An interesting observation from our recently completed #ATSA16 Technology Survey was the adoption rates for various technologies had dropped over the past two years. Now this may be a result of many firms having now implemented the new technologies but to me I think there is more at play.

Not more change - leave me alone!

I have seen in many firms an element of reform fatigue. Things constantly changing with people never feeling they’re on top of things. Often this is exacerbated by a lack of implementation planning to ensure changes are bedded down effectively. 

Many firms take on too much change at once. Cloud accounting, client portals, new workpaper solutions, business advisory software, paperless working are just some of the common initiatives in many firms at the moment. Add to that the regular changes/updates from the software suppliers - there’s a whole lot going on.

In this environment, a better strategy might be “less is more”. Take on less and spend the time and effort to ensure the initiative is implemented effectively before moving on to the next change.

Interestingly, our technology survey also indicated that the top challenges faced by firms with their technologies was not the technologies/software, but the challenge of getting the most out of the systems implemented and the adoption by staff.

Training is key. Too few firms do regular IT training. Most IT training occurs when systems are acquired. For many this is just information overload. The training doesn’t get absorbed and stick. People learn IT incrementally. They are told or discover some new functionality or way of using an application, and adopt its use until it becomes a habit. What we need to do is to create an environment where this incremental training occurs all the time.

For every application in your practice create an application champion. That person’s job is to help others who are having a problem with the application or a question about its use. Their second job is to provide incremental training. Every few weeks show others one or two things that they can do to improve their use of the application. People can remember the one or two ideas and hopefully integrate them into their habits. If this is done over an extended period overall usage of technology can be significantly improved with the resulting flow on to efficiency, client service and profitability. 

For partners/directors you may have to consider individual training. Often this group may not be as technologically literate as some of the younger team members and so may be reluctant to attend training sessions that will reveal their lack of literacy. They can also be impatient given the time pressure they are under and can quickly become frustrated with systems. The end result can be that they give up trying and go back to their old ways. 

This has a significant impact on the overall firm. If team members see the firm leaders refusing to adopt the new technologies, they will question why they should bother as well. So getting team leaders on board is vital. 

While an expensive option I have found this approach to be highly effective. Have a competent team member sitting with the firm leader as they are using the new technology. They can be doing their own work but are available to answer questions. So when the leader hits a barrier they can quickly show how to overcome that issue. In this way leaders don’t become frustrated and learn incrementally how to use the software. I have found that once you get practice leaders competently using new software, they can become advocates for its use and can help drive change through the firm.

So if you’re wanting to get more from technological change. Consider taking on less projects at the same time and invest more time on implementation and ongoing training. You’ll be surprised by the results.

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David Smith Smithink