Tips on Moving Desktop Clients to the Cloud
Lately in the accounting world, terms like “machine learning” and “automation” get thrown around a lot, yet while AI is a potential threat to some aspects of our business, the bigger worry is accountants themselves.
Many accountants fall into the trap of working with clients in every industry under the sun, inheriting their clients’ myriad of (often antiquated) processes and software. They don’t notice that their workflow is spinning slowly out of control until they are neck deep in work, deadlines are looming, and they can’t see a way out.
It starts small; saying ‘yes’ to projects because of a need to bring in revenue or feeling a connection with a client and wanting to work with them. If the work started piling up the moment you signed a client, it would be easy to see any issues instantly and do something to change course. Instead, it invisibly creeps in, slowly suffocating productivity and profitability.
One way to escape this cycle is to get clear on what you want your practice to look like. As a firm owner, you get to decide the direction of your firm – so why build a practice full of frustration?
In order to build a stress-free, scalable practice it is important to really nail down who you love to work with and how you love to work with them. If you have a team of accountants in your firm, ask them what they want. You may be surprised to find that they share your frustration and may welcome a shift in the direction of the practice.
Specialization is Key
At my practice, we have found that by specializing in a few key industries and working with one software stack, the time it takes to serve the client has been cut nearly in half. Why? We aren’t forced to learn new software, processes, and industries every week.
The benefits of this shift aren't just realized with one client – it applies to all current and future clients. We are able to build up a wealth of knowledge, create efficiencies that we would otherwise not see, and share these gains with our entire client base.
An added bonus when it comes to specialization is the efficiency gained in employee onboarding. We have developed internal training relevant to the industries and software we work in, so that we can quickly get someone up to speed. This makes their ramp-up time much shorter, reduces errors, and gives our new employee the confidence to work with their clients.
Once you are ready to make the leap and specialize, it’s important to be tactful in managing the transition. If a client is using software that you no longer support, you don’t have to send them a ‘Dear John’ letter.
Explain that you are going to be moving them to a new platform and why this will help them. Let them know if this shift will make life easier for them, save them time or money. Provide a compelling value proposition, so that your clients get excited for this upgrade.
Set and Manage Expectations
It is important to also set expectations properly and communicate the progress along the way. Let your client know when they can expect to be transitioned to the new platform and be careful to meet that deadline.
If, for any reason, you don’t expect to meet your deadline, immediately let your client know. The last thing you want to do during this transition is to cast doubt in their mind, so be reasonable with expectations and clear in your communication.
As you are moving to your new software, be sure that the information you are working with is sound. Take the time to review the file as though it were a new client.
Make sure that the information that lives inside your old software will translate well into the new software or you may be doomed to live with the mistakes of the past. Once you’ve converted your client, be sure to validate the information in your new software against what is in the old software. Make a habit of looking at the Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet so that you can identify any potential discrepancies.
After you’ve completed the conversion and have double checked that the file is in great shape, it is time for the big reveal. Be sure to show your client the progress, not just tell them. We spent time with our clients after switching from desktop accounting solutions to the cloud and showed them where to find the information most important to them.
We coordinated Zoom meetings, sharing our screen and showing them how to pull reports, enter bills and invoices, and other tasks crucially relevant to their day-to-day. We were careful not to overwhelm our clients and only covered what they needed to know.
When the call was over, we provided the recording that included the screen share with our clients, so that they had something tangible to refer back to. By being very purposeful in our communication, we were able to eliminate any concern or worry in our clients’ minds.
As 2017 comes to a close, consider what you want your firm to look like in the coming year. Are you ready to rid yourself of the frustration and headaches from years past?
Do you want to build a practice that you can fall in love with again? If so, take the leap to specialization and create the firm you’ve always wanted. You are in control of your firm’s future.