In my first article, we looked at three critical reasons why you need a firm IT strategy in 2018, but how can you make sure that the strategy is as effective as possible?
That’s what we will tackle in this follow up article: how accounting firms can build a powerful and robust IT strategy.
First off, are you ready to protect your data from today’s virtual thieves? Then, it’s time to develop an IT strategy that outlines technologies you’re implementing within your accounting firm and how these choices will empower your business to achieve its goals.
I must warn you that if you’re tempted to shape your IT strategy around popular buzzwords like, “disruption” and “user experience,” don’t. While they may have some influence on what goes into your strategy, these terms alone will not help you develop the IT strategy you need in order to stay competitive in 2018.
Instead, focus on more practical ideas that will make your data secure and your business efficient with these five non-negotiable attributes of a robust IT strategy:
1. Reliable Uptime
When you run a business in which your client’s financial future relies on your data, availability isn’t optional. To make sure you can deliver on your client’s needs around the clock, your cloud storage solution needs to offer an impressive uptime upwards of 99.999%.
Do the extra decimals matter? It might seem like a small difference between 99% and 99.999%, but in reality that small difference translates into several hours of downtime per month (7.3 hours, in fact). If your IT strategy isn’t built on technology that can provide that guarantee, you need to find a more competitive service.
2. Cross-Departmental Planning
As a small business owner, you might be used to compartmentalizing your work into different categories like marketing, finance, and IT. While this approach may work for your to-do list, it’s deceptively dangerous when planning your accounting firm IT strategy because technology functions across departments within an organization and can blur the line between IT and the rest of the company.
Your IT strategy shouldn’t juggle the demands of the IT department and the rest of the organization, it should instead pull together a single strategy that meets the needs of every department. It may lead to some confusion at first because it’s difficult to tell where a departmental process ends and a technology opportunity begins, but the end result is an all-inclusive strategy with a positive universal impact. So, the technology you choose will seamlessly connect and improve the way you do business.
3. Team Buy-In
Don’t assume the IT strategy only needs the input of the IT team. The more people you can solicit feedback from, the better. Feedback from non-IT employees in administrative services, marketing, sales and HR may have input that confirms your hunches or brings new nuances to light.
Accepting and applying feedback also has IT strategy implementation benefits. When everyone on your team feels they’ve played a part in the planning process, they’re more likely to buy into the strategy and support the changes when the plan is implemented.
The days of 24-page manuals of procedures, indexes and appendices are over, especially for a small accounting firm. Your IT strategy may only run a few paragraphs or a few pages that summarizes your organization’s core values. With the exception of complex enterprise situations that may require more documentation, a strategy document that is short and sweet is more likely to be read and absorbed into the organization.
5. Continuous Learning
It’s tempting to think that after all of the work you put into planning your strategy you’ll get to a point when you can say, “It’s finished and approved – our IT strategy is done.” In reality, the most powerful accounting firm IT strategy will constantly evolve. Rather than being a task you can complete and move on, an IT strategy evolves over time.
It’s your responsibility to stay on top of new advances in data security and data storage technology and embrace opportunities for continuous learning. The purpose of an IT strategy is to make sure your technology choices support your business growth, not simply to run down a list of your technology investments.
If you want your strategy to drive business goals, create flexibility in how you accomplish those goals, strategically apply the technology available to you and make sure it includes these five characteristics.
We're proud to present the Technology Strategy series in association with AbacusNext who share our commitment to helping firms adjust to the digital world as safely as possible. AbacusNext provides a suite of best of breed services to accountants including OfficeTools Practice Management, Results CRM, and Abacus Private Cloud.