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By PJ Bishop, Vice-President for Partners, Accountants & Alliances, Africa & Middle East at Sage
By this time, you’ve probably more or less settled into the new, COVID-defined workplace. Your team works from everywhere, you’ve traded face-to-face client meetings for Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls, and you’re more comfortable using cloud technology than you might have been six months ago.
If you’re still adapting and updating your workplace technology, there are four key areas you need to focus on to ensure the successful implementation of your digital strategy.
Clients: Start with the low-hanging fruit
Make sure that your existing clients are compatible with your new ways of working – including those that are tech averse. In the first phase of implementation, focus on clients that already use cloud-enabled accounting solutions or have expressed an interest in exploring the benefits of new technologies. Some clients may not be as willing to change how they’ve always done things. Perhaps they see accounting as a chore or are more comfortable using paper-based ledgers and receipt shoeboxes.
Tip for success: Create a series of scripts that you and your team can use when talking to these very different client segments about your digital transformation and how it affects them. Emphasise the benefits and answer any questions they have about the implementation.
Team members: Train everyone
As with your clients, some colleagues will adapt to the new software and systems quickly, while others tend to resist change for as long as possible. A common misperception is that all accounting solutions are similar, so spending time and money on training is a waste of resources that can be better spent elsewhere. However, without proper training, people will instinctively turn away from the new solution and revert to legacy systems, which could be disastrous for the seamless implementation of your digital transformation plan.
When it comes to training, it’s not only about technology but also about the skills that build better client relationships. Ensure that everyone is fully trained – even seasoned accounting solution users can learn new ways to do things faster and make their lives easier.
Tip for success: Software as a service (SaaS) providers offer free or affordable software training and consulting. If budgets are tight, train a couple of people, who can, in turn, show their colleagues on the team how things work.
Technology: Prioritise security
One of the biggest attractions of cloud-enabled accounting is that your data is accessible from anywhere and on any device. This flexibility enables you to save on IT costs because your team can use their own smartphones and tablets for work tasks. However, this also introduces security and compliance risks under the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).
Tip for success: If your team was largely office-based prior to COVID-19 and is now working from anywhere and everywhere, it’s a good idea to implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy and educate your employees on basic IT security protocols, such as not sharing passwords and only installing apps and software from reputable developers and companies.
Culture: Take everyone along for the ride
Digital transformation will change how you work and is organically set to impact your workplace culture for good. In removing the burden of admin and repetitive tasks from your team’s to-do list, you also free up potential and capacity to introduce new business advisory services, upskill employees, and serve your clients faster and more efficiently.
Tip for success: It’s important that you communicate these benefits to your team as well as to your clients, so that everyone buys into your digital transformation plan – it is critical for the success of the plan that they all do so. Keep communication channels open, listen to feedback, and adapt your strategy as you progress.
Remember, in undertaking this journey, you’re preparing your practice for the future – and whatever that brings in terms of evolving and increasing client demands. Don’t rush to make this journey and take the time to carefully consider shareholder interests and other key aspects.