How to introduce your clients and team to technology

22nd Jun 2021
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Accountancy Manager
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You discover a piece of software, excitedly tell your team and clients about it – and within a week everyone’s using it and thanking you for excellent foresight...if only. Find out how AM users have risen to the challenge of digital transformation and won.

You can sell the benefits of using certain technology to your staff and clients until the cows come home. Successful tech adoption ultimately comes down to establishing new daily habits. If you’ve ever tried to get kids to clean their teeth or tried to reduce your coffee intake, you’ll know that’s easier said than done.

Treat tech adoption like its own project

If you leave your team or clients to adopt software into their routine without providing the ‘big picture’, a clear plan and guidance, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Of course, you want to avoid the risk of paying for a software you’re not using. But there are other risks too: people using the software to different degrees, resulting in inconsistent processes. Or finding that the software isn’t actually fit for your purposes and you waste time and money figuring that out. 

If you brief people at a high-level (as you would with a new project), provide any training or support the need to track adoption, you build a clear picture of where and how your software - and adoption - is succeeding and failing.

Remember, your workflow isn’t just internal

Whether you call it a workflow or not, you’ll have certain steps you generally follow for keeping track of client and internal deadlines, for example, requesting and receiving information from clients. Your clients too will have their own steps that overlap with yours - finding and providing the information you require, keeping their Xero and Dext accounts up to date, paying their taxes and signing documents.

With a lot of software you use at your practice, like Xero, Dext and AccountancyManager, both your employees and your clients will need to use it in different ways. So make sure you don’t just focus on internal processes, but your clients’ too.

Make a plan, with KPIs and stick to it (even if it changes)

We recently suggested a few exercises you can do to nail down what you want from your business and how you’d like your processes to be better. Setting goals is key, whether it’s becoming 100% paperfree (across every client), completing tax returns early or reducing the time you spend on non-billable work. Give yourself goals, timescales and performance indicators to check your progress along the way.

AM users that have taken their staff and clients on this journey have seen some fantastic results. Ask your team and clients what they want to improve and use this insight to inform your goals. Painting this ‘big picture’ helps people understand why you’re asking them to make the change, what the overall impact is and the benefits to that individual. 

Set goals - and see how you do

The team at Scotland-based firm JGBC, has switched practice management software a few times. Leaving AM, going to Senta, Capium and Asana before coming back to AM. Johann Goree, owner of JGBC had a number of goals for his practice, but there was one in particular that led him - finally, to the right system. Zia wanted to complete 70% of clients’ annual accounts within four months of their year end date.

“The thing that annoyed me the most, was everyone looking at deadlines. You log in and you just see this huge list. That's not encouraging or motivating. Deadline, deadline, deadline! That's just not how I or my team work… And then you guys released this little concept of target dates. I was like ‘Oh hello!’ When I said [to the team], ‘look, I'm looking at AccountancyManager’, I said, ‘they've got built-in messaging and notifications. They've got the built-in client portal. And they've got this thing called target dates.’”

“We want at least 70% of our clients’ annual accounts done within four months of the end of their year end. But you can't manage that on a system that doesn't tell you in thirty days. Now we have target dates and we've not got a deadline to worry about for four or five months. We’ve never been in that position before.”

Explain the big picture and the tangible benefits

Zia Tahir, owner of Spherical Accountants always wanted to be 100% in the cloud, with no clients delivering paper records. A goal he is proud to have achieved. “We were able to convince our clients that although we are changing software, they will get the same level of service. In fact, we said, ‘things will become so much easier and we’ll save so much time and that it will be reflected on your fees as well’. And it has, by about 15%. Now we are 100% in the cloud. We use AccountancyManager, Xero and ReceiptBank across our whole clientbase.”

We said, ‘things will become so much easier and we’ll save so much time  that it will be reflected in your fees’. And it has, by about 15%.”

Build the technology into the culture and daily life of your team

For Ben Thexton, owner of TAC Accountants, his goal has always been to spend more ‘quality’ time with clients. To be able to respond quickly when they need things and use time with clients in more productive, value-add ways. Ben has taken process management to the extreme, by creating step-by-step documents that cover every part of his practice. “We have a full operating manual of exactly how the business is run. Onboarding can take up so much time so we have a full process document just for that. (And it all has to go through AccountancyManager. We don't use any other software).”

“...You can send out proposals. I can get clients to sign up to the portal so all their documents are secure. We do the AML checks through AccountancyManager. Any specific risk assessments. We can apply for the tax agent access (64-8s) So we can do everything onboarding-wise with the clients through one piece of software.”

And, like many AM users, Ben has built AM into their weekly planning meetings. “So we have a team meeting every week and we'll go through the tasks on AccountancyManager and say, right, this is what's coming up this month. Let's work on this and speak to clients. So it's brilliant in that regard because I know in the background I can empty my head of what date stuff is due and what I need to be doing, because I know AccountancyManager is going to remind me.”

Give technophobes an extra hand (or avoid them entirely)

We’ve spoken to some accountants and bookkeepers that choose not to work with clients if they don’t use Xero – or other technologies – and don’t want to. Many aren’t afraid to turn away clients if they’re reticent to use technology. Mark Francis at Mark Francis Bookkeeping Solutions Ltd, admits that he’d rather work with startups. “I prioritise startups so I can teach them good habits. Getting people on the cloud can be quite difficult if they’re stuck in their ways.” 

Andy Sullivan, owner of Complete HQ down in Cornwall, has taken the opposite approach. As a technophile, Andy has turned his practice into part-accountancy, part-technology advice and guidance. “We have a lot of people that are technophobes when they first join us. We work with a lot of construction businesses who are a bit more fearful of using too much tech in their business. There's a lot of initial education with them and we might implement things a lot slower. So transitioning them to Xero, get them using ReceiptBank, then start doing some forecasting with them and just get them used to the systems. 

If you’re training and training and they never get it, then that might come to a point where we say ‘maybe you should go and work with someone else’. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened yet.”

A lot of people don't understand things because they've never been educated about it, but if you do a little bit of training with people, help them understand, hopefully they get it. If you’re training and training and training and they never get it, then that might come to a point where we have to say ‘maybe you should go and work with someone else’. But fortunately, we've not had anyone in that scenario.

Andy has a particularly interesting way of introducing his clients to new technology. Immediately after Zoom calls with his clients, Andy records a quick video on Loom. If the call relates to a piece of software, like registering for the AM Client Portal, or using a new bit of Xero, Andy will share his screen in this video and click through the steps. In just 3 minutes, Andy has trained a client on a small section of software and summarised everything discussed.

Finally, ask for feedback

When Spherical Accountants moved over to AccountancyManager, Zia wanted to make absolutely sure that it was the right decision, not just for his team, but for his clients too. “I emailed all the clients and asked them for feedback because it's really important that they're happy and comfortable with what we’re using.”

“All of them said they were very happy with it, especially the document side of it. Now they can go back and download files rather than requesting the documents from us - so they have all that time saving.” 

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