Accountants: There's an Elephant in the Room

By: Alex Wunderlich

Technology has made incredible leaps in the last decade, transforming industries, but if you walked into the average CPA firm today (pandemic aside), not much has changed. The unfortunate reality is that, for the most part, the accounting industry hasn’t kept up with all the advancements.

Between the non-stop tax and compliance work, growing client demands, and all of the other challenges that come with running a firm, the industry is getting squeezed. Huddle recently conducted a survey of accounting and professional service firms, which found that nearly 50% believe increasing client demands are their #1 challenge, and the quality of their work is suffering under increasing time pressures. And despite the explosion of apps that promise to help firms automate workflows and provide better services, over 1/3 of firms admitted they’re still too slow to adopt the technologies needed to transform.

Accountants are feeling the pain, and there’s plenty of technology that can help, but it isn’t being effectively adopted....why is that?

Here are the main reasons I’ve seen, and while they (hopefully) don’t all apply to you, most firms struggle with at least one of the following:

Information Overload: With well over 1,000 small business and accounting apps in existence, it’s hard to know where to start. There’s a ton of noise in the space, and when everyone is screaming at you to use their software, you end up not using any of them.

Lack of Confidence: Implementing new technology seems like a massive undertaking, and you’ve seen it backfire in the past, so the mere thought of changing your service offering or using new technology scares you. 

Stubbornness: Despite the fact that you and your team are drowning in inefficient processes and struggling to keep up with the evolving needs of clients, you don’t see a reason to change anything you’re doing. “This is the way it’s always been done and we’ll keep it that way.”

Procrastination: It’s too easy to put something on the “we’ll get to it” list, especially when there are unknowns involved. You’ll figure it out, some other time.

Bad Experience: Let’s be honest, the explosion of apps has brought a lot of crap products, and your past attempts at adopting new technology may have fallen flat. You don’t want to waste your time again so you’re avoiding new technology altogether.

Be honest about what’s really holding you back, whether it’s lack of time, limited know-how, a negative attitude, organizational barriers, or something else. Once you acknowledge the elephant in the room and understand why you’re not making progress, you can build a much more effective plan to adopt new technology and move your firm forward.

Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time

First and foremost, look for a few easy wins and pick them off one at a time, so you can build momentum and learn along the way.

Strategize

Start by identifying which areas in your firm need help and where technology can fit. Maybe you struggle to onboard new clients, waste too much time on data entry, or you’re thinking about offering a new advisory service. What's the low hanging fruit at your firm where a technology upgrade could make the biggest impact?

Evaluate

Once you’ve figured out where to focus your energy, you need to find the right tool for the job. First, define what you need the software to accomplish, then find a handful of competitive tools that might work, and learn what each one is all about. Some tools are cheap (or premium) for a reason, so it’s best practice to compare features and capabilities before prices, to avoid making a “you get what you pay for” mistake. 

You should also learn more about the onboarding process and get to know the companies themselves. Make sure they actually understand your challenges, will support you after the sale is made, and you’re on the same page.

Execute

After you find the right solution, it’s time to roll it out. Depending on the tool, an implementation could take minutes or months, but no matter what, it needs 3 things: someone in charge, a timeline, and specific tasks assigned to team members. In other words, you need goals and accountability to make it as smooth as possible.

Transformations don’t happen overnight because you bought some software and told your team to use it. Everyone should be bought in on what’s going on, what the benefits will be, and what’s expected of them from beginning to end, so the change actually sticks. 

Rinse and Repeat

Once your new tool/process is up and running, figure out what’s next on the list and get after it. Keep up the momentum and learn from any mistakes made along the way, so each iteration is better and smoother than the last. Even if there’s still a big gap between where your firm is and where it needs to be, don’t let that scare you away from taking the first step. Make it a priority to keep on finding new ways to leverage technology that empowers your staff/clients and moves the needle for your firm. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.