What Firms Need to Learn From Their Millennials

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The next generation of managers and senior accountants is not just suggesting you manage your practice in the cloud, they're demanding it.

As Huffington Post recently noted, there’s a new disruption in town and it's “more transformative than the cloud, mobile or social.”  It’s not some faceless technology acronym that’s causing panic in the c-suite, it’s the Millennial generation and they make up almost 1/4 of the US population.

Millennials have been quietly entering the workforce and climbing the ranks, over the last decade and none of them grew up within earshot of a modem.

Consider their mindset:

So, as a growing accounting practice, how do you harness that technological willingness and make sure that your bottom line grows as this next generation comes into their own?  Fear not, there are a few extremely practical steps you can take this tax season to make sure your firm is well positioned:

  • Get Your Practice Management Moved to the Cloud:  If you aren’t using an online practice management system, you need to make the switch today.  It’s not just about giving your employees (Millennial and other) access to the “office” from anywhere, it’s also about the knowledge you gain every year your practice is online.
  • Big Data is Getting Bigger, and it’s Happening in the Cloud: Managing your practice in the cloud is more than just a new way of logging the same old info.  If you're thinking of a time sheet as just a history of time, or an invoice as just a vehicle for billing, then you will miss the true power of cloud-based practice management. I’ve seen firsthand what happens when thousands of Lacerte users move from offline practice management to an online system. These firms, with very little added effort on their part, now have more than just an online repository of time sheets, invoices and notes. They have a goldmine of data on how their firms perform during tax season. They have the practice management equivalent of "instant replay" (together with a virtual press-booth of data analysts) at their fingertips.
  • Get on to Slack, now!: I know that commercials starring aliens make Slack seem like a tool that's geared toward non-accountants. Trust me; it's not. Slack is instant messaging on steroids, and it gives your firm a virtual space to come together for quick discussions or ad-hoc troubleshooting. During tax season, updates and customer calls come in fast and furious, and you need a system that lets you communicate status and resolve customer requests in seconds -- without sprinting through the office like OJ Simpson, circa-1978. Signing up for Slack will take you 30 seconds. Do it. Then, invite every one of your staff to join, and leave it open on your desk all day long. In fact, don't send a single email to staff for 7 days. Just use Slack. At the end of those 7 days, you may end up joining the Millennial generation -- and never send another email to staff again!
  • Make the Office a Thing, Not a Place: If you manage to put these two simple systems into place this tax season, don't be surprised if you start to lose track of which staffers are/aren't in the office. An update on status online looks the same whether you're at home, in the office or in the middle of your commute. Be prepared, however, for the 24-hour office. If you really want to sneak home for a few hours during the busy season, you may feel like you need to throw the circuit breakers to get disconnected!

About Brian Saunders

Brian Saunders

Brian Saunders is CEO of BigTime Software, a maker of time and billing and practice management software.

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