The IT team: A firm’s most important asset
Would you like to improve your client service offering, increase your revenue and enhance your firm’s data security? Would you like to do this at no additional cost? It is not only possible, but also fairly straightforward due to a secret resource in your firm: your own IT team. Even if your firm doesn’t have an in-house team, your outsourced partner can still help you achieve these goals.
How to grow your firm with IT
The members of your IT team are experts in technology and software, and so much more. They not only can help you remain up to date on the latest advancements and best practices for your firm, but in some situations, they can also do the same for your clients. For example, the same improvements and upgrades your firm is contemplating might also be good for your clients, leading to greater operational efficiency, cost savings and even a more effective outcome.
However, many CPAs and accountants are so focused on service delivery and client retention and acquisition that they simply do not have time to keep track of new or recent technologies. Why not let this valuable resource assist with being your eyes and ears? Encourage your IT staff to proactively make assessments and offer solutions to improve your firm or your clients’ businesses – and you won’t be disappointed with the results.
Your firm likely faces many of the same challenges your clients do, including budgeting, operational efficiency, workflow optimization and system management. By working closely with your team to develop a better understanding of the value each technological element brings to the firm, you can leverage the solution to your clients. Your firm and the IT group can work on ROI for different solutions, and mutually arrive at the best solution for you and your clients. This knowledge and process will help you better serve your clients and connect with them in a more meaningful manner. Being able to address the challenges you and your clients share can be a big positive to all involved.
How to give IT a bigger role
A commonly held misconception is that IT departments are too busy to provide consultations outside their usual day-to-day tasks. The fact is that IT professionals are interested in their subject matter, and I’ve found them very happy to share their knowledge and expertise. Your IT staff likely already feels like contributing members of your firm and would very much appreciate the chance to be even more involved in your combined continued success.
IT professionals can provide insight into many different business functions. The group is not only good at technology troubleshooting, but it can also provide expert knowledge in security, user support, project management, system implementation, system architecture and even website development. In some cases, you can incorporate your team’s consulting into your client services by billing for the consulting sessions where you present the client’s current technology system and business needs to your IT team. In turn, your team can offer an assessment and strategic input. Another consideration would be bringing your IT lead to a meeting with the client to provide real-time collaboration and idea exchange.
The team can also serve as a valuable internal resource for refining pitches and presentations. In their day-to-day roles, IT professionals frequently receive sales calls and meetings from vendors. They critically evaluate offers and packages before making purchase decisions worth thousands of dollars. Why not leverage their experience to refine your own sales presentation?
How to ensure successful IT collaboration
Operating in a consulting capacity might be a new experience for your IT team. This is where you can actually coach technology professionals and provide them with insight and skills they may otherwise not have an opportunity to learn. Educate the team on the best practices for providing client service and managing client expectations. Help them learn the soft skills you learned over the years, such as maintaining control of the conversation and how to tactfully push back, or push harder, for a superior solution. An additional area of coaching might be best practices for email communication with clients.
IT professionals will need to be brought up to speed on the unique needs and challenges of your clients’ businesses before they can provide quality IT consulting services. Provide them with details and examples, and answer any questions they have before asking them to develop a recommendation. If this is the first time they encounter this client, it may take your team a day or two to familiarize themselves with a specific client’s technology suite. In some cases, it may be mutually beneficial to have an opening dialog with the client directly.
Don’t have an internal IT team?
If you do not have an internal IT team, you can still provide technology consulting for your clients by working with an individual IT contractor or outsourced IT firm. Such an alliance is very similar to your other business partnerships and is mutually beneficial. Outsourced IT contractors and firms are likely already well versed in client service and account management best practices, so you’ll be able to leverage them in meetings and presentations quickly.