Technology: Not the End, But a Good First Step

Cloud-based systems such as QBO, Xero, and Intacct, as well as many new proprietary systems, are gaining a foothold, FINALLY! Heck, my little company has done five conversions just this month alone. This is a great thing to witness. Now the next step.  

Technology can save you money if you adapt your internal operations to manage the technology. Today we can use apps and cloud-based servers and systems to manage firm work.  This time of year brings a plethora of new apps, updates to current apps, and the push to get accountants and bookkeepers to utilize them in their firm internally, as well as externally, with clients.  

As well as managing my own bookkeeping company, I've also handled support for an app called FileThis. Functioning in both capacities, I not only worked with CPA firms supporting a specific app, but also handled much support for the apps that we use in performing accounting functions for the CPAs that have us do the daily accounting tasks. Consequently, there were, and still are, weekly conversations on how to best implement and manage these technologies.  I have written before about the need to train on reviewer skills rather than data entry skills.  That is imperative and will only grow as more and more apps cross-integrate their capabilities.  So once you, as a firm, have picked your software stack, or, as some call it, an ecosystem (we call it our LBD or Little Black Dress), my question is this: what are you doing internally as well as externally to change your operational functions?

The cost of technology alone should make a firm want to do this. Tax returns are pretty much workflowed out in detail. The mass of paper and tasks are moved through a firm quickly and efficiently.  In a few short weeks, every year, firms handle a considerable amount of work.  They prepare and train,  they gear up like a sports team and do a great job at getting a lot of detailed work done in a small amount of time. Technology today is removing a lot of those manual steps and, frankly, commoditizing the regular tax return to the point where the expected profits no longer warrant the ramp-up costs.  

So the new buzz words are business advisory, value billing, flat rate and firm of the future. Yea!!! A Plan B for the adjustment from tax as the main source of income to a new paradigm. Unfortunately, slowing down the old ramp-up and tax-focused organizational functions are not as easily managed.  

Don’t try to work around the technologies you and your clients have invested in. Do create new internal firm regulations to obtain the optimal flow of data in an organized fashion. The apps that are highly used have great support and a good working theory of best practices. Don’t try to reinvent them to fit your organization. Don’t just throw an app out to your team and say "make it so.” Hey, Jean-Luc, you went to the conference, bought the Kool-aid, came back to your firm and said this is how we are going to to do it then went into your ready room. Not cool!  

Look at your current organization? Does it fit the new paradigm? Is everyone on board and, if not, why?  What can you do as the captain of your ship to bring the crew in alignment? How do your people, who interact with your clients, communicate the usage and best practices to them?  

If you think just buying the technology will make it so, I am sorry, but AI is still not spot on and once it does become so…. Well, that will be a whole new paradigm.