[IMGCAP(1)]Last week I wrote about my introduction to QuickBooks and how we took our entire staff to a training course for it.

Today I am writing about training for the most basic software we use: Excel, Word and Adobe. We have taken our staff to courses for these programs and have periodic in-house training, but I realize many firms do not.

Substantial investments are made in technology, including the hardware, software, portals, use of the cloud and security. These are easily measurable costs because they are purchased or contracted for. A measurable loss occurs when there is downtime if the software or systems are not performing. However, unmeasured costs due to underperforming or underutilized technology could actually be greater and are sometimes given a short rein in favor of the chargeable hour.

Technical and internal systems software needs to be learned because they are used interactively with other staff. When someone isn’t using them properly, others quickly notice and let the person know pretty fast.

Basic software such as Word, Excel and Adobe are used individually. Other employees are not directly affected if the programs are not used properly so there is no peer checking when they are not used well.

The only thing that drives proper usage is each person's desire to do things as easily and effectively as possible. Those that don’t think like this are really not the type of people most firms would want working for them. I know I think like this. Do you?

If what I just said was true, it is a sad commentary on many of us. Because the use is continuous and daily and the misuse is in small doses, a great time loss occurs stealthily without anyone doing something to stop it.

Two solutions to end underutilization are 1) short 20-minute one-on-one walkthroughs in small groups or 2) a series of one-hour courses organized internally or with an outside instructor.

These should be supplemented by a go-to person who is thoroughly familiar with the software and can address any questions. This go-to person could be from the IT or administrative department or an accountant more experienced with that software. Doing one or both of these has a cost, but there is much greater payback because it more effectively uses each person’s time.

Training cannot occur until there is awareness of the need and the determination and effort to get it right.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner emeritus at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz (published by CPATrendlines) and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition” (published by the AICPA). Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.