Technology Consultants Must Lead to Succeed

I recently talked with Doug Sleeter about the current state of the small business consulting profession. We talked about how consultants have great opportunities for competitive differentiation by taking full responsibility for the success of the entire accounting and business management systems for their clients. So I asked Doug to write his thoughts on the matter. -- Gail Perry, Editor-in-Chief
 
By Douglas Sleeter
 
Are you leading your clients? Or are you merely serving them?
 
In this ever-changing world of technology and solutions in the small business accounting world, it's natural for consultants to be overwhelmed by all the vendors in the market who claim to have the best solution in their market space. If you're like most software consultants, you're constantly flooded with pitches from vendors about their new products and solutions. With all of this "noise," staying "smart" about what's best for your clients is a never-ending challenge. 
 
But I have some questions for you. When you think about your typical client, considering the skills of the client's staff in the areas of accounting software, systems, and technology, how would you answer these questions?
  • Who is the best person to help make the right technology decisions for the client? 
  • Who knows more about the available solutions in the market?
  • Who is the best judge of how appropriate each solution is for the client's business? 
  • Who has the depth of understanding of your client's business functions?
  • Who knows the most about how your client's workflows affect and are affected by software solutions? 
  • Who has the most knowledge and skills in accounting, software, and how to ensure the overall system accurately serves the needs of the business?
The answer to all of the above questions must be you  their accounting software consultant!
 
The responsibility that comes with being the consultant is huge. You must lead your clients to help them plan and implement the best solutions for their business. And I'm not talking just which accounting software to use or which chart of accounts to use. I'm saying the consultant must take responsibility for the ENTIRE system, including accounting, add-ons, the web store, the payment gateways, the online payroll, the remote time sheet data entry, and any other LAN or web-based applications that feed data to the back-end accounting system.
 
If you don't have complete command over all of these systems and how they interact with each other, and with the general ledger, you will almost certainly have trouble, probably sooner than later. Most likely, the client will expect you to have prevented whatever problem occurs. 

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