What to look for in assessing technology solutions for your practice
Session run by Eriona Bajrakurtaj (UK) and Anastasia Chalkidou (Greece) and Heather Smith (Aus)
Going digital? We’ve got you covered
How to assess technology solutions for your practice
If you’re thinking about software-as-a-service solutions to take your accounting practice digital, one of the first things you’ll discover is that there’s a lot of choice out there. Choice is a great thing, but it can be hard to work out what it is you need. But it doesn’t have to be a headache! In our ACCA Practice Room, accountants from all over the world discussed what to think about, why, and how to make sure you’re making the right decision. These were their top tips:
Figure out the why
Before you go for the technology itself, figure out why you want it - since that will shape what you buy. Do you want it to automate repetitive tasks? Improve collaboration between your staff? Enhance your compliance? There are lots of different things software can provide, and not all software is equal. By taking the time to work out why you want it, you’re more likely to select the right product.
Make a plan
Going digital isn’t all about the buy. You need to make an implementation plan. Does the software provider have someone who will help you? Are there online seminars about using the technology? You’ll also need to consider things like how long it will take your staff to learn how to use it - and your clients too. And it’s important to think about whether the software has the capability to integrate with applications you might want to use in the future, as your business grows.
Get your staff on board
Just because you like the tech, doesn’t mean your team will! It’s really important to ask your staff what they want from software and think about how they’ll use it in their day-to-day work. If they can have a hand in choosing the tech, they’re more likely to be happy with what you buy. Employees are your most valuable resource, so it’s key to have them on board from the get-go.
Budget time as well as money
Implementing new software takes time. You’ll have to move your data, train yourself, train your staff, and fix teething problems - at a minimum! So before you pick your tech, make sure you understand how long it’s going to take before lift-off.
Talk to other people
Your peers and competitors will have either made their tech decisions already, or be in the same boat as you. Try talking to as many people as you can. Different technologies suit different types of firms and clients, so reaching out into your wider network could provide a lot of helpful intel.
Consider hiring an expert “ cloud integrator”
Some software providers have experts who can work with you in-house for a period of time. But if they don’t, then it may be worth hiring a ‘cloud integrator integrator’ - a fancy name for someone who can help you take your business digital on the platform of your choice. They’ll be experts in a lot of the teething issues you’ll face as you make the shift.
Make sure it’s easy access
It’s not only you who has to use the technology - but your clients and auditors too. Make sure that whatever you pick, clients and auditors can easily extract the data they need to get their side of the job done.
Think about security
Some software programmes come with built-in high security. But others don’t - particularly smaller brands. Make sure that you think about how secure the core tech is, and whether the applications that integrate into it are secure too. And then there’s your staff and clients - it’s worth considering security there too. A good starting point is two-factor authentication.
Consider what happens if you want to move on
Sometimes software doesn’t work out, or your business changes and you need something that the software can’t provide. Moving on is only easy if you have a few months of access to your data after you make the shift. Be sure that there are clauses baked into every contract to give you access to your data if you leave.
Test run applications
Most software now comes with plenty of applications that integrate into the core platform. One of the best things you can do is try before you buy, and test run the applications with a select group of employees and clients before you roll it out to the wider business or configure it to your needs.
A forever beta attitude
Attitude is important. As well as seeing software as an investment that will pay off down the line, having a ‘forever beta’ attitude helps too. This means that you see technology not as a one-time fix, but as something you’re constantly improving, upgrading, tweaking, and testing to get the most out of it. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll find one solution to all your problems for years to come. A forever beta attitude keeps you flexible and positive about bumps in the road.