By PJ Bishop, Vice-President for Partners, Accountants & Alliances, Africa & Middle East at Sage
By now, you’ve probably settled into the new, COVID-defined workplace: your team works from everywhere, you’ve traded face-to-face customer meetings for Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls, and you’re more comfortable using cloud technology than you might have been seven to eight months ago.
If you’re still adapting and updating your accounting technology, there are four key areas you need to focus on to ensure a successful implementation of your digital strategy.
1. Customers: Start with the low-hanging fruit
It’s crucial that your existing customers are compatible with your new way of working, even those that are tech averse. Focus the first phase of your implementation on customers that already use cloud-enabled accounting solutions or who have expressed an interest in exploring the benefits of new technologies.
Some customers may not be as open to changing how they’ve always done things. Perhaps they see accounting as a chore, or they’re comfortable using paper-based ledgers and receipt shoeboxes.
That said, half (49%) of respondents to Sage’s Practice of Now research have formally reviewed their business practices in the past six months, and 97% recognise that updating their technology has had positive impacts over the past five years.
Tip for success: Create a series of scripts that you and your team can use when talking to these very different customer segments about your digital transformation and how it affects them. Emphasise the benefits and answer any questions they have about the implementation.
2. Team members: Train everyone
As with your customers, some colleagues will take to your new software and systems quickly, while others will resist change for as long as possible.
A common misperception is that all accounting solutions are similar, so spending time and money on training seems like a waste. But without proper training, people will instinctively come to dislike the new solution and revert to your old systems, which could be disastrous for your digital transformation plan.
When it comes to training, it’s not only about technology but also about the skills that build better customer relationships. Nearly half (43%) of accountants say they are training or planning to train around financial business advisory services. The same percentage are open to recruiting from non-traditional backgrounds to bring these and other skills – such as project management and customer service – in house.
Ensure everyone gets full training – even seasoned accounting solution users could learn new ways to do things faster and make their lives easier.
Tip for success: Software as a service (SaaS) providers offer free or affordable software training and consulting. If budgets are tight, train a couple of people, who can in turn show everyone else on the team how things work.
3. Technology: Prioritise security
One of the biggest attractions of cloud-enabled accounting is that your data is accessible from anywhere, on any device. This lets you save on IT costs because your team can use their own smartphones and tablets for work tasks. But this also introduces security and compliance risks under the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).
Tip for success: If your team was largely office-based before COVID-19 and is now working from anywhere and everywhere, it’s a good idea to implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy and educate your people on basic IT security, like not to share passwords and only installing apps and software from reputable developers and companies.
4. Culture: Take everyone with for the ride
Digital transformation will change how you work, which will naturally impact your culture.
In removing the burden of admin and repetitive tasks from your team’s responsibilities, you also free up potential and capacity to introduce new business advisory services, upskill your people, and serve your customers faster and more efficiently.
Tip for success: It’s important that you communicate these benefits to your team and your customers, so everyone buys into your digital transformation plan, which is critical for success. Keep communication channels open, listen to feedback, and adapt your strategy as you progress.
Remember, in undertaking this journey, you’re preparing your practice for the future – and whatever that brings in terms of evolving and increasing customer demands. Don’t rush it and take the time to carefully consider all aspects and stakeholders.
This article was published in partnership with Sage.