Practice Room: How to go digital without the hassle
Implementing technology, getting your team engaged, and getting support
Top tips from our ACCA-qualified PR hosts, Eriona Bajrakurtaj and Anastasia Chalkidou
Most, if not all, small to medium accounting practices are implementing digital technologies in some way. And some have found the journey difficult. It takes time, requires expertise, often needs tweaks and fixes, and isn’t easily understood by all. But it doesn’t have to be difficult - with a bit of planning, you can get it right first time. Here’s how.
Consider the ‘why’
First, work out why you want to go digital - since this will likely affect the scope and pace of change at your practice. Is it because of legislation? Or maybe because Covid required more remote working and you weren’t ready? Or maybe you want to have more immediate contact with your clients? Whatever it is, be clear about it, and be clear about the business case - why and how is digitization going to improve service quality. This clear vision will help keep you on track throughout your journey.
Make a plan
The second step is to be clear about what you want to digitize. Make a list of tasks that your firm completes in the ordinary course of business. Then identify where you want to introduce automation. Ask yourself: what is crucial to automate now? What can wait a bit? What’s a luxury?
These answers will determine the order in which you tackle digitization issues.
Pick the right technology for you
There’s a lot of choice out there, but considering the following points can help you narrow the field and find the technology that works for you:
- Make sure it integrates with other technologies you already use, and would like to use in future
- Make sure it meets the security/legal requirements in your jurisdiction
- Make sure the learning curve isn’t too steep for staff - and clients
- Think about how much support you will need to give your clients during the initial data collection stage
- Think about whether you will still be able to use this technology if you expand your firm, work with other clients, or open offices in new jurisdictions
The next step is to identify a person, or couple of people, who can be internal champions of the change. They will help you “sell” digitization to the business and assist their colleagues with queries and problems. Make sure you go through each new piece of technology with your team carefully. Then select a small group of clients to test the new systems and processes with. Once this is up and running smoothly, and your team is on board, you can press ‘go’ and roll it out more widely.
Use third party providers intelligently
You’re most likely to use a third-party provider for your technology solutions. They’re not just there to sell you something, they are experts and can be time and money savers. Make sure that you’re aware of how much support a provider is willing to offer before you sign on the dotted line. And if your provider does give support, be sure to ask them not just about problems but about how to maximize the product’s capabilities. No question is too stupid!
Ultimately, digital technologies are there to alleviate rote work so that you can spend more time being a trusted adviser to your clients. If a technology solution isn’t freeing you up to provide a better service, then you know it is time to move on. But before you do, remember our two top tips: plan and engage!
Links to useful resources:
Practice Connect - Leveraging Technology Solutions
Passionate Practitioner Report; developing the digitalized small and medium practice
Podcast - Starting your digital journey