[IMGCAP(1)]One of the questions I get asked a lot by other practitioners is, ‘How can I start radicalizing my firm?’ Having the vision is one thing, but actually going ahead and doing it day-by-day is quite another. I know many CPAs who know they have to make changes and are gravitating towards going “Radical,” but are at a loss on how to start.
My answer is always the same — take small steps. Otherwise, the process can be intimidating and overwhelming.
I’m going to be real practical and tactical here because for all the talk of building a new firm, it’s hard for accountants to get started.
And not surprisingly, it’s the first step that seems to be the hardest.
I strongly believe that the majority of firm owners have the skills to do this. They just need to start moving.
We already know that Millennials have the skills, just not the experience. I truly believe everyone has the skills to make change. If you have been working in an accounting firm for more than 10 years, you (or someone you work with in your firm) have the skills to radicalize your firm. Let’s get real.
As we talk about technology, it amazes me as to how many accountants still freak out about the cloud. It’s still a software program, just not hosted on your computer in an office somewhere. It’s not located in that hot, locked server room that everybody avoids like the plague. But it’s still a software program, and in actuality it’s a lot safer than what you’ve been using. It may or may not have all the features of a desktop product, but the real-time connectedness makes many of those features irrelevant.
Let’s talk basics here. People always want to know how I migrate a customer to the cloud.
Have you ever done a desktop accounting software migration before between two desktops? Well, OK — then you have experience.
Have you ever done a computer system needs analysis with a customer and helped them choose the correct software for their business? Do you have a checklist you typically use? The checklist probably includes questions around their invoicing, payables, inventory and other business processes. Sound familiar?
Let’s make it even simpler. Has anyone ever asked you for an accounting software recommendation and you suggested that they go purchase QuickBooks or Sage 50 at Staples?
- Step 1: Needs analysis and software selection. If you’ve said yes to any of the questions above, you already have the experience. The skills are transferrable. Software selection and implementation are the same whether on the desktop or in the cloud. Aside from the features, the biggest change comes from the real-time communication now readily available — not the software itself. Once you start communicating differently, other customer process changes will naturally start to occur. Just be open.
- Step 2: Conversion. Look at the accounting data and decide what you actually want to move. Does it all need to be transferred or can you start fresh and use the old system for certain reports or functions? Do you want to upload the whole legacy file to the new system and have them or a third party convert all the data? Many of today’s cloud vendors now have a conversion process. Will you create new processes and potentially add on other software? It’s possible. But you can start slow and incrementally add additional process-driven apps. As you jump in, you’ll see how nice it is to work through much of this conversion process in your own office or even on the beach. I’m serious. One of the benefits of the cloud is the real-time, anytime-anywhere access. Your clients will be thrilled, as they can be working parallel with you —and even happier that you won’t completely disrupt their business lives as you work through this conversion.
- Step 3: Testing. We now move on to trying out all the data and making sure the new system is up and running. Work through training your new users and finding all the secret processes that someone forgot to mention in the initial conversion.
Now you are up and running!
First cloud conversion complete. Wow, was that as hard as you expected? I’m sure in some ways it was, and in some ways it wasn’t. Now you can start working in real-time with your customer on an ongoing basis. You can start to feel how this relationship is going to change and grow.
Make note that the value of the cloud is not in the software, it’s in the intensity of the customer relationship you are about to embark on, brought on by real-time data. Please don’t ignore or forget the true transformation of the real-time relationship the cloud will bring. If you do, you will not allow true transformation to happen in your practice.
If you know me and follow my columns, you know I’ve been preaching about the New Firm model for years. It will completely change how you run your firm. That said, as much as your firm management will change and you will have to learn new technology, at least 60 percent of what you currently do won’t change.
What’s important to realize is that you will be learning new details that will bring you into the future.
Using the tools and experience we already have, it’s time to express that wisdom and knowledge through new and emerging external tools. Let’s allow these tools to amplify what we have always offered and take it to the next level. Who’s with me?
Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST, is CEO and principal at New Vision CPA Group and author of The Radical CPA.
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