Soon busy season will be over, and we’ll head into conference season, where firm leaders will hear about the latest and greatest tools and applications in the industry. What happens when they return to their firms? Often, the first thing firm leaders do is task their IT teams with implementing them.
We love to see that kind of enthusiasm for technology, but before diving head-first into product demos, take a step back and think about what you hope to solve by implementing new technology. What’s really driving your technology decisions?
What do you want your tech to do?
Whether you’re evaluating several options on the market or have narrowed your choices down to two and are trying to decide between them, your firm needs to consider what you want the technology to do.
Many firms start by looking at the functionality of the solutions. But when you really get down to it, most solutions designed to fulfill a particular need have the same basic functionality. In fact, most software available today has more functionality than you will ever use.
Rather than starting with what the technologies offer, consider what problem you are trying to solve. For example, do you need it to be cloud-based and integrate with your existing applications? Defining and documenting those requirements upfront can help you narrow down the field of appropriate solutions.
Once you’ve selected tools that meet your requirements, you can start evaluating the additional value you’ll get from the software, such as the ability to build your own API, access to data and more.
One firm we worked with was trying to choose between two well-established tax preparation solutions. Their decision-making process included evaluating how the software calculated certain tax items, such as AMT or NIIT. While firm decision-makers may have felt they were doing their due diligence, the process was a waste of time and didn’t really get them any closer to making a decision. After all, if the software can’t calculate a tax return accurately, the solution provider probably wouldn’t have made it in the business this long.
What made more sense was to consider the firm’s long-term goals. Part of their strategic plan included rapid growth through acquisition. When we looked at the tools being considered, Option A was already being used by 60% of their target firms. It made sense to go with Option A because as the firm merged in new offices, there was a 60% chance the new office would be using the same technology.
How to develop technology requirements
Firm leaders tend to consider all technology decisions as IT’s responsibility. However, building a list of requirements is better handled by a cross-functional team of people who use the software and those who administer it.
For example, even when deciding on tax software, you need input from the audit department, as they may use the software for deferred tax calculations, tax liabilities and more. So cast a wide net to ensure your new solution fits needs across the organization.
Of course, IT should be a part of that team, as they can provide important information on admin and technical requirements. Too often, firm leaders get excited about implementing a tool they heard about at a conference without consulting IT about what it would take to integrate the new tech with the firm’s existing technology stack.
Without a framework of technology requirements, your firm can easily get caught up in a sales pitch. So which would you prefer: salespeople selling you on technology? Or telling the sales team exactly what you need and letting them demonstrate how their software meets those needs?
If you go the first route, you risk being sold technology you don’t need, won’t use and can’t realize the full return on investment. Even the best tool can’t meet your requirements if they’re not defined.
Amanda Wilkie, Consultant at Boomer Consulting, Inc., has a computer science background, but she’s not your average geek. With two decades of technology experience, Amanda has spent 13 years driving change and process improvement through innovative technology solutions working across firms of varying sizes in the public accounting profession. She has held strategic leadership positions in firms ranging from Top 50 to Top 10 including her most recent role as CIO of a Top 30 firm. Amanda is a recognized expert in the profession who regularly speaks and writes on blockchain and cryptocurrency and their impact on the profession.