Welcome to the Digital Age, where technology is transforming our world and the pace of change continues to accelerate. To keep up, firms must embark on our own digital transformation.
Think of digital transformation as the blend of solid fundamentals in our strategy and firm values, combined with the technology that enables better results for our clients—and ourselves. We need to embrace technology to enhance relationships and business outcomes, but without it overrunning ourselves—or our firms.
In a recent BILL and CPA Academy webinar, I was joined by Jeannie Ruesch, Marketing Director at BILL, and Matt Gardner, CEO and Co-Founder of hiline, in a panel discussion about The Digital Transformation Mindset.
We covered various angles on the topic, ranging from strategic approaches to best practices, and how to lead ourselves and our firms through this evolution.
In this blog, I share a variety of key points from the conversation. Be sure to view the on-demand webinar for the full conversation!
Best practices and pitfalls to avoid with digital transformation
Digital transformation provides an opportunity to think differently about what our profession is going to be—what we're all about and the way that we are perceived by our customers. It can be scary thinking about upending our strategy and changing to modern technology. In some instances, COVID-19 expedited a transformation that was already in progress. Many of us were forced to quickly figure out change, even though we weren’t prepared to do so. Now, this offers a chance to get creative with our business models and strategy.
To create digital transformation, it is integral to focus on firm culture. This includes understanding how leadership, staff, and clients view change. (Spoiler alert: most people resist change!)
The first step is to formulate and implement a structured change management plan. Without a plan, things can easily go awry. Consider this anecdote about a technology firm that aggressively grew by acquiring new businesses and moving them into a centralized technology stack. Unfortunately, the employees were reluctant to adopt the new technology. It wasn’t surprising to learn that the firm had not developed and executed a change management plan, nor had they taken the time to identify success stories or potential problems. When we shift technology, remember that we alter people's workflows and mess with the tools that make them feel like experts.
Maintaining a productive & innovative mindset
Our next theme is around adopting and maintaining a productive and innovative mindset as it relates to digital transformation. Mindset sets the stage for every activity, big or small, that we undertake on the path to success.
A productive and innovative mindset is especially important now, as many firms are struggling with talent—both attracting and retaining the right people. One way we can have an innovative mindset to solve the talent challenge is to look at technologies that will help staff move away from manual tasks and find ways to empower them to upskill and learn new things. Where can we automate steps? Where can we remove certain tasks to allow more time for rewarding projects? This will help the team stay excited, engaged and moving forward, while also better serving our clients.
Self leadership & maintaining balance in an always-on environment
As we embark on the digital transformation journey, there is a sense that we will always be “on.” How do we handle that as leaders and within our firm? This may be the most challenging transformation theme to pin down.
Change is hard and balance means something different for everyone. Thus, transformation should begin by leading with our vision, communicating it often, and setting the tone for our firm. It is our responsibility to show and emulate behaviors for our staff. That will create the difference in giving them the space and the permission to build more balance in their day and in the way that they approach change.
Another important reminder: Agility is key, and the speed of the leader is the speed of the firm, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Where you have opportunities for growth, consider engaging with an executive coach or bringing together an advisory board to help fill knowledge gaps.
In the end, commit to be open to change, and always remember that transformation is about helping people—which, in turn, will create a new level of success for your firm and your clients.
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