The ongoing war for talent, coupled with the rapid advancement of technology, is fueling exponential growth in the importance of technology, creating both a challenge and an opportunity for our profession.
From the challenge side, we are already being forced to do more with less while increasing production to counter the persistent rise in costs. On the flip side, technology allows us to automate many of the manual tasks that have increased our headcount in the past while also providing better client service.
Focusing on the right processes and technology to serve the right clients is critical to your firm’s success and future readiness. These eight rules of technology management will help your firm develop a technology strategy that is aligned with overarching firm strategy and set you up for success today and into the future.
1. View Technology as a Strategic Asset
When firms manage technology as overhead, they usually experience frustration, as expectations are always greater than the results based upon the resources committed. The better approach is to manage technology strategically and allocate resources by priorities. Technology is an accelerator for planning, people, and processes.
2. Invest in Your Technology Leader
Don’t expect to get extraordinary results if you are not willing to invest in technology leadership. Too often, firms insist on hiring someone who knows accounting to manage their technology, and many times they want a CPA. They end up with a person who knows a little about accounting and little about technology but is an expert in neither.
3. Expect Technology to Change and Require Ongoing Investment
Technology change is occurring more rapidly than ever before. To keep up, firms must invest more in process improvement and training. If you simply invest in maintenance projects (keep the lights on) rather than innovation (move the firm forward), you’ll end up spending more to catch up in the long run than you would to stay ahead of the curve. Successful firms spend about 6 to 7 percent of net revenue annually for technology and support, including labor and bandwidth.
4. Invest in Training at All Levels
The best way to increase your return on investment in technology and people is through training. It is also key to both retention and attraction of top talent. The Boomer Technology Circle™ metrics of member firms show that revenue per full-time equivalent increases considerably in firms with excellent training programs. The attitude and confidence level in those firms also exceeds those of peer firms.
5. Join a Peer Network
Joining a peer network offers access to experience, expertise, and personal development outside your own firm. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Peer groups provide insight, new perspectives, research and development, benchmarking, and confidence that can save your firm time and money. Firms cannot operate in a vacuum, and the value of trusted, vetted peers to call on is priceless. Developing a network of peers and utilizing that network is a professional strength and competitive advantage. After all, it’s what you don’t know you don’t know that costs you a lot of time and money.
6. Commit to a Process for Managing Technology
Other than the cost of labor, technology is the second-largest expenditure in most firms. It only makes sense to adopt sound management practices in order to ensure a return on the technology investment. There are several components to the management system we utilize and teach. It comes down to people, planning, and processes with technology acting as the accelerator.
7. Assign a Leader to Focus on Technology
Technology leadership and vision are an integral part of today’s firm management team. The requirements for a CIO or technology partner are similar to those of a managing partner. The skills include leadership, finance, marketing, human resources, business savvy, project management, and technical skills. IT must have a seat at the management table if the firm expects to remain successful and future-ready.
8. Operate From a Written Technology Plan
Follow the planning advice you give clients. Firms should operate from a technology plan that integrates with overall firm vision and strategy. If you don’t have these plans in place, invest the resources and get them in place. Without a plan, it is easy for firms to lose focus on the most important and highest-impact projects and strategies.
Value is added when you provide leadership, relationship, and creativity. Leadership provides direction, relationship provides confidence, and creativity provides new capabilities. All are necessary to effectively manage technology and your firm.
The original article appeared on the Boomer Blog, which publishes a monthly blog series on technology, marketing, and practice mangement tips.
About Jim Boomer
Jim Boomer is the CEO at Boomer Consulting, the director of the Boomer Technology Circles, The Producer Circle, The CIO Advantage and an expert on managing technology within an accounting firm.