EA, Owner 1st Step Accounting LLC
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Evaluating Tech Tools to Drive Firm Efficiency

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I have long embraced the latest and greatest technology tools and viewed them as the way to make our lives easier and give us more freedom. So, having this belief from the onset of my firm’s existence clarified that my firm would be tech forward from the start. I know that I was fortunate enough to have a head start on this ideal when the pandemic hit. 

Jan 20th 2021
EA, Owner 1st Step Accounting LLC
In association with
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I understand that there are firms out there that haven’t yet embraced apps or the cloud quite like I already have. So, I want to share with you my proven steps for evaluating technology in order to drive efficiency in my firm, so you can do so in yours.

Write Out Your Process

When it comes to new tools, I find it so much more effective if I outline my process first and then figure out what tasks I should automate today. Instead of trying to build my process around the technology I loved, I used the process I loved and infused the technology. 

Doing this allows me to test apps based on my needs and not buy into all the shiny bells and whistles built into the app that I may not even use or need. Having the process written out also had the side benefit of helping me create standard operating procedures in my firm when I started hiring my team.

Automate, Eliminate or Delegate

Now that you have the process all mapped out, look for ways to automate, eliminate or delegate. Once you find a step in your process to automate, you can narrow down your search for technology tools for just that one task. This is usually when I go to Google and ask, “What are the top 10 tools to [insert task here]?”

Once I have looked at a few sites with reviews, I pay attention to the top 5 or 6 software options that made it to multiple lists. The goal here is to narrow down the number of apps you want to review or test out in a trial so that you can get started quickly.  

Once I have that list, I look for the following features:

  • What is the price? Is it a one-time fee or subscription based? Is it per user or per file?
  • Does it do exactly what I’m looking for? Is the core function of this app exactly what I’m looking for, or is it an added feature or benefit?
  • Can it automate one or more of the steps in my process and workflow?
  • How long do I have to test it out?

As you create your list, pay attention to any apps that genuinely excite you.  I usually start testing these apps first. Then I look at the apps with the shortest trial periods. I will test these last. During testing, if I find an app that meets my needs, I stop looking and put it into action. This keeps me from analysis paralysis and creates efficiency right away. 

Implement Alongside Your Current Method

I usually don’t just automatically switch from my existing process to the new automated one instantly. I test it out over the course of 30 days and I’m looking for a few key things:

  • Did I actually use the new thing? If I find it hard to implement (the self-certified techie), then I know the team and my clients are going to have a hard time adjusting.
  • Is the price right? As a semi solo-practice cost is a big factor, so I make sure that the dollar I’m spending will be a dollar well-earned either in time savings or with an additional revenue stream.
  • Did I hear any compliments?  Clients and staff will notice the new automation and they will celebrate its success or complain when it’s a bust. So, I listen very carefully for any feedback and no feedback is good feedback because that means the transition was seamless.

Pivot When Necessary

Once you use the new automation, life in your practice should be much easier. But if you find that the new app is breaking or causing you and your team stress, pivot immediately.

Pivoting doesn’t mean reverting to the old system, but review what in your new process seems strained. Do you need to make adjustments to the new system, or do you need to scrap it and replace it with a new app altogether?

Sometimes things don’t go as planned and you need to go back to your evaluation list and try out another app that made the list. The most important thing here is to make sure you aren’t spending a bunch of time using a product you or your team aren’t happy with. 

Review, Review and Review Again

Now that the system is up and running and you have worked out the kinks, take some time to evaluate how it has saved you and your team time and money. Put a numerical value on the savings, so that when you review the process in a year, you can ensure it’s still cost effective. 

Generally, apps get better and add features so review the feature set at least annually to see if any of the new app improvements can enhance your existing services. Also, don’t be afraid to do a new Google search to see if your app is still ranking high on those lists you used to decide on the app in the first place.

There could be a new app on the market that is performing the same duties at a much higher level. And no, I’m not encouraging you to dump the app for the new player on the block. 

I’m encouraging you to evaluate if you are using the best tool for the job. As your business grows and morphs, you may need to switch gears and the only way to do so is to review your business processes consistently. 

Intuit Accountant helps tax and accounting professionals make a meaningful difference in their clients’ lives with our industry-leading software — Lacerte®, ProSeries®, ProConnect™ Tax Online and QuickBooks®. Visit intuit.com/company for the latest news and information.

 

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