So, how can accountants make sure they’re choosing the product that best suits their business? The first step on the road to answering this question is by carrying out a thorough cultural assessment and gap analysis to ensure that any new technology adopted by the company not only benefits the business, but also meets the needs of the staff.
Firms will reap the rewards of data insights and technologies such as AI and blockchain if they commit to making the changes now. The question is, where should businesses start?
New IT solutions are coming to market every day, resulting in thousands of vendors competing for your digital transformation dollar. With this in mind, there are three key principles to consider as you begin your journey:
Work with what you’ve got
Don’t rip and replace if you don’t have to, but rather opt to complement existing systems where possible. Any digital transformation project should be implemented in the interest of business continuity, staff experience and customer service. With those goals in mind, by employing technology that integrates seamlessly with existing solutions, you can maximise the chance of a smooth transition and a positive user experience.
For example, a rip-and-replace option would involve scrapping your existing database and starting from scratch with a shiny new collaboration system. However, that cliff-edge strategy is likely to cause teething problems for staff and customers. Instead, you could consider integrating the current system with the new technology rather than scrapping it, allowing you to gradually shift usage over.
Change is a gradual process. Be sensitive to the impact that new technology will have on people’s day-to-day lives and give them and the company time to adjust — and assess whether you have the right skill sets in place to manage the new technology.
Don’t be fooled by the hype
The technology provider that will benefit your business most in the long term will be the one that focuses on practicality. The world is full of tech start-ups peddling the next big innovation, and they’ll all tell you that their software is the golden goose your company needs to rise above the competition. However, chances are there is no a quick fix for issues that are worth addressing.
You don’t just need technology; you need the knowledge and expertise to help you build and implement a system that works for your individual challenges. Good-quality IT deployment isn’t an overnight job. It takes time, care and the kind of insight that comes with experience. Make sure you work with a partner that can bring that level of individual attention and understanding to the table.
Working with an experienced IT provider will also help you to cultivate realistic expectations of your own organisation. It might be the difference between buying wide-reaching enterprise-grade ERP straight out of the gate and investing in quality, usable accounting software and building from there.
Find a partner who will go the distance
Finally, remember that digital transformation is an ongoing process. Be sure to select technology partners that will work with you beyond the installation date and understand your strategic goals. This is partly about making sure your new solution comes with comprehensive post-sales support, but it’s more than just that.
Digital transformation is a virtuous circle — cultural assessment followed by gap analysis followed by investment, and then rinse and repeat. The best investments will lead naturally to the next cultural assessment. Now that we’ve solved problem A, what’s problem B, and how can our partners help us address it?
This philosophy should inform your business’s tech purchasing decisions. It’s important to buy the right software for the job, but you also need to consider how technology fits into the company’s long-term vision. IT decision-makers need to ensure that they consult with other business departments and make sure the tech they implement and the partners they work with will work for the company over time.
Technology purchasing needs to be informed not just by the CIO’s wish list, but by the business as a whole. When digital transformation is driven by the holistic needs of the company and serves employee and client needs alike, success will be that much easier to achieve for everyone.
Kerry Agiasotis, executive vice-president, Sage