Have you ever been to a conference and heard about this amazing accounting tool or that awesome software application? Did you leave the conference convinced you needed to task your IT team with implementing this solution right away?
We love to see that kind of enthusiasm for tech in accounting firms. However, before you dive headfirst into product demos, it’s essential to take a step back and think about what you really hope to solve by implementing new technology and build out your own technology requirements.
What do you want your tech to do?
Whether you’re evaluating several options available on the market, or you’ve narrowed your choices down to two, your firm needs to consider what you want the technology to do.
Many firms start by looking at the functionality of the solutions. But, when you really get down to it, most solutions designed to fulfill a particular need have the same basic functionality. In fact, most software available today has more functionality than you will ever use.
Rather than starting with what the technologies offer, consider what problem you are trying to solve. Do you need it to be cloud-based and integrate with other applications you already use? Defining and documenting those requirements upfront can help you narrow down the field of appropriate solutions.
Once you’ve selected tools that meet your requirements, you can start evaluating the additional value you’ll get from the software, such as the ability to build your own API and access to data.
One firm we worked with was trying to choose between two well-established tax preparation solutions. Part of their decision-making process included looking at how the software calculated certain tax items, such as AMT or NIIT. While the firm’s decision-makers may have felt they were doing their due diligence, the process was a waste of time and it didn’t really get them any closer to making a decision. After all, if the software couldn’t calculate a tax return accurately then it probably wouldn’t have made it in the business this long.
It made more sense to consider the firm’s long-term goals. Part of their strategic plan included rapid growth through acquisition. When we looked at the two tools the firm was considering, Option A was already being used by 60% of their targeted accounting firms. It made sense to go with Option A because as the firm merged in new offices, there was a 60% chance the new office would be using the same technology.
How to develop technology requirements
Accounting firm leaders tend to consider all technology decisions as being the responsibility of IT. However, building a list of requirements is better handled by a cross-functional team of people who use the software and people who administer it.
For example, when deciding on tax software you need input from the audit department, as they may use the software for deferred tax calculations and tax liabilities. Cast a wide net to ensure your new solution fits various needs across the organization.
Of course, IT should be a part of your cross-functional team, as they can provide important information on admin and technical requirements. Too often, firm leaders get excited about implementing a tool they heard about at a conference without consulting IT regarding what it would take to integrate the new tech with the firm’s existing technology stack.
Without a framework of technology requirements, your firm can easily get caught up in a sales pitch. You run the risk of being sold technology you don’t need, won’t use, and can’t realize the full return on investment.
Instead, use your technology framework to tell the sales team what business challenge you are trying to solve and let them demonstrate how their software solution meets your needs.