What do you think of the solution providers that deliver technology to your firm? Are they merely vendors that want to sell you products you may or may not want to buy? Or are they strategic business partners—a resource of knowledge and experience you can tap into when making technology decisions or working through process improvements?
When we work with firms to ensure their processes are consistent, efficient and focused on client value, we encourage involving their solution providers in the conversation. Here's why and how to let your solution providers truly be a partner in technology and process changes.
Gains from including solution providers in process improvement
Your solution providers have experience working with businesses of all shapes and sizes. They may work exclusively with CPA firms or organizations in business and industry. Either way, they have rich experiences from which they've developed best practices and in-depth knowledge of what has worked and what hasn't for other firms in your situation.
This benefit extends beyond your current situation and into future challenges as well. Your solution providers are vested in your success and motivated to bring solutions beyond the product or service they're known for. They can help you look ahead to identify trends and challenges and include your ideas for improvements and innovations in future rollouts.
How to leverage your solution provider relationships
Have regular conversations. How often do you talk to your solution providers? If the discussions revolve mainly around renewing your licenses or subscriptions, you could miss out on significant learning opportunities. Of course, it can be difficult to prioritize talking to solution providers when you're busy maintaining client relationships. That's why connecting with your solution provider at conferences and events is a valuable opportunity. Without the distractions of the office, you have time to collaborate, share knowledge and experiences, and develop a relationship with your solution provider that can benefit your process and technology decisions for years to come.
Seek input on technology and process decisions. When implementing new solutions, involve your solution provider in the decision-making process early. Talk to them about the efficiency or functionality you're looking for. In many cases, they may have suggestions that will allow you to leverage your existing technology without investing in new solutions.
Build your peer network. If your firm is working through a challenging situation involving process or technology, ask your solution provider to connect you with peers who can share lessons from a similar situation. These connections allow you to minimize challenges and maximize your success.
Get input on best practices. Your solution providers have likely developed best practices for using their technology. These best practices won't be your final procedural manual—often, best practices developed by the vendor are one-size-fits-all. Their best practices might include steps to help you maximize the usage of their software. They won't necessarily consider your firm's unique processes and how the software integrates with other technologies. Still, these best practices can be helpful when developing your own standard processes, as they can help you get the most value from your technology.
Include the right person internally. Who is the point person for developing and maintaining relationships with your solution providers? Often, that role falls to someone in IT by default, but that may not be the best option. The people doing the work are best positioned to help develop processes and address issues with the technology.
Are your solution providers strategic business partners? If not, work on changing that relationship. Collaborating with your solution provider will ensure that the technology in your firm supports your firm's processes and lead to greater success for both parties.
As Shareholder and Consultant for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Arianna Campbell helps accounting firms challenge the status quo by leading process improvement initiatives that result in increased profitability and client satisfaction. She also facilitates the development and cultivation of future firm leaders in The Boomer Leadership Academy™. Internally, she blends concepts from Lean Six Sigma and leadership development to drive innovation and continuous improvement within the company. Arianna also enjoys the opportunity to share knowledge through regular contributions to the Boomer Bulletin and other industry-wide publications, as well as public speaking at industry conferences.