If analysis paralysis has gotten in the way of upgrading IT in your office, let this post be your guide. Accounting firm technology need not be complex or expensive at the start of a transformation, and even a small investment might quickly pay for itself. Here are my suggestions for how to make strides towards becoming a more advanced and productive CPA firm.
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Modernize Your Hardware
It’s 2019, and your team is hungry for equipment that allows them to work as comfortably and productively as possible. Clunky hardware isn’t just an eyesore—it increases your odds of tech malfunctions and downtime. Staff who have grown used to their current setups might not even know what they’re missing. Hook them up with the latest in hardware, and they’ll be happier than ever to log in every morning.
Staff who sit at a desk all day will be immensely grateful for new, large-screen monitors. A 43-inch monitor is a must for every team member in the office, easily allowing up to four simultaneous displays. With reputable choices ranging in price from $700-$1,000, this is an easy way to wow your firm while making productivity skyrocket.
If you want to enable your team to work from anywhere—and you should—make an investment in high-performance laptops. Your team will marvel at their ability to easily work from home, the cabin, or a client site. Higher mobility doesn’t mean lost productivity. In fact, reducing a long commute or enabling an employee to care for a sick family member at home may actually increase billed hours.
Elevate Your Software
If you’re not looking into software that has changed in even the last year, you’re behind. There has been a lot of disruption, and your software could be holding you back in ways you don’t realize. Test new software out for yourself, and it may be something you eventually want to share with clients.
Say yes to sunk costs
You’re wringing your hands over the purchases and licensing costs of your existing software, aren’t you? Don’t let those numbers deter you from doing what’s best in the long run—or even in the next six months. Stick with your software only if it’s really working for you, not just because “it’s how we’ve always done it.” It’s time to forget about past expenditures and start fresh with apps that allow your team to work at the top of their game. If you’re not sold yet on getting new software, check to see whether your current software has capabilities that you simply haven’t discovered yet.
Your business needs should drive technology investments, but you should also stay aware of what new software could add to your firm’s capabilities. If you’re not much of a fan of any of your software, start with replacing the one that bogs your team down the most. It could be outdated or not supported well, or the root of countless complaints. There is likely a cloud alternative out there that will suit you better. It might even cost less than what you’re currently using and lead to a boost in productivity.
Automate Your Back Office
Don’t let “automation” scare your team into thinking “job cuts.” Define it instead as a means to greater productivity for all and enabling you and your team to spend more time building quality relationships with your clients. If you’d looked two years ago at trying to update a manual process, there would have been nothing out there. Chances are, today there is.
Here to stay
When menial tasks fall by the wayside, possibilities abound for newer, more innovative ways to run your office. You’ll be able to parlay employees’ existing talents into greater responsibilities in customer service, marketing, or operational management. Up-skilling or re-skilling your human capital is the best way to ensure your team will adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the accounting industry.
Commit to finding one great new tool—like Gusto! Gusto’s software has increased my company’s productivity immensely by being our cloud-based payroll, benefits, and human resources management solution—all while watching our employee count rise.
Upskill Your People
Want employees who feel valued? Support them in developing professionally. Connect with an external expert who can give you some fresh perspective on what your employees might need. There are better ways to do what you’re doing.
Show your appreciation
Talent worth keeping will jump at the opportunity to hone their skills and learn new ones. Often, employees are not aware of what practice partners are willing to offer in terms of training and continuing education. Software vendors sometimes provide in-depth training as part of each user’s licensing agreement. Take advantage of free perks such as these.
Learn and lead
Don’t discount learning and development when you’re improving your tech. Maximize your return by sending the most eager learners to a conference or higher-priced educational opportunity. When they return, ask them to present highlights of their experience to the rest of the team. Five to 10 takeaways from a conference are enough to steer your company in a new, positive, and more profitable direction.
Accept that when it comes to security, your people are your weakest link. Making them stronger is on you. If you’ve got enough on your plate, identify a conscientious person at your firm who could single-handedly “own” the security seat at your firm. Task that person with tightening up security processes at your firm.
Start with mobile devices
As long as you’re considering training your team, hire someone to make them more secure on their phones. Don’t wait for a data breach on an employee’s mobile device, which could ultimately cost you tens of thousands of dollars and your hard-won reputation.
Paying security forward
Take your newfound knowledge and pass it on to your clients. Help them tackle at least one issue related to phone security, such as two-factor authentication or securely transferring files. Take precautions now to ensure fewer client headaches later.
If you haven’t contemplated how your team communicates, it could be time to take inter-office communication to the next level. Think about the ways you can segment groups—for example, by department or project types—and find a way to let these smaller factions share information.
Discard the inefficiencies
“Reply All” isn’t the only way, CPAs. Firms seeking less inbox clutter can explore streamlines internal communications with apps. One such app, Slack, calls itself “a collaboration hub where you and your team can work together to get things done.”
Pick a lane
Slack organizes online correspondence with multiple “channels” for subsets of the team. Channels can be split by department or project, and no one will stop you if you create a channel devoted to cat memes. Well, I won’t, anyway.
The One You Want
Select any one of these low-key ideas for improving your IT to get started, or listen to the ideas your employees have for how to improve technology—either from school or previous firms they’ve worked for. If your experience is anything like the CPAs I work with, these small changes will build on each other and give you the confidence to take your firm to ever higher technological heights.