7 IT Strategies to Ensure Successby
As technology continues to evolve, firms must reevaluate their accounting software and IT strategy. In this article, Gary Boomer of Boomer Consulting shares his top strategies for implementing technology while driving value and ensuring a return on investment.
What does your firm spend on technology? Do you get the return on investment you expect? Is your technology up to date? Are you focused on maintenance or innovation? The answers to these questions are often subjective in firms with multiple partners. In other words, different people have different value systems and requirements.
For several decades, I've said, "You don't have to know how to build the watch, but you had better be able to tell what time it is." Technology is rapidly changing, and companies want to maximize their investment return while rapidly deploying innovative technology that improves the client experience. Technology has a huge impact on your firm's value and your ability to create value for clients.
Many firms are currently focused on reducing expenses and are facing significant decisions regarding their IT strategy. Most have at least some cloud-based solutions but are still uncertain about (or resistant to) moving into an entirely cloud-based environment. I encourage you to embrace the following seven strategies to resolve the technical part of the equation through a proven process.
1. Operate with a strategic plan and three-year budget
While this sounds basic, most firms still do not have IT plans and budgets. An IT plan doesn't take a great deal of time to develop if you have the right planning tools and process. Planning does require input from key people in the firm, but primarily it is driven by firm leadership and the ability to identify priorities and focus resources on addressing these priorities. I recommend working with an outside facilitator for several reasons:
- Reduced politics
- Knowledge of best practices
- Reduced time requirements
- Increased commitment to the process
- Improved focus on strategic, rather than tactical, issues
2. Establish an IT committee
IT governance is critical and should involve end-users. This committee's mission should be to ensure adequate planning and priorities and make sure every project has a champion. Firms should focus on firm projects with end-user champions. Many firms make the mistake of looking at these projects as IT projects instead of firm projects.
We have found that the most effective IT committees meet at least quarterly, have an agenda and limit discussion to strategic issues and integrating technology with the firm's strategic plan. The committee should spend one or two days annually with a planning process that involves the managing partner or CEO.
3. Trust determines speed and cost
Firms with a low level of trust pay a tax when it comes to IT, while firms with a high level of trust are rewarded with a dividend. Firms with high trust spend more time on implementation and training and less on justification and hand-holding. Many of the strategies listed here are designed to increase the trust within your firm.
4. Participate in peer communities
The wisdom of a peer network and the ability to network with other firm leaders is very valuable. Meetings with firm decision-makers and IT professionals can provide clarity, confidence and increased capacity. A core principle of peer communities is that sharing best practices and lessons learned prepares professionals for the future and rapid business changes, especially those driven by technology. Most firms have core knowledge, but access to other peers' tacit knowledge differentiates the best from the rest.
5. Treat vendors as strategic partners
Firms should not manage technology as overhead but as a strategic asset. Most firms have multiple databases containing duplicate information that is often difficult to access for reporting purposes. Business intelligence and real-time data allow firms to provide increased value to their clients. The profession's top vendors have a wealth of resources they will gladly share with firms – if treated as a partner. This strategy is more important today than ever due to the transformation to the cloud and integrating applications into systems that contain many processes.
6. Know your metrics
Key metrics are important in managing technology. Some of the most important metrics are revenue per full-time-equivalent, the amount spent on IT per FTE, percent of revenue spent on IT and end-users per IT support person (internal and external). Tracking these metrics drives improvement. While peer metrics are interesting, remember that average is where the best of the worst meets the worst of the best.
7. Focus on innovation and growth
How your firm spends its IT budget is critical to your ability to attract and retain clients and talent. Many firms invest the majority of their resources in maintaining existing systems rather than innovation and delivering new services. Innovative services require a platform that is both scalable and accessible from any place at any time, a primary advantage offered by cloud-based systems. The focus should be on capturing transactions at the source rather than on entering transactions and ensuring correctness. With less effort spent capturing, recording and reporting transactions, accountants can move up the value chain and dedicate more effort to higher-value advisory services.
While these strategies aren't all-inclusive, they represent a thought process that will allow your firm to capture a return on investment, meet client expectations and increase your firm's value. Think, plan and grow!
The original article appeared on the Boomer Consulting website.