How a cloud champion can make your move to the cloud easier

Get the buy-in you need to move to accounting software.

Almost all practices that have reaped the benefits of cloud-based accounting systems have one thing in common: They had a cloud champion to build enthusiasm and get the software implemented within their practice. Here’s what this key person – or people – do.

What exactly is a cloud champion?

A cloud champion drives the change management necessary to move a practice to the cloud. The role doesn’t need to be official, and it can rest with one or several people. The cloud champion will liaise with partners, directors, managers and employees. They’ll have good lines of communication with their Xero account manager, and they’ll create and enact plans that can fundamentally change the way the practice operates.

Training, certification, client integration, app ecosystems, onboarding, migration – these are all things that champions need to be across and understand in order to get the cloud working for the practice and for clients.

While it’s not an easy job, it’s a very rewarding one. Firms that make the transition to a cloud-based accounting system say they’re happier, more productive, and more profitable. And because being a champion is a test of mettle and a generator of concrete rewards for the firm, it’s often a pathway to promotion for employees or managers who choose to take it on.

Champions tend to fit, loosely, in one of two categories.

evangelist

The evangelist

This sort of champion often takes up the role after attending Xerocon, or another accounting convention or a trade show. Or maybe they get inspired after a catch up with a cloud-centric accountant. Evangelists see a need for the cloud and it goes from there.


The agent

This champion tends to be in a position to direct change. They’re often a director or partner who thinks a move to the cloud is important but doesn’t necessarily know how to go about it. They might take on the champion role themselves or delegate the job to a bright or tech-savvy employee. Either way, there’s a mission to complete: Find out what the deal is with the cloud. Make it work for us. Do whatever it takes.

the agent

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.

the board

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.

train often

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 us pace

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

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