More Accounting Tomorrow Posts

Is your Betty on board?

June 27, 2011

I finally figured it out—why the paperless tax workflow is so difficult for today’s firms to implement. I see firm partners at trade shows and conferences, learning about all the required elements: scanning, tax document automation technology, and best practices. They get excited, feel a sense of renewed innovation, and psyche themselves up to make the necessary changes. Then I see these same professionals the next year and they are no closer to implementing a paperless tax process than they were before. Why? Because they failed to get Betty on board.

Everyone has a Betty. She (or he) is the chief administrator or office manager. You know, the person who runs the place, who calls the shots. Even when a partner believes they are the one in control, most often it really is Betty. And without having Betty on board to spearhead a major new implementation, like the paperless tax workflow, it typically won’t happen.

Take a moment to consider the skills that Betty possesses. Most Bettys are awesome at what they do—organized, task-oriented—someone who “gets ‘er done.” They are very good at their job and always exceptionally busy, but most are not overly tech-savvy. Now, combine “exceptionally busy” with a lack of technological proficiency and what do you think you get? You get someone who will tend to resist change to daily operations—especially when it involves learning a new application.

It’s time to get your Betty on board so your firm can move forward with paperless processes, and here is one way to do it. Hire a student intern, someone who wants to learn and grow in the profession and is also technologically proficient. Align this person with your Betty to act as a consultant of sorts; answering questions and supporting Betty with the new implementation. This gives Betty the assurance she needs, while also helping a student learn about firm operations. An intern is certainly cheaper than hiring an IT vendor, and will be more available on a daily basis to help Betty move the implementation along.

Get Betty on board and move your firm forward. It’s time to move out of the Square One and get on with your paperless tax implementation.

Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST, is a Certified Public Accountant experienced with Complex Federal & State Income Tax Compliance for Business & Individuals. Jody is an adjunct professor at Oakton Community College, where she teaches Taxation and QuickBooks Courses. She is part of Intuit Trainer Writer Network and speaks nationally on various Technologies and Taxation. She can be reached at

Comments (5)
Mariette, I couldn't agree more! In our office, 'Betty' has begun to grudgingly use technology & the knowledge was hard-won. Trying to have her unlearn all the 'shortcuts' she's learned would be a complete waste of time. If an intern was assigned, they should have unqualified and outspoken backing of firm leadership.
Posted by Terri | Thursday, March 14 2013 at 8:23AM ET
GeaugaCPA and Mariette, First I think you have to have the right intern! Second the reason I suggested an intern is that they would have time and could learn a lot from Betty (thus why you need the correct intern). The potential pitfall with using an insider is that because of time, it always gets put on the back burner. If it is an intern's main job, they will be like a "dog on a pork chop!".
Posted by jodypadar | Thursday, June 30 2011 at 7:02PM ET
Jody - Thank you for this article! I truly believe that this "Betty Issue" is an issue that is holding most firms back from implementing firm-wide changes with regards to technology and with regards to new business processes. The first half of the article is right on point - the second half; however, is where I have difficulty.

My current firm (only 3 of us) has a Betty that essentially runs the place. She has the most experience and is very resistant to change in general. I do not like your suggestion of having an intern, the issue that I see is that I believe most Betty's would become very clammed-up and feel somewhat insulted that I am trying to "change them". Personally I feel that the better approach would be to implement change slowly while directly working with Betty to help show her how the change will directly and hopefully positively impact their day-to-day activities. With Gen-xers change needs to be implemented in a "slow-and-steady" fashion in order to be fully effective.

Thanks for stimulating this conversation as it has given me several things to think about with regards to my Betty.
Posted by GeaugaCPA | Thursday, June 30 2011 at 9:14AM ET
Jody - as usual, you are right on track. I had a conversation just yesterday with a CPA colleague who was trying to wrap his arms around this very issue. You absolutely have to get your "Betty" in on the buying decision if you're going to achieve success.
Posted by Scott C | Tuesday, June 28 2011 at 9:48AM ET
Oh, that poor intern! I have worked at lots of places, accounting and other industries, and you are right, they all have a "Betty". The reason she's not technically savvy is because she does not think it is important. She is not likely to be willing to learn anything from some kid half her age. She already knows how to do everything - the intern should be learning from her!

I think it would have to be a senior CPA who trains the office manager. She can only be convinced of the desirability of change by someone she perceives to have higher status and more knowledge than she does. After all. she's been running the place perfectly for years - who else could possibly know more about the best office procedures?
Posted by Mariette | Monday, June 27 2011 at 1:46PM ET
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