Taking a new look at tech

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Do you know the difference between technology and technology?

Technology integration might sound daunting, but as CPAs we owe it to our clients to move forward to provide the best service we can.

What’s critical to understand is that cloud firms require a new type of management. Why? Because currently the cloud and the very-fast-approaching artificial intelligence are disruptive to CPA firms’ core management philosophies. In short, they disrupt what we’re selling.

The most important thing I want you to remember is that technology becomes part of the products you sell. This is a totally different way of looking at technology in a CPA firm. In a traditional firm, technology is a tool or piece of overhead. In today’s “new firm,” technology is a component of what we sell. It becomes part of the product.

This is a huge change in thinking.

In the past, I’ve written about how I categorize my technology costs as product costs, or as part of a cost of goods sold. Why is this so important?

It’s important because it truly becomes one of the inputs of what you’re selling. And as you productize your services, you will selectively choose the right technology that you will resell as part of your solution. When we get to pricing, it will become important that you bundle your technology fees with your solutions. If you do not, it becomes too easy for your customer to try and pick apart your solution. You do not want to give customers the option of working with you differently.

It’s too easy for a customer to say, “I don’t need that technology because of the cost,” when they don’t understand that the technology allows for the transparency as well as the capacity within the CPA firm. It is unrealistic for a firm to have 300 ways of doing something. It will not scale and it will frustrate your team.

And remember, you are not selling a service, you are selling a solution.

That solution includes technology chosen for that specific customer. This is key to understanding how you will continue to adopt new technologies and how you will sell your firm’s solutions. The idea of this technology being sold as part of the solution allows for capacity, process, and a uniform way of doing accounting for multiple customers. Without this uniformity, it is extremely difficult to scale. This is why old-school firms are caught in the rat race of everything being done differently.

Some R&D required

There needs to be some clarification here about technology and technology.

Yes, that’s exactly what I said.

Too many owners think of technology as IT, as in, there’s a server in the back room and everyone needs to stay away from it.

Today’s technology mindset is different — we are utilizing the Internet to essentially solve problems. And the answers are at our fingertips.

You no longer need an IT expert to solve your accounting IT solution problems.

Sorry, IT people! What you need within your firm is a superb researcher. Just like in tax, when you have an issue or question come up, you charge someone on the tax team to go see if they can find the answer.

It’s the exact same idea applied to technology. You define the problem or the issue, and then you send a team member to the Internet to look for solutions. You gather a few solutions, download some trials, or do a few demos. You read a few reviews. You connect with other CPAs in forums such as LinkedIn and ask them if they’d use these products. You test them on your own firm. And then you decide. Products are coming out so frequently that you can’t even wait for formal reviews.

R&D to me is using a new technology to see how it works, either on a customer or with your team.

Too often technology does not actually work the way you would think it should. Yes, sometimes the process needs to change to work with the technology. However, often what is sold does not match what is there (sorry vendors, just speaking the truth here). I believe the only way to refer products is to be able to use them firsthand.

Always be learning

You’ve finally finished implementing a new system. You finally get it. It took sweat. It took resources. It took teamwork to the 10th degree. You feel proud. Your employees are high off the win. Your customers think it’s cool. And then some new app or tool crosses your path and it’s shiny and new and you want to check it out! Like as soon as possible!

Isn’t that always the way? When I was figuring this out, I was always asking, “Is there a way to make technology changes part of our firm culture? How can I embrace and own the fact that technology is always changing, and since I pride myself in being a tech junkie, how can I keep up and enjoy it?”

News flash: We can no longer wait five years to update technology. And yes, I’m talking about computers. New technologies come out continuously, and they improve our process exponentially. Therefore, we must make it part of our DNA to always be looking, always challenging, and always thinking about our process and how our technology can make it faster.

Technology is constant learning!

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