Leveraging Technology for Growing Your Business
What accounting firms doesn’t want to save time and money, improve customer service, and minimize errors? Leveraging technology can help you accomplish that. However, choosing the right mix of tech tools for your business isn’t easy. With dozens of software packages on the market, every business owner needs a blueprint to guide the choice process.
- Technology for client connection
Attracting the right prospects and delivering exceptional service to clients are the two cornerstones of any professional practice. Today’s technology allows business owners to do both 24/7 through smart scheduling, automation, and strategic self-service opportunities for clients. Here are some options to consider.
- Client portals built into your firm’s website can allow your clients to access reports and relevant files when and where they need it.
- Blogging can be a platform for staying in touch with clients and building trust with prospects. YouTube channels and podcasts could provide similar platforms to share your expertise in spoken word format.
- Webinars allow you to share valuable information with a group of clients or prospects without incurring travel costs.
- A Client Relationship Management (CRM) tool can help your growing team keep all client records in one central place, which facilitates internal coordination and fosters coherence.
- For some professional practices, offering secure electronic document vaults for storing bank statements, tax returns, estate documents, and other critical files can add significant value to clients.
- Interactive website features can allow prospects to get to know your firm before committing to an appointment. Consider adding a retirement calculator, a tool for projecting the cost of professional nursing care, or even a chatbot.
Remember that virtually any outreach strategy will take time to bring results. Too many accountants launch a blog, YouTube channel, or a podcast just to lose momentum a month or two later. Commit actionable steps to your calendar for better accountability.
- Technology for internal collaboration
Effective communication is critical for successful project management and internal collaboration. Here are some tools that can boost the team’s efficiency and encourage knowledge-sharing.
- Project management platforms are useful if your firm is running multiple complex projects at the same time. When implemented and managed effectively, project management platforms can cut down on the time spent in meetings and free up your staff to focus on making progress. In addition, task assignments and progress updates are live, recorded, and searchable. Cloud-based solutions offer many benefits such as mobility, build-in backup capability, and connectivity at a reasonable monthly rate. Some of the options include platforms like Teamwork, Basecamp, Trello and others. Compare your options side-by-side. Be sure to focus on the functionality that’s mission-critical for your practice so that you don’t get distracted by the fancy bells and whistles that you won’t use. Finally, develop a user guide that documents how the team will use the new platform in a uniform way that maximizes efficiency at the firm level.
- Instant communication can offer your staff the convenience of real-time access combined with a build-in conversation record. Many accounting offices are moving away from email to internal conversation platforms like Slack or Yammer that are built for quick chats with a searchable archive.
- Technology for efficiency
Consider the “black holes” that seem to consume time and energy within your firm. Perhaps it’s the need to go into the office to download a client file that’s too large for a team member to email, or the prospect of searching the file room for a paper copy of a proposal from seven years ago. Or it could be the need to re-enter client data from one program window into another, taking up valuable time and leading to human error. There are technology solutions that can streamline your workflows, minimize errors, and allow your staff to focus on value-added tasks that only they can do.
- Mobile access through Cloud of SaaS technology can allow your team to work on the go. The capability of this technology goes beyond getting e-mail on your smartphone! For your team, the ability to connect to the office database and download a critical file can make the difference between meeting a deadline or disappointing a client. Accounting offices must be sure to consider client confidentiality and security protocols before choosing their Cloud file storage provider.
- The idea of a paperless office appeals to many professionals as they make the shift away from stacks of files towards electronic documents. No more digging in the dusty file room!
- Systems integration can eliminate cumbersome spreadsheets and multiple data entry points, saving time and minimizing mistakes.
Whatever technology tools you consider, remember that you don’t have to do this alone. Start with an overall vision and strategy for your firm. Do you research and consult experts if necessary. Technology is most effective when woven into the fabric of the professional practice – so build in the time and budget to train your staff on using the new tools for maximum impact and adoption.