Sharing Knowledge Inside the CPA Firm IT Department

You’ve no doubt seen a group of teenagers standing around in a circle with phones in hand and thumbs engaged while their mouths remain shut. No, it is not because they are in study hall. I’ve seen a similar scenario in CPA firm technology departments – colleagues sitting side by side, instant messaging each other vs. speaking out loud.

Verbal communication seems to be on the decline – this is unfortunate, but we can at least be happy that there is effective communication occurring via chat. Knowledge sharing is big in CPA firms. We have our formal tools for research and portals for knowledge base documentation. We’ve recently added another tool called Socialcast after finding out about it from our friends at Xcentric. Socialcast is a “real-time enterprise collaboration platform that unites your company’s people, data and applications in real time.” We’ve started using the free version for what we would call a pervasive chat session amongst our IT team members. Our IT people are not always in the same location so this tool offers a way to share the topic du jour with all those in the department.  Some of the items you might see streaming through the session include:
1) Help desk issues that are becoming more common that day and the related fix
2) System or software outage notifications
3) Brainstorming for topics for our regular IT meetings
4) Sharing industry articles – when I tweet topics that apply to CPA firm technology, I’ll put in a hashtag so the content automatically shows up in our Socialcast feed.

Believe it or not, email is becoming “too slow” for some people. Not because the servers aren’t relaying the messages properly, but because end users expect responses faster than what etiquette applied to email demands – about 24 hours usually. Using Socialcast cuts down on the amount of email we use. Socialcast for us is mostly about the here and now, even though it does save history and you can search prior content. Hashtag usage makes it easy to find the content you seek.

There is so much more to it, we are just beginning to find how we can use it in other areas. Like any IT project, you just have to play with it for awhile and see if it fits your organization. We have found this to be true in our IT department and will be opening it up to other areas of our firm as well. As long as your users embrace the tool, it will find success in your firm.

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Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.  He is also in charge of talent management and retention at his firm.  A background of IT and Human Resources helps Jim bridge the gap of technology complexities with end users who just want their computer to work so they can be chargeable.  Being a very cheap (frugal sounds better) person himself, he is always looking for ways to save dollars at his firm.  He is Director of Education for the Association for Accounting Administration and past Technology Committee member of the Ohio Society of CPA's.  He often leads industry CPE events on the topics of Information Technology, CPA firm practice management and human resources/recruiting. Find out more about Jim on LinkedIn.

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