technologies—including apps created specifically for accountants.
The industry is changing rapidly (and it’s not going to slow down), making it near impossible to stay on top of everything. With so many tools out there, how do you know what is best to use for your team? How do you make sure you are using the very best systems to service and recommend to your clients?
For any new technology added to your stack—it needs to integrate with your other processes, or at least bring together processes that were previously siloed. Accountants now find themselves using anywhere from 5 to 40 apps between their practice and their clients, so the way these apps talk to each other has become a major consideration. The efficiencies gained from using super-powered, specialized ‘best of breed’ apps are lost if you have to navigate through all of them individually.
When you decide to introduce new technology, you can hit a roadblock if staff aren’t prepared to adapt and learn a new way of completing a process. Without a clear strategy and a mindset that is always looking to innovate, you will find your firm left behind as the rest of the industry advances with swift speed.
What can you do about it?
Look at your existing systems, and choose add-ons wisely
If you are comfortable with technology (in terms of understanding what software can do for your practice), you can have better conversations with software developers about what your dream apps look like, and good software companies will be all ears. You might even start to bring IT solutions teams in-house to develop bespoke applications that suit your firm perfectly; or connect existing apps for seamless integration.
If that’s not you, when shopping around for technology solutions, think about what the most important processes are in your firm. Make a list, starting with the ones you spend the majority of time undertaking. Look for apps that incorporate at least one or two of the major processes and also several of the smaller. Most importantly, look for apps that bring together siloed processes or that integrate with other systems. And, of course, don’t forget what the client needs.
Find out what other firms are using
Your peers are your best avenue to understanding what apps are worth your consideration. Who else has a better idea of how you work and what tools will add value? The most innovative accountants love to explore new ways to complete a process more efficiently. Furthermore, they love to share—few industries are as collegial as accounting.
You can interact with your peers in countless ways—find a relevant LinkedIn group, attend an accountant roundtable, submit a question to an online influencer like #StephQA, or just ask another practitioner for a catch-up over coffee. Whatever your issue might be, someone out there has been through the exact same—and have found the solution!
Peers will give you unbiased advice, but if you’re considering a particular app you can also reach out to the vendor directly. This is one of the quickest ways get a feel for whether a product is right for your firm.
Eat your own dog food (and get your team to eat from the bowl too)
Before turning a client on to a new app, make sure you try it yourself first. Learn how it works, how it behaves, and what its shortcomings are. You don’t necessarily need to be an expert, but you do need to know what it is like to work with. Recommending technology that is not right for a client can have serious consequences.
If you’re introducing a new app to your internal team, make sure they are all on board. Give them adequate training, provide the time to listen and respond to their objections, keep them all involved with any onboarding process, and make sure they are all using the product from day one.
An effective method of introducing a new process is to handpick a Change Champion from the team—someone who will lead the way and be the go-to person for any queries related for the new technology. Providing this level of ownership and trust can work wonders.
If you are struggling to grow your firm, we challenge you to implement at least one of these ideas. If you do, we’d love to hear the progress and result. You can also reach out so one of our advisors can help you out.
Also, if your firm has implemented any other strategies to select technology,we’d love to hear from you.