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Create a Long-Term Tech Strategy in a Hybrid Firm


Accounting firm leaders long resisted the idea of a workforce that was either completely remote or spent only a few days in the office per week. Because of the pandemic, though, resisting remote work is no longer an option. In this article, Boomer Consulting's Amanda Wilkie focuses on the technology plan you need to put in place to ensure the success of your hybrid firm.

Sep 16th 2021
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How well did your firm’s accounting technology support your team and clients during the pandemic? In many accounting firms, the technology plan quickly shifted to what can best be described as “snatch and grab” in March of 2020. Of course, doing the best you can during a worldwide pandemic isn’t a good long-term strategy. And going back to 2019’s technology plan isn’t an option. 

Consider these statistics from the Work From Home Policies and Practices survey conducted by executive compensation firm Pearl Meyer in February and March of 2021:

  • 33 percent of the U.S.-based workforce will work remotely after the pandemic
  • 80 percent of organizations say their shift to remote work during the pandemic was successful
  • 40 percent reported an increase in productivity
  • 36 percent of organizations have decided to reduce the number and/or size of their offices or facilities

In August, Joe Ballantyne, co-founder and VO of Sales of Suralink, joined Boomer Consulting, Inc. for a webinar to discuss strategic plans for remote technology and help firms identify the tools that will make us successful.

Lessons Learned from 2020

For years, accounting firm leaders resisted the growing trend of working remotely. It was common to hear things like, “Well, that might work in other industries, but not public accounting,” or, “Our clients would never go for that.” Of course, when the pandemic forced their hands, those same firm leaders had to make it work.

Some of the lessons learned from the experience include:

  • The future is in the cloud. Firms that had already invested in cloud-based technology were better prepared to transition to remote work. However, those that had to figure out how to adapt their on-site solutions had a much tougher time.
  • Digital workflows are better than “paperless” workflows. Firms that thought they had paperless workflows realized just how much they relied on paper when people weren’t in the office to open mail, collect client documents and pass files between team members. Paperless isn’t necessarily paper-free.
  • Technology supports hiring and business development. Prior to the pandemic, business development and hiring generally depended on geography. Now that firms have figured out how to handle these tasks virtually, their growth and talent strategies can expand worldwide.

Assessing Your Existing Technology

Since remote and hybrid work is here to stay, it’s time to look and what has and hasn’t worked in the past year and a half and look for opportunities to improve. Consider these four areas.

1. Scalability

As 2020 demonstrated, your firm’s technology needs can change quickly. So, firms need to invest in solutions that can scale up or down as their needs change.

2. Client Experience

Technology isn’t the solution to delivering a great client experience, but it is an enabler. According to PWC, 82 percent of U.S. customers want more human interaction in the future. We need to focus on technology that supports human interaction seamlessly across platforms.

3. Having Enough of the Right Equipment

Having employees “check out” laptops and other remote-friendly equipment is a thing of the past, and asking employees to use their own hardware for work is risky — not to mention a support nightmare.

A firm needs to have enough laptops, docking stations, monitors and other equipment to support everyone in the firm no matter where they’re working on any given day. If you want to allow some level of customization, consider offering employees a menu of acceptable options, such as one large monitor or two smaller monitors. This gives employees some control over the equipment in their homes while also giving your IT department the ability to support it.

4. Licenses

Prior to the pandemic, firms might have cut costs by having employees share licenses for software and VPNs. However, this is not efficient in a remote or hybrid environment, and it presents a huge security risk.

It's crucial to figure out your firm’s technology plan moving forward. Now is not the time to become complacent about the tools and software you use to support your team and clients. Reflect on what has gone well and what needs improvement. Create goals to minimize the barriers that employees face when working remotely and that clients face when interacting with your firm. This will ensure that you'll be better prepared for whatever the future holds.