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Accounting firm managers transitioning to a cloud based firm: Challenges and opportunities

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 10 minute read

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 10 minute read

A growing number of accounting and audit firm leaders are deciding to sever ties with on-premise solutions and make the move to cloud-based technologies. For firm managers, they must prepare for the transition in ways that few others within the firm will.

Firm managers will not only be tasked with implementing the leadership’s vision— they will also need to navigate everything related to the staff’s side of the move. It can be a tricky balancing act.

However, despite the challenges that can arise, the opportunities likely far outweigh them. The key is successfully navigating the change and understanding the benefits to be gained.

To help firm managers drive success, this article will take a closer look at some of the challenges and opportunities managers should keep in mind when it comes to adopting and optimizing cloud-based technologies.

Jump to:

Implementing the vision for moving to the cloud

Navigating change management as a firm manager

Maximizing productivity among accounting firm staff

Allocating resources as a firm manager

Project management

Becoming a cloud-based accounting firm

Implementing the vision for moving to the cloud

Deciding to make the move to the cloud is, perhaps, the easiest part. Once the decision is made, accounting firm managers are then tasked with implementation. This involves having a clear understanding of the overall vision, effectively communicating that vision with staff, and embarking on a tactical plan for success.

The challenge of implementing the vision

Setting the wheels in motion and knowing where and how to begin can quickly become daunting.

One initial challenge that managers can face is not having a crystal-clear understanding of the bigger picture. It’s important to understand the direction your firm is heading and the goals you’re ultimately looking to achieve. In order to effectively act on that vision and communicate it to staff, it is imperative to have a solid grasp of the overall goal.

The solution to executing firm vision

Clear communication and asking the right questions are vital tools for firm managers to use when understanding and executing the accounting firm vision. If the firm’s vision or goals seem unclear, managers should proactively engage with leadership by asking clarifying questions, such as:

  • What is the motivation behind the initiative?
  • What are we hoping to achieve?
  • How does this align with our overall business strategy and goals?
  • Are there any specific areas or processes within the firm that should be prioritized?

Accounting firm managers are also in a unique position to help leaders better understand the pain points that are impacting both staff and clients. This knowledge can further shape the firm’s vision and help set realistic expectations.

Change isn’t easy. And for firm managers, navigating change management can no doubt prove difficult. Despite the difficulties, everyone must be onboard to maximize the benefits of cloud-based technology.

A lack of standardized workflows within the firm can lead to significant inefficiencies, as well as increased risk of errors. Furthermore, it hinders the firm’s ability to experience the full benefits of the cloud.

The challenge of managing the change to a cloud-based accounting firm

Firm managers may find that some team members, especially more seasoned professionals, are resistant to changing the way they work and how they serve clients. They’ve worked the same way for many years and shifting gears to embrace cloud technology can seem intimidating.

Some staff members may also be concerned about job security as the firm increases its reliance on automation.  It’s important to recognize that these worries, if not addressed, could impact employee morale and engagement.

The solution: Demonstrate the benefits of cloud technology

Transparency is key. It is critical that firm managers help staff understand why the firm is transitioning to the cloud and how the shift will directly benefit them. Stress the fact that cloud technology is meant to augment their work, not replace them. By clearly communicating that cloud technology is designed to support and enhance their roles, managers can help alleviate fears of job displacement.

Consider a few of the following approaches when communicating with your team:

  • Hold regular information sessions
  • Provide clear documentation outlining the benefits of cloud technology to different roles within the firm
  • Involve staff in the transition process
  • Offer training and support
  • Highlight how the cloud can make personal daily tasks easier
  • Establish a robust feedback mechanism
  • Share success stories and wins

Employees will be more receptive to change when there’s transparency and they feel as though they are part of the conversation. By focusing on these areas, firm managers can ensure that the transition to cloud technology is not just seen as a mandate but as a positive technology that benefits the entire firm.

Maximizing productivity among accounting firm staff

As the accounting firm transitions to cloud-based technologies, firm leaders trust managers to guide their teams toward enhanced productivity. This collaborative effort is crucial in harnessing the full potential of the new systems.

To ensure both progress and success, it is vital for managers to establish and maintain best practices and to ensure that all staff members are well-trained and comfortable with the new technology. These steps are key considerations in fostering a productive and engaged team.

The challenge of balancing productivity with staff wellness

One of the challenges around maximizing productivity is developing a strategy that accommodates the greatest majority of the staff. In today’s working environment, firms are constantly being pushed to do more with less. But, client demands continue to rise. Finding ways to streamline tasks and processes is proving to be key to firms’ future success.

The solution to managing productivity in a cloud based firm

As managers begin to implement the firm’s cloud transition plans, helping staff understand how cloud-based technology can improve their work lives can be a solid first step toward winning their buy-in. Implementing cloud-based solutions can provide the streamlined approach the firm needs, while simultaneously easing the pressure on staff that are accustomed to a more manual approach to getting their work done.

This can be especially true in an environment where staff are seeking – and maybe even demanding – more flexible work arrangements. With cloud technologies enhancing professionals’ ability to work away from the office, not only does it help them to be more productive, it can also provide some of the work-life balance that so many of them feel is missing from their lives.

Allocating resources as a firm manager

As with any project, transitioning to the cloud is an initiative that involves assigning the right resources.  Firm managers play a pivotal role in this process, often juggling multiple responsibilities to ensure a smooth transition.

Failure to properly allocate resources can lead to bigger problems like project delays, employee burnout, and over-extended budgets.

The challenge: Limited resources

One of the challenges that firm managers can face is limited resources. The reality is that doing more with less has become a norm for many businesses, including many accounting and audit firms. This has left many firms operating with leaner teams than ever before. Additionally, cloud transitions require specific expertise in areas like data security and system integration, which may not be readily available within the existing staff.

The solution to working with less

Navigating these constraints requires a strategic approach to maximize your available resources without compromising the quality of the cloud implementation or overburdening your team. In order to effectively allocate resources, it is important to have a plan in place that identifies the necessary skills and expertise, as well as the unique demands that cloud technologies place on your firm.

Factors to consider include:

  • Is there a champion or committee charged with spearheading the project?
  • How many people will be needed to execute the transition, how much time will they need, and when is it expected to be complete?
  • What are the strengths and skillsets that need to be leveraged in executing the plan? Are there any gaps?
  • Have tasks been broken down and assigned (based on staff’s strengths, experience, and skillsets)?
  • Should the firm outsource or hire additional staff to handle specialized tasks?
  • What are some potential roadblocks that should be considered? What are the contingency plans?

For additional perspective, read our blog for accounting firm partners considering a move to the cloud.

Project management

Project management is a multi-pronged process that includes the implementation, planning, execution, and monitoring of the firm’s transition to the cloud. It is an important and often challenging function as the staff looks to the firm manager for guidance and support during the transition, while firm leaders also turn to the manager for updates on how the transition is progressing. It can be a tough line to walk. Complexities can arise at any point and being able to find solutions to potential issues is critical for accounting firm managers.

Common challenges with project managing

When it comes to project management, there are several challenges that may surface. Some of the more commonly cited issues can include:

  • goals that are not clearly defined;
  • insufficient communication;
  • a lack of accountability, especially when missteps occur;
  • and unrealistic expectations and deadlines.

Again, identifying solutions to resolve such issues and having contingency plans in place are key.

The key to project management success

Some specific measures that managers can take to help ensure project management success include:

  • Clearly communicating the project goals and requirements.
  • Establishing a schedule outlining each step of the transition process.
  • Prioritizing tasks and discussing any deadline concerns (as well as any other concerns) with firm leaders before beginning the project.
  • Building accountability into the project plan so everyone has a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
  • Using an engagement management tool.
  • Avoiding changes that may result in project delays or costly hits to the budget.
  • Creating a status report schedule to keep firm leaders up to date on the progress.

Becoming a cloud-based accounting firm

Optimizing and transitioning to cloud-based technologies presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities for firm managers. Striking the right balance between managing leadership expectations and addressing staff needs requires careful navigation and a deep understanding of both the process and its benefits.

Effectively navigating the change and understanding the benefits to be gained are key. And while the journey presents a spectrum of challenges, the opportunities that arise can set firms on a path to greater efficiency and innovation.

Embracing cloud technology not only streamlines operations but also enhances the firm’s ability to respond to client needs with agility and insight. Firm managers play a crucial role in this evolution, acting as the bridge between the firm’s leadership and its staff, ensuring that the transition is smooth and that all team members are aligned and equipped for the changes.

Ultimately, the move to the cloud is not just about technological upgrade but about positioning the firm for future growth and success. Accounting firm managers must leverage both their strategic insight and leadership skills to steer their teams through this pivotal period, ensuring that the firm not only adapts but thrives in the evolving landscape of accounting and audit services.

Learn more about how to prepare your team and firm for the future of auditing with Cloud Audit Suite. Get a more in-depth experience with our interactive Cloud Audit Suite demo.

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