Taking on the role of cloud champion
Here’s what you or your designated colleague can do to start championing the cloud at your practice.
Get your board on board
Getting buy-in from the bosses is a lot easier if the decision to embrace a cloud-based accounting system has come from the board or the partners in the first place. They need to believe that it’s the right decision for the firm and give the go-ahead to make it happen.
Numbers are a good way to convince a group of accountants. Xero’s UK Accounting Industry Performance Report shows that as firms gain online clients, revenue growth increases – from 4.8 percent with up to five online clients, to 15.1 with more than 300 clients online. If new clients are excited about online accounting and what it offers their business, they’ll lead other people to you.
Additionally, cloud-centric practices are more capable of offering compliance services at a reduced rate, and they’re generally tech savvy – something that’s increasingly in demand as businesses strive for efficiency and a new, digital-native generation comes of age.
Another number to discuss: Decide on a ratio of cloud champions to pure fee earners. Ideally, your organisation will have more than one cloud champion but that depends on your company’s size and employment availability. If possible, you should look at a ratio of one champion to every 10-15 fee earners. Spreading the load makes it easier for the champions, and means the firm doesn’t have to worry.
Tell the team the success story
A big part of change management is making sure every team member is ready and willing. Clear communication is critical so it’s a good idea to schedule a team or all-office meeting to communicate the vision and give people an opportunity to ask questions before any changes take place.
Explain that having a critical mass of clients and staff using the cloud makes everyone more efficient. That means people have more time to do more of the jobs they enjoy and learn new skills.
A key piece of advice: Don’t underestimate the importance of continuous enthusiasm. It may not feel like it all the time, but your positivity will rub off on people and will make a big difference.
You need a platform to work from, so consider planning a launch event to position yourself as the cloud champion. This event can be as simple as taking the team out for drinks, explaining a bit about your role, answering questions, and letting everyone know you’ll celebrate when you hit KPIs or targets.
Certify early, train often
Getting yourself and you team up and running with the new software is key to a successful transition. Consider adopting a ‘10 percent time’, or similar model, so staff can use a percentage of their work hours entirely for learning the software and getting certified.
Xero’s internal data shows that practices that get certified bring on more cloud clients – who save you time and increase efficiency. In fact, the average certified partner has up to ten times as many cloud clients as a non-certified partner.
Go for the easy wins first
Because no one really likes change, it pays to go for easy wins right away to prove the new software’s capabilities and quantify some of the time and money savings the firm will enjoy.
Try moving bookkeeping jobs to your new software first. There’s no better way to build your team’s confidence than to get them doing bank reconciliations, producing reports, or entering invoices.
Clients probably won’t have an issue because you’re doing their bookkeeping anyway. It’s a low-risk way to train staff and help them see the software’s benefits.
Once that knowledge is built up, you can start to actively sell the software to clients with demos, training sessions or webinars.
Keep up the pace
Teams manage the transition to cloud-based accounting systems best when it’s top of mind. As cloud champion you can send daily top tips or weekly emails on features and benefits. And hold weekly or fortnightly 15-minute sessions to go through the software’s key elements. If you keep the information relevant, it won’t become spammy or annoying.
Keep an eye on your software’s blog, social media and events to stay up-to-date with new features and insights you can share. Being your firm’s champion is an ongoing process and you’ll find there’s always something new to learn.
Get help when you need it
Xero’s account managers have helped many firms get started with the cloud, and they’re always available to help accountants and bookkeepers who want to know the best path to take.
If you know anyone at another firm who has made the switch, organise a catch up to ask questions and see how they dealt with their biggest hurdles. If you need some contacts, your Xero account manager can help.
You can also book time with a Xero partner consultant who can give you ready-made resources for communicating your plan, its objectives and timeframes involved.
Don’t wait any longer!
If you’re considering accounting software for your practice or you need an extra push to volunteer to be your firm’s cloud champion, find an accountant or bookkeeper who’s made the move and ask them if they’d have done anything differently. You’ll find that the answer is almost always, “I’d get started sooner.”
Becoming cloud champion and adopting online accounting software will help you bring in new work and open up new advisory opportunities. You’ll get noticed as well – which could lead to promotion. So if you think you’ve got what it takes to be the cloud champion at your firm, get started now