Years ago, buying decisions for accounting firms were pretty easy. For example, the tax research service and tax prep software that the firm purchased were usually those that the managing partner liked because he or she was familiar with it. Not much deep analysis went into that decision.

Purchases no longer are so simple. Now with customer relations management, the need for remote access, a desire to go paperless, and the need for programs to talk with each other, not to mention security, disaster recovery, and hardware concerns, a committee normally has to be formed for these purchases.

The committee, actually more likely a task force as the firm needs to include, at a minimum, a partner, a staff member, an administrative person, and someone with hardware and software applications expertise, has lots to do.  It must study the options out there, the processes of the firm, current technological capabilities, workflow, testing, pilot projects, costs, training, rollout, implementation, compatibility, as well as numerous software, hardware, and security issues.

 Of course, you also need partner buy-in, and maybe the adoption of a carrot and stick approach to make sure the staff is receptive to, and implements, the change. You might also need some help from a firm that already is using a similar system or perhaps the hiring of a consultant to assist in the transition. I am sure I have left out some other aspects of the possible purchase decision, but you get the idea. The decision is as far from an impulse buy as you can get.

However, there is a real plus here. Once your firm gets particularly adept at it, you have a new value-added service to sell to clients--consulting on their due diligence purchases.

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