The 1, 2, 3 Practice Management Series
from Added Value Corporation Pty Ltd
There are many issues to consider when developing an IT plan for your practice. Decisions will need to be made.
1a. Attitude to the Cloud – for clients.
What is the firm attitude to using Cloud products for clients? Certainly the trend appears to be away from Desktop Software to cloud applications such as Saasu, MYOB, Xero, Intuit and Reckon Online, especially for client accounting.
1b. Attitude to the Cloud – for the firm’s processes.
Is the firm intending to embrace the Cloud for its own IT processes, such as database, document management, etc?
2a. Firm Champion for – Products you recommend to clients.
I recall one firm who a number of years ago decided they would use three different cloud accounting packages. They then proceeded to use one of each, for their various firm entities. They allocated the accounting to different people. With that skill developed in house, they then appointed each as the “go to” person for the respective products.
2b. Firm Champion for – Products you use.
If you are going to recommend desktop and cloud products, including for accounting and management accounting, it will be necessary to have champions within the firm, for each of those.
3. Shortcuts and Help
It can be really useful to have one person in the office keen to develop shortcuts for all IT processes and willing to distribute these around the firm. Some firms produce a standard list of shortcuts, especially for their accounting and tax software and cloud applications. One way to assist with take up is to email around one or two shortcuts per week.
4. IT Wish List.
Most firms operate an IT wish list, were Partners and staff can nominate products or functions they would like purchased or developed. It is suggested, if some new product is being considered, a form of cost benefit analysis be undertaken. If some new form of management accounting/client reporting is being rolled out, the cost benefit should show how much it will cost to acquire the product, including the likely costs of training and developing promotional materials. Then note the clients to whom this product would be sold and the likely fees that can be charged.
5. What Other IT Resources Exist?
There are many other IT resources which may be used by a firm, e.g. TED talks, which can be used for staff training, especially with communication skills and marketing. Some firms download training videos to run during meetings, so as to vary the training process used. There are video training options, such as Lynda and Grovo, along with free access to many other online training resources.
Decisions will need to be made about the firm’s attitude to owning certain equipment. Firms are increasingly moving to a hosted environment for their IT platform, rather than owning servers and having to update software.
7. Connection with the Firm’s Marketing Plan
Sometimes it appears Social Media is taking over all of the issues to do with firm marketing and IT. Social Media is certainly part of the process, but it needs to be supported by an appropriate website. Some firms have encountered difficulties when non accountants have tried to write blog articles covering accounting and business topics. These should be reviewed by an accountant to ensure the content is correct and appropriate. Make sure not all promotional time goes creating blogs, getting out and meeting clients may bring in more work.
8. Keep Talking about IT
During the development of an IT plan and at various other times, it may be most useful to speak with many practitioners about clever ideas and products they are incorporating into their IT systems. Not all products and ideas will be specifically designed for accounting, tax, superannuation, etc. As with training videos, there are many products designed for other situations, but which can be successfully used inside accounting firms.
Yes, changes in IT systems can be extremely expensive in terms of initial cost and staff time leading to considerable dislocation. It is important to have a good specialist IT consultant and to speak with other practitioners, in order to reduce expensive mistakes.