Ten tips on how to implement new technology in your practice
Carl Reader, Head of Accounting at Practice Ignition, shares his insights on how to maximise your chances of successfully introducing new technology within your firm
There are many different catalysts that might cause a firm to move to the cloud or change the apps that they use (if they're already operating within a cloud-based system). That said, a number of common themes usually appear: the desire to streamline solutions, improve internal efficiency and save costs through appropriately leveraging automation.
This push is also usually championed by a key individual or individuals –but that doesn’t necessarily mean that these technological changes will stick in the long term.
You can’t simply implement a solution, invite a number of users and hope that it’ll work out exactly as intended. Instead, it usually results in the exact opposite – and projects end up having to be abandoned in their entirety.
There are two main steps to effectively making technology stick in the long term: appropriate research and effective implementation. Follow the steps listed below to maximise your chances of successfully introducing new technology within your firm.
The step-by-step process
1. Ask as many questions as possible
You’ve likely heard of the phrase ‘there are no dumb questions’. As such, try and ask every question that you have about the solution, even if you think you might know the answer – it’s always best to know for certain. It might be a good idea to brainstorm potential questions before your demo call just so you can be sure that you don’t miss anything out.
2. Utilise free trial periods
Most tech solutions have a free trial period and, even if they don’t, I suggest you ask for one. When you sign up for the free trial, make sure you do it at a time when you’ll actually use the product; for example, don’t sign up over Christmas or when you’re on holiday. Give the solution an appropriate amount of time and attention so that you can really get used to it; this is critical in working out if it’s right for your firm.
3. Get feedback from your peers
One of the fantastic things about the accountancy profession today is that firm owners are far more collaborative than ever before. Before committing, why not ask your account manager to point you in the direction of other users who might be willing to share how they’ve implemented the software and their user journey so far? Also, try checking out user groups on social media for the provider. Most software vendors have active communities and you’ll be able to gauge the responsiveness of the team and how they deal with their existing customers.
4. Get demos from the professionals
Don’t just rely on online videos and try to work everything out for yourself. Chances are, you’ll learn far more by actually speaking to representatives from the technology provider itself –so sign up for a proper demonstration where they can take you through the tool’s end-to-end functionality and answer all your queries.
5. Purchase the right subscription levels
Most technological solutions have multiple different subscription options according to the levels of functionality that they offer. However, most people also want to save costs. If there’s a subscription level that best suits your needs but is not necessarily the cheapest option, it’s still probably the best one for you. Remember that if this is implemented correctly, you should be saving money anyway by having better internal processes, becoming more efficient and automating time-consuming work.
6. Make sure that your apps integrate
If automation and efficiency are your goals (which they should be), then you need to make sure that your apps all talk to one another. Gone are the days where you use only one piece of software. Chances are, you’ll have multiple apps in your stack and these should all have a level of integration that, at a minimum, means they share the same client database. If you have to consistently re-enter the same information in multiple places, not only will you lose your efficiency gains from the cloud but you’ll also run a greater risk of error. In an ideal world, they’d also go one step further, and each app would be able to trigger workflow and processes in other apps too.
7. Learn about Zapier
If there are tools that you want to use but that don’t have a native integration (i.e. don’t naturally talk to each other), then Zapier may be your answer. Zapier is fantastic at getting different tools to work together so it’s definitely worth trying.
8. Assign an internal champion(s)
This person will learn all they possibly can so that they understand the product inside out. They’ll be the go-to person within the business who will make sure that the app is not only working but also being used properly. If your team is large enough then I’d suggest that you have a different person for each app otherwise someone might become overburdened with their role as the resident tech guru!
9. Train your team and bring them on the journey with you
Don’t let your team fumble through by themselves. Make sure they get the training they need to properly use the technology and ensure they understand why it’s important, explaining the many benefits that it can offer. Include them in the decision-making and implementation processes. Inclusion and education are the two core pillars behind ensuring that the technology is widely (and correctly) used – so make sure you don’t neglect them.
10. If it's a big change, hire a professional
If you’re undertaking a wholesale overhaul of your systems and you don’t have the right technical expertise in house to get it all working properly, engage an integrator to get the job done. There’s no point in making a mistake. This will only lead to frustration, delays and rising project costs.
Remember: Technology is always changing
Technology is ever-evolving – that’s a given. While constant change is disruptive and to be avoided, you also have to remember that it’s important to stay as nimble as appropriate for your business.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. However, balance this with common sense. App overwhelm can end up confusing and annoying your colleagues, significantly damaging their productivity, so don’t just plump for every shiny new solution that lands in the app marketplace.
About the Author:
Carl Reader is chairman at multi award-winning firm d&t and Head of Accounting (EMEA) at Practice Ignition. Carl serves as Chair of the Practitioner Panel at ACCA, and is the author of BOSS IT.
Carl is widely recognised as a thought leader in the accounting profession, speaking globally to accountancy audiences about a range of topics. He has been recognised as one of the leading voices on social media by ICAEW, is regularly featured in the accounting press, and was formerly a member of the Accountancy Age 35 under 35.
This blog is one of a series of articles from our commercial partners.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of ICAS.