The Future of Work
How To Choose New Technology for Your Accounting Department
About the Author: Katie Thomas, CPA, is a content creator, 2021 40 under 40 CPA Practice Advisor recipient, and the owner of Leaders Online, where they help accounting professionals increase their impact, influence, and income through thought leadership and digital marketing. Feel free to visit Leaders Online or connect with her on LinkedIn to get in touch with Katie.
Accounting departments must stay on top of new technologies that can help improve productivity and efficiency while also reducing operating expenses. In fact, surveys show that cloud-hosted software reduces operating expenses by a staggering 50%.
Technology needs to solve pain points, fit into the budget, benefit your employees, empower accountants to offer higher value-added services, and work with current tech stacks. There is a lot to juggle.
Clearly, learning how to choose new technology is an in-depth process, which requires the right approach to be viable for your business. The guide below can point you in the right direction.
How to Choose New Technology for Your Accounting Department
When choosing new technology for your accounting department, consider the following:
What are You Doing Now?
Before you start exploring and comparing your options, take a step back to evaluate the organization’s current setup. By looking at what you’re doing now, you can determine what’s working and what’s not working. Define your current state thoroughly.
Look not only at the technologies being used currently, but also at the people and accounting workflow involved.
Consider the following:
- What are the pain points or inefficiencies of the organization?
- Is the current technology solving these pain points?
- What’s working?
- What’s not working?
- Is the team properly trained?
- Where do you see room for improvement?
- Does the technology offer optimum efficiency?
- How does the current technology impact your people and processes?
- What does your team think?
- Ask peers and mentors their thoughts.
Does the current setup allow for easy integrations? Is the solution easy to use, or are you and other team members frustrated by a complicated interface? Is it an all-in-one solution, or is the organization using multiple technologies for different processes? How quick is the time-to-value and post-implementation support (often under-rated considerations)?
Further, consider: does the solution save you time?
Once you have a solid understanding of the current state, its setup, the pros, and the cons, you can consider the next point: your needs.
What Are Your Needs?
Now that you’ve evaluated the organization’s current state, you know what isn’t working and the issues that still need to be addressed. So, what problems do you want the technology to solve?
Maybe you want to:
- Bring some order to automation silos. Often, organizations focus on automating the parts but not the whole. This can cause duplicate tasks and processes that can be eliminated through proper integrations.
- Increase data integrity of financial statement support files, and audit schedules
- Improve collaboration and condense applications. If teams are sharing information and communicating across multiple platforms, some information may slip through the cracks.
- Improve automation of tedious, repetitive, and mundane tasks that are prone to human error or take up more time than needed.
Create a list of these needs and the problems they solve.
Fine-Tune Your Needs List
Once you have a list of your needs, you can fine-tune and categorize them to help narrow down your options.
Label these needs as:
- Must-haves. These are features or functions that your technology absolutely must-have. They solve critical problems and save time.
- Nice-to-haves. These are features or functions that would be really great to have and benefit your team, but they aren’t integral.
Categorizing your needs will help you better evaluate solutions and eliminate those that really won’t benefit your organization.
Why is Change Important?
You’ve evaluated your organization’s needs and pain points, but it’s important to communicate with relevant stakeholders and team members why these changes are important.
Be sure your communication to these stakeholders demonstrates you’ve considered the time and resources for training and implementation around the new technology. More on this below.
Creating a plan is crucial when trying to justify and implement a change.
Create a Plan to Choose the Right Technology
Choosing the right technology cannot be taken lightly, but it’s also not something to ignore because “things are working.” In fact, in one study, over 56% of survey respondents found that technology improved productivity.
Businesses of all sizes are looking for ways to become more efficient.
Once you have the idea to start using new technology and have evaluated your needs, it’s time to create a plan, which includes:
- Timeline: When should you begin using the technology? How much training, implementation, and learning curve will be required to get employees up to speed?
- Budget: You know that you have a problem, but how much money can be used to solve the issue? Will the budget be enough to cover all expenses, including training?
- Who needs to be involved: CFOs and controllers must sit down and determine who needs to be involved from start to finish with the technology purchase, implementation, and training. Do customers need to be involved? What about employees, managers, IT partners, etc.?
- Who will make decisions: Which stakeholders will decide which technology to consider and use?
- Who will evaluate the software: Finally, determine which stakeholders and personnel will be responsible for evaluating the software and championing the change.
- Who is the executive sponsor: Often bypassed. Having an executive sponsor(s) will ease a lot of the approval and authoritative friction that occurs when selecting and implementing solutions.
- What is the implementation method: There are several methods of implementation from direct, phased, pilot, to parallel. Make sure to research and choose the right one for your situation.
You’ve taken the time to create a plan, but you also need to know how to solve your pain points and problems.
Determine the Best Course of Action to Solve the Problem
You have a plan of action in place, but it’s now time to dive deeper into choosing the right technology. First, you need to find what options are available to solve your problems.
Find Solutions That Solve Your Problem
Finding the right technology solution can be difficult because you don’t know always know what’s available. So, what can you do? A few things:
- Work with experts to find the right solution
- Discuss your needs and get feedback from IT support partners
- Lean on existing team members to discover new solutions
- Create a rubric of standard questions and ratings to help quantify your decision.
Also, you can search through review sites that are well-known and trusted for having a wealth of software solutions that they review. Here are a few of the top review sites to browse through and find tech solutions:
Gather information on solutions available and determine which software option(s) you would like to evaluate and test.
Evaluate and Test Software
Reviews and advice from experts can help you narrow down the existing software options, but it’s now time to begin the evaluation and testing process. A few ways to evaluate and test the technology are:
- Evaluate solutions to make sure that it solves your problems
- Determine whether the solution integrates well with your existing tech stack and workflow
- Consider customer support, training options, and how this technology will impact the people within your organization as a whole
- Demo the software to learn how it works
- Test the software in-house before full deployment
Testers should run quality assurance tests to ensure that the solutions work well with current tech stacks and workflow. Additionally, it’s crucial to learn how the technology helps solve problems more efficiently and effectively than the current solutions.
Make the Decision
You’ve done all of the hard work, and now’s the time to make a decision on the technology that you’ll be using. The next step in the process will be implementation, and this is such an in-depth process that we’ll cover it in greater detail in a future blog post.