If you’re following along with our 3 Stages to Automating Your Accounting Firm series, you’re probably deep in the weeds of automating processes and a seasoned expert at planning for and managing change. If so, you’re in luck. This final stage of your automation implementation at your firm never truly ends— but it’s also where you begin to see the greatest rewards. (And if you’re just getting started on this change, start with our stage 1: plan and stage 2: pilot posts.)
The process to becoming an automated firm isn’t complete once your chosen automation technology is installed and running smoothly. A ‘set it and forget it’ approach won’t help you make the most of the new opportunities you’ve created. Monitoring an implementation is about more than just technical troubleshooting and training. It’s all about continuing to learn about what works and what doesn’t, then shifting and adjusting as necessary.
Stage 3: Customizing, or Pivoting your Automation Plan
Many firms will stop once they’ve completed Stage 2. They’ve implemented, they’ve trained people, the new processes are in place. But automation is about more than a single technology or series of once-manual processes in your firm that are now smoothly running without that level of manual input.
Becoming an automated firm is about a change of approach, a change of thinking in how you consider the work and the rewards for that work. What do you value most? What work can your team provide that brings in the most value for your firm? What do your clients need most?
Structure the automation rollout—and the conversations surrounding it—in a way that continues to provide insights about how well, how often and how successfully your automated solutions are being used.
Set a timeframe to re-evaluate your use of automation and employees’ feelings about it. Frequency should be based on your firm’s usage and needs—whether it’s annually, quarterly or a regular part of leadership meetings. Be sure to allow for enough time for the benefits of your new processes to be visible to you, your employees and your clients.
Seek input from your firm’s VIPs (Valuable Input Professionals). Accept and actively seek out input from as many stakeholders as possible. From regular surveys of employees to one-on-one conversations with clients who should be seeing—and benefitting from—the changes brought by automation. Ask them what they want. Remain open to all input: what services have been improved, which new ones can be added or explored, where extra attention is needed, and which priorities, internal and external, have shifted since implementation began.
Reconsider your firm-wide goals. Automation is on the scene, and new possibilities have been unlocked. Don’t be afraid to pursue them! With accountants operating at a higher level and valuable time freed up, re-evaluate the growth, recruiting, profitability and services-oriented vision for your firm.
Take a look at what’s next. Becoming an automated firm can sometimes be one process at a time. For example, you can tackle automating bill pay services today, give the new processes and technology time to show their impact, adjust what’s needed, and then consider the next set of processes you can standardize with automation. Then it’s time to start all over from stage 1.
By following these three phases of automation, you can both increase the value of your firm and better communicate that value to your clients. Furthermore, by taking regular stock of what’s working, what isn’t and what areas of potential growth and increased efficiency need to be addressed, your firm can count future-proofing and healthy maintenance as a single item on the to-do list.
This is the third of 3 articles in our 3 Stages to Automating Your Firm Series aimed at helping accounting firms take the steps necessary to implement automation in their firms. You can read through articles stage 1: plan and stage 2: pilot. Or, if you’re ready to get started with your automation journey, see how Bill.com can help. Start your risk-free trial or request a demo today.