After a decade of working in the accounting software
industry one thing I have observed in firms regarding implementation of new
software: If you try to plug a new system into an old process without adjustments
to the workflow you will see little to no significant productivity gains.
The effects are wasted time and money on a new system
without achieving the productivity gains you had envisioned, frustrated staff
by going through the implementation and discomfort of learning something new
and potentially creating more resistance for future initiatives you want to put
in place. But it doesn’t have to go this
way. There are key steps you can take
to ensure your new technology has the intended purpose, which is: makes your
job easier, keeps you in compliance, enhances productivity, and generates more
After being a consultant to accounting firms for many years
here are some keys steps to help you successfully implement new technology:
- Create the Vision: The decision maker had the opportunity to ask all the questions and see what the new system is capable of. But many times, choosing and implementing a new technology solutions are assigned to a "champion”, or team of people, who may not have that same vision or perspective as the decision maker. It is critical when rolling out new technology that everyone shares and understands the vision and purpose of the new technology. If possible, you should ask the vendor you partnered with to do a demonstration for your staff. Or, if you can, do the demonstration yourself, so that your staff can better understand how the new software will change and improve their workflow. Don’t get too detailed at this point. You want to get your staff excited, so they understand why you are making these improvements and why they will have to go through a transition process.
- Get your staff’s Input: If you are like most firms everyone has their own way of working and completing tasks. Before making the assumptions that everyone does it the same way, or the way outlined in your staff manuals, get everyone to map out their current workflow. Encourage honesty, not what they think you want to see, so you really know what steps are being done now. Perhaps have them submit anonymously if you are concerned they won’t truly share their process; you may discover more efficient methods and techniques that you can now implement firm wide.
- Design a New Process: Discuss the various workflows submitted by everyone and then design the new process, eliminating steps the new technology will replace and adding steps that may be required.
Hold Everyone Accountable: Acknowledge that people are creatures of habit and can easily go back to old ways of doing things, especially when old clients are pressuring staff to do things the old way. Some tips on rolling out the new process: document everything; meet regularly to allow for question and answer time; and make adjustments as needed.
- Don’t forget to analyze the hardware that will be instrumental in the process. An example is a firm that wanted to make the process paperless because they were sharing information across two offices, but they were finding many staff were subverting that effort and printing to paper, taking extra time and raising costs. Upon examination, some staff were doing this because their monitors were too small and they could not see the data on the source documents, so they were printing out the work. By providing larger displays, they were able to participate in the new process.
- Also be open to some staff member’s roles changing. With an adjustment in procedures, some staff may now be better suited to serve in a different capacity.
- You may need to have a third party assist you
with this analysis. When you are
especially close to the project, it can be difficult to objectively reorganize
and redesign. A consultant can often
times bring new insight and perspective to expedite the transition.
Communicate the Value: Ensure everyone knows the value this new technology brings to them, the clients and the firm. This way people understand why these changes are taking place.
Technology is continually improving and changing. This does not mean you should be overhauling
your firm every time there’s a change. But tweaking the process to continually
improve is important. Monitor product
updates to determine what works for your services and implement those. Attend events outside your firm to learn
about relevant, new technologies in the profession and how others have
successfully implemented those new solutions.
Samantha Mansfield is a Senior Marketing Manager for CPA2Biz,
which includes teaching classes and facilitating webinars on topics pertinent
to the accounting profession. Prior to
joining CPA2Biz, Samantha was a consultant at Thomson Reuters, assisting firms
on workflow design, web service and practice management implementations. She has a passion for helping firms grow and
become more profitable, which is why she joined the CPA2Biz
team, a technology subsidiary of the AICPA.