This is part one in a five-part series Eliminate Manual Bookkeeping & Unlock Real-Time Cash Flow Insights.
"A process is an organized group of related activities that together create value to clients. No single task creates the desired value. Value is created by the entire process." - Gary Boomer
In today's rapidly changing economy, market demand shifts, and the increasing and ever-changing regulatory landscape, accountants and bookkeepers are becoming essential for business success worldwide. Small business leaders are more in need than ever for a dedicated line of support to help empower them to take control of their financial well-being. As accountants and bookkeepers are expanding services beyond historical reporting and compliance, they need new tools to boost automation to provide their clients with real-time data, giving themselves the bandwidth to provide support and advisory services.
Simply put, you need to eliminate much of the manual bookkeeping and unlock real-time cash flow insights. Although you may read or hear about “Tool A” or “Solution B”, it is less likely that you have read or heard about how you get that tool or solution in place so you can start using it.
So, how do you get started on your bookkeeping automation journey?
When starting to revitalize your approach to managing your bookkeeping practice, defining a process is essential. You have to first realize that you’re attempting to make sweeping and systematic changes that will impact your employees and clients. It's critical to take the time at the beginning of the project to intentionally define a process that will allow you to successfully transition your organization and ensure that every stakeholder knows essential updates and progress.
Implementing an automation tool may seem self-evident at a high level. However, many organizations choose to forgo drilling into each step of a general project management process in exchange for potential time savings.
What are the essential steps of managing a project? How do these steps apply to implementing an automation solution?
The planning stage is arguably the most important step and may also be the most time-consuming. This stage is where the bulk of the work will happen; it is where you must intentionally develop a well-thought-out and agile timeline, ensuring that each step is accounted for and no critical development is overlooked. When creating a plan, you need to outline and come up with answers to important questions, including:
- What problem(s) need to be solved?
- How do I define success in solving the solution? What are the goals I need to meet?
- What are the deliverables and their due dates?
- What are the potential solutions to those problem(s)?
- How do I select the appropriate solution?
- What are the risks of implementing this solution?
- How do I mitigate these risks?
- What resources do I have to assist during implementation and in risk mitigation?
- What are the costs associated with the transition?
- What are other resources needed to implement the solution?
- How long will it take to get up and running?
- Who are my key stakeholders, what do they need to know, and when will they need to know it?
- What change management do I need to consider, i.e., what resistance can I expect, from whom should I expect it, what steps can I take to overcome that resistance?
Each question and step of the planning phase is essential, and each one must be carefully parsed. However, one question that is often glossed over during the planning stage is how you will define success. The project’s goals should be outlined and just follow the SMART matrix – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. By defining the goals from the beginning of the project, you can measure them throughout the implementation stage to gauge progress.
The implementation may be the highlight of the process, but it will leave both you and your teammates with headaches if done unsuccessfully. However, by following the road map created during the planning stage, the critical considerations and well-thought-out steps get to work their magic. You’ve prepared, your stakeholders are prepared, and you are ready to move forward.
Assessment and Review
As you are implementing your project, you will monitor and assess performance according to the goals, deliverables, and timetables defined during the planning stage. Factors to review during assessment include:
- Are you hitting targets consistently?
- Are you managing the change with your team and clients effectively?
- Have any risks appeared that need to be managed?
As the implementation wraps up, it is time to review the project using the SMART goals defined during planning. You will determine if things are going as smoothly as you expected - or if you need to make some adjustments. In addition to checking against each SMART goal, you should also ask:
- Is your team successfully onboarded?
- Does your team need any follow-up training?
- Are your clients adapting to the change?
Automation Implementation Management
Fortunately, implementing automation tools has become less complicated as technology has advanced, and bookkeeping and accounting resources have expanded. Taking the time to speak with your peers, research online, and attend training courses will give you the information you need to answer many key planning questions. When looking at potential solutions for your automation and speaking with their teams, ask these questions:
- What is the competitive advantage of your solution?
- When fully implemented, what level of automation might I see?
- Does your team provide resources to assist with the implementation?
- Is there a dedicated onboarding process for my team?
- Will I be given a dedicated account manager to help facilitate my issues?
- What training resources do you provide for my team and my clients?
Automation implementation is the first and most important step to modernizing your bookkeeping practice and providing real-time cash flow insights to your clients. Being able to navigate the rollout process successfully is essential to engineering measurable success for your firm.