If you’re ready to make the leap to cloud accounting software, this roadmap can help. It’s designed to minimise pain, lead to a good client onboarding process, and get you enjoying the benefits of cloud efficiencies right away. Follow the steps in order or jump in where it makes sense.
Step one: Doing the groundwork
When you’re considering a major change of any kind, stating your company’s values and what makes you unique is a hugely valuable exercise. While this step might seem unrelated to the day-to-day business of accounting, it’s a really good way to set yourself up for success.
Consider these questions:
- What are your firm’s values?
- What is your unique value proposition (UVP)?
- What does your firm offer that no one else/few others/no one in your area does?
Write down the answers. Think about how this unique value proposition is embedded into the firm, and how it’s reflected in the firm culture, staff, and presentation – your website, branding, advertisements, etc.
If you feel your UVP or firm values aren’t as well presented or embedded as they might be, switching your accounting to the cloud is your opportunity to change things. It’s your chance to get your leadership, employees and clients on the same page.
Make a firm decision to switch.
This is a leap, not a tentative dipping of toes. Doing things by half-measures may seem easier at the outset, but it’ll cost in the long run.
Change is much easier if you know how it worked for other people. Speak with other accountants or bookkeepers who have done it. Your Xero account manager is also a great information source and can give you the names of some contacts. Consider bringing in external consultants to advise on the cultural change. Do a Google search for change management consultants in your area.
Make sure the firm leadership are all in and that staff understand and agree with the reasons for the change.
Schedule an all-hands meeting where you can talk about the need for change, and the positive outcomes everyone stands to gain. Staff will be on board if you show how it will benefit them.
Schedule one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. Listen to their concerns and questions. Create a document to record all the feedback, which you can speak to at a later date. Share this document with your Xero account manager, who will have dealt with concerns like yours before.
Create a mind map or flow chart of what you want your practice to look like after you’ve gone through the transition. This could include all your departments, fee levels, services offered, etc. Once you have a clear vision of where the firm is heading, you will be able to make meaningful change.
Step three: Scaling up
Conduct a client segmentation exercise, part two. Now that you know exactly who your clients are, define those that are best suited to move to your cloud accounting system. These clients will most likely be more tech-savvy or are already using cloud or desktop accounting software.
Review your cloud migration targets, and refine accordingly.
Review and consolidate relationships with any existing cloud clients.
Make sure they understand what’s required of them, and how the cloud will save them money and time.
Review certification progress and KPIs. Everyone should have made a solid start on learning your new software. Meet with your Xero account manager or practice consultant for advice on keeping up the momentum.
Identify skill gaps in your team, and put training and development into place for those who are less suited or comfortable with regular contact with clients.
Encourage staff to discuss the following points with clients in order to sell more of them on the benefits of cloud accounting:
Estimate how much time they’d save with the cloud.
Ask them what they’d do with the extra time saved.
Talk to them about the peace of mind of having accurate, easily-accessible and viewable records.
For cloud champions:
You need to give yourself a platform to work from, so consider planning a launch event to position yourself as the cloud champion. It can be as simple as taking the team out for drinks, explaining a bit about your role, answering questions, and letting everyone know there will be future events or celebrations when you hit KPIs or targets.
Step five: Growing cloud maturity
If you haven’t already, now’s the time to institute weekly targets for individual team members to move clients to the cloud. Keep track and reward team members who hit their targets.
Review team KPIs or PDPs. How’s the team going with certification? If you’re tracking well, advertise your expertise. Put the number of cloud-certified employees on your website and other public-facing resources. Clients actively seek out cloud-certified practices, and it’s a great way to differentiate yourself.
Likewise, leverage your Xero partnership and attract new business by putting your partner status on everything you produce. Add it to your website, your branding and staff social media bios, even office stationery. Wear your partner status with pride – you’ve earned it.
Track, measure and manage your client conversations. This isn’t idle chit-chat. It’s the foundation for advisory. For example, if you see that a client has carried out a project that has returned a particularly high margin, open the conversation about how they can reinvest this gain to drive future developments.
Your practice management software should offer you the ability to note and track conversations with clients.
You can build client conversation tracking into your workflow. Some of the most successful firms encourage their staff to track these ‘advisory touchpoints’ to the point of making them a monthly KPI or PDP for all client-facing staff.
Hold regular client events centred on the cloud. These are a great way to build rapport and advocacy for a new way of working. Your events don’t need to be complex – a simple drop-in day or monthly seminars will work. Webinars are a great way of reaching more remote or time-poor clients. They also demonstrate tech competence and a willingness to embrace new tools.
Step seven: A fully-fledged cloud accounting practice
Decide whether or not you want to take on more bookkeeping, or outsource it. Some firms find themselves doing more bookkeeping with their cloud accounting software. Because cloud accounting software means you can fly through bookkeeping faster than ever before, doing more of it can be a way to drive up revenue. But, depending on your firm, using the cloud also means you can more easily pass this task back out to clients, or contract out to a specialist bookkeeper so you can concentrate on developing other, high-value services.
Once you’ve been using your new client meeting agenda for a while, review it with other staff to make sure your meetings are as efficient as possible.
Do the same review with your list of common questions. Is there something you haven’t been asking that you should?
Define standard operating procedures for servicing clients. This is a big task, but start with the basics – such as the core information and documents you request from and share with clients. Set out a process and timeframe for completion. Then move to the accounts production process, and finish with client review and close off procedures. Keep it simple and then expand out.
Identify, or set out who does what within your practice. Link this exercise with your standard operating procedures and efficiencies will soon materialise.
Review your pricing models and look at creating subscription packages. Rather than running an entirely time-based billing system, you can now consider charging clients a flat fee for services and tier them according to complexity. This type of billing can do wonders for cash flow and profitability.
Pat yourselves on the back and decide what to do with the time you’re saving. At this stage, many firms begin to experiment with high-value app-based and advisory services. Do you spend more time working on and building your practice? Do you pay staff more, or give them better equipment, flexible hours, or more time off? Do you focus on growth, or settle into building niches and high-value client relationships? Anything’s possible.