Managing Director Counting Clouds Cambridgeshire
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The challenges of adopting change

Implementing change at a mid-to-large accountancy firm is a bit like turning an oil tanker. In part one of a two-part series, Caroline Harridence explains how firms can break old habits and change for the better.

18th Feb 2020
Managing Director Counting Clouds Cambridgeshire
Columnist
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Never underestimate the impact of change. When you start to use something new, you have to change things – that much is obvious. However, what is less apparent is how difficult making changes can be and how long it can take.

Change management is a key stage in adopting cloud technology in an accountancy practice. Without a solid approach to making changes, rolling out your cloud implementation programme could be a failure. The key is the people involved – without their buy-in, you are going to struggle to achieve success.  

Habits are hard to break

As humans, we are creatures of habit. We like familiarity and we develop behavioural patterns that we repeat, often without thinking about it – these are our “habits”.  

In the accountancy world, we get used to using certain pieces of software, our workflow for completing tasks, and how we manage administrative jobs such as billing. Through adopting cloud-based systems, this will all change, and therefore, you will need to change old habits within your team and replace them with new ones. This may not be an easy process. 

Digital strategy

Before you can implement any change programme, you need a strategy. The strategy will review the current situation, outline, and set the objectives for the firm and the roadmap for how you are going to achieve your goals. The strategy will generally be more of a long-term overview and may well extend to areas such as IT hardware and infrastructure as well as the cloud accounting strategy. 

It will not go into the fine detail but will give you the direction needed which, in turn, will drive the internal processes and changes required. 

Project sponsor

A sponsor for the implementation project is a key requirement. This person needs to not be the managing partner or chairman, but instead someone who fully buys into the project and is a person of influence within the firm. 

They will be influential in convincing the partners of the firm that the digital strategy is the strategy the firm needs to follow and are key to the success of the whole process. 

From experience, I have found it is beneficial to have the project sponsor as a partner within the firm but one of the less senior partners. I have found this is beneficial as they do have more power than the managers. The project sponsor will also have more contact with the other partners so they can more regularly (and more easily) update them on the project’s progress.  

The sponsor needs to have time to be actively involved in the project at the stakeholder level – effectively marketing the project to the rest of the firm and being the “figurehead”, ensuring that the project continues to be seen as a positive game-changer for the firm. A good project sponsor cannot ensure the project’s success, but a poor one can doom the project to failure.

It is important to point out that the project sponsor is not the same role as the project manager. The project sponsor promotes the project internally, unlike the project manager who implements the project tasks on a day to day basis. They work together and the sponsor will help to guide the project manager in order to ensure the project goals are achieved.  

The challenges of adopting change: Part two

Next week, we’ll look at how mid-to-large firms can successful can put this change management programme into practice and roll out a new cloud system, where the checklist for success will include: 

  • Get an enthusiastic and knowledgeable project sponsor
  • Get partner buy in to support your rollout
  • Focus on team buy-in and find the best way to communicate the project to the teams
  • Have a detailed roll-out plan

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