Getting buy-in to implement change
When you implement a massive change like a new cloud system in a mid-to-large accountancy firm, you often hear that you need partner buy-in. But as Caroline Harridence explains in the second segment of her two-part series, this is only half the battle – you need buy-in from the whole team.
If you choose to implement cloud accounting as a new service line and adopt cloud technology internally within the practice, it could impact the wider staff. Tasks such as billing and client setup can often involve the entire administration team. It is, therefore, important to consider all parties effected in the overall project plans.
Firms who acquire buy-in from the top but do not consider the teams affected by the rollout process will have a long and difficult project. Instead of involving the team, the new approach affected and they simply have to accommodate the change - this is not a recipe for success.
In order for the project to be a success, it is key to have the buy-in from the partners. These are the people of influence within the firm and are seen to be the leaders of the practice. The partners are the people who will endorse the project in each of the individual offices and they are a key piece of the puzzle and, without their buy-in, the project is unlikely to succeed.
From experience, this can be a timely process depending on the number of partners involved. Each partner will have a different level of understanding of technology and some may have objections and ideas which will need to be addressed. Where firms have a large number of partners or several have concerns, it helps to implement an additional layer with a local or regional partner who fully backs the project. They can then assist with its roll out within their region.
It is key to have the managing partner’s endorsement as they are seen as the person with the overall power in the business and have contact with the offices and key staff within the firm. As a result, they can really assist with driving the project forward.
The buy-in from the team is often perceived to be the easiest step if you have the buy-in from the partners. This can be a dangerous assumption to make. Your team members are a crucial and significant part of the project and their buy-in must be addressed early or the rollout could be difficult.
The team will all have different views on technology. Some team members will be excited with the new approach and want to be involved with the technology and the apps. Others are accustomed to the manual processes and could be wary of the changes proposed. Some will be openminded and prepared to try out new applications, and others will be reluctant to change. Do not assume the resistant will be older members of the team – I have found this is not always the case, but that the opposite is true in some firms. However, the whole team will need to be involved, and the change process must be managed in different ways for each group.
The way you present the new approach is important and the benefits to that individual must be highlighted. Therefore the message has to be positive and communications must be frequent. The team members need to feel involved so regular meetings with the teams are essential to get their feedback, allow them to voice concerns and to communicate updates on the project as a whole.
Giving team members responsibility within the project helps ensures their involvement. It is essential they also get the training to use the new technology and be aware of the new workflows.
A vital part of this stage is to ensure has time for training and not seen as a task to get a tick in the box or certification. Without valuable training, the team will struggle to develop the knowledge needed to use the product well and which often results in errors or having to repeat the training. This can cause resentment towards the application and the new strategy by proving to be difficult to use and, consequently, present a barrier to its successful rollout.
A great way to help the buy-in of the team is to establish a detailed rollout plan as early in the project as possible. Writing the rollout plan to cover the who, the how and the when of the project rollout can help highlight issues before they arise. You should make sure you include the types of training materials and techniques you will use to roll out the project This is an area where early team engagement can help as you can get a guide to what works best for your target audience. Plan which offices or groups to roll out to first – go for the most receptive and enthusiastic as they will then help enthuse the rest.
Successfully making changes is never easy, but, as people become accustomed to the new processes and procedures, these changes then become habit and are accepted as the new 'normal routine'.
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Caroline Harridence is the founder of Counting Clouds Cambridgeshire – a digital and technology focussed firm specialising in cloud strategy and app advisory for both businesses and accountancy practices.
Caroline is highly experienced in assisting accountancy firms to migrate clients onto cloud software and implement new technology and...