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Which Comes First: Technology or Process?

It's the age-old question for firms: which comes first, technology or process? Summer is the season for implementing new technology in our profession, and many firms invest in new technology without considering how their processes will need to change.

As a result, they wind up trying to shoe-horn their existing processes into the technology, leading to complications and failures in implementation.

Fortunately, there's a right way to approach selecting and implementing new tech. So let's explore how to find the right balance between technology and process to create a more seamless transition.

Selecting your technology

A smooth implementation starts long before you sign a contract—even before you select the new application. It starts before you begin evaluating potential solutions when you list your requirements.

Build a thorough list of requirements for what you want the technology to do for your firm. Then you can evaluate solutions that meet (or at least come close to) your needs.

Keep in mind, though, that you will have to compromise. No technology solution will have and do everything you want exactly how you want it.

You can join user groups, attend user conferences, and provide feedback on the updates and features you'd like to see. However, if the technology doesn't do something you want it to do, it's not easy to make it happen.

Updating your processes

Technology is only as valuable as the processes used to support it. When a new application doesn't fit your existing processes, you must adjust your methods to the solution's capabilities.

Too often, CPA firms make the mistake of trying to adjust their new technology to fit their existing processes. This is not only impractical but can lead to a range of problems. Instead, firms should begin by examining the capabilities of the technology and adjusting their processes accordingly.

Fortunately, many solution providers now incorporate process improvement into their sales and implementation services, recognizing that a solution that works for one firm may not work for another. By bringing in expertise from people who've seen hundreds of implementations and know the best practices for using the software, you can gain invaluable perspective on optimizing your processes for the selected solution.

Getting feedback from your peers—other firms who've implemented this technology—is also helpful. What worked for them? What pain points did they encounter? How did they have to adjust their processes? This kind of feedback helps you learn from the experience of others, making the implementation process smoother and more successful.

Be cautious about customization

When faced with options that don't fit requirements exactly, some firms opt to build a custom solution. This should only be considered as a last resort.

Building technology takes a lot of time (and financial investment) up front. And chances are, by the time you complete the build, the scope will have changed. You're also responsible for maintaining the solution. As underlying technology, talent, and skills change, you won't have the support of vendors to keep your tech up-to-date and secure.

Some solution providers have APIs that allow users to customize certain things, but again, you're taking on the responsibility for long-term maintenance. Updates on the vendor's side can break that customization, and you'll be back at the drawing board.

Rather than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, look for a balance between the flexibility of the technology and flexibility in your processes.

Don't forget about your processes as you explore and implement new tech in your firm this summer. By involving your solution providers in redesigning and maximizing the capabilities of the selected technology, you're setting your firm up for success. Remember, it's not technology versus process; it's technology and process. One can't be successful without the other. By finding the right balance and incorporating both into your firm's strategy, you're setting yourself up for success.


Could you benefit from structure and accountability as you strive to push your firm forward?

The Boomer Process Circle is a peer group of top Process and Lean Six Sigma leaders in the accounting profession who share tools and resources for pushing change within their firms. Apply now to tap into the experience and expertise you need to lead the charge for continuous improvement.


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.

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