Change management checklist for accounting firms
Change can be difficult for firms, but it’s vital to ensure continued success. The tips below should help your firm prepare for – and maximize the benefits of – change.
1. Recognize the industry is changing: As technology continues to impact the tax and accounting profession, we find ourselves on the cusp of a major shift. As such, the technology solution that we use as a business needs to position us in the best possible way.
2. Determine why the decision needs to be made: For example, the firm wants to remain a leader in the industry.
3. Share your vision
- Technology won’t replace people, but will free them up from mundane tasks, allowing them to bring more value to what they provide for their clients.
- Change doesn’t have to be scary. Encourage the team to ask questions. Focus on taking the fear of the unknown out of the equation.
- Keep a positive focus on the change. The overall impact will be positive for both employees and clients.
4. Introduce a project champion: Your firm should identify project champions who will take on the responsibility of mastering application skills and applying them to firm procedures. The following list outlines the qualities that your product champions should possess:
- Show initiative, patience, commitment, and leadership.
- Are experts in their functional areas (audit, tax, administration, and so on).
- Are well versed in firm processes and procedures.
- Can answer questions about processes and procedures.
- Can be available as the go-to people throughout the process.
- Are well respected by their peers and work well with people — team players.
- Are willing to train and serve as advisors for their peers / offices.
- Serve as the primary liaisons for the staff and partners.
- Are integral parts of the communication channel.
5. Implement a timeline
- Set specific targets, but also allow for flexibility. Beware of making implementation goals too lofty.
- Communicate to staff the timeline, goals, and tasks that need to be completed.
- Create boards in shared spaces if possible that illustrate the vision, direction, and the steps your firm will be embarking on together.
- Schedule huddles twice a week (or more frequently if you can) with staff. These meetings should be 15 minutes or less and allow each person to briefly answer these 3 questions:
i. What is working well?
ii. What is not working well?
iii. What issues are stopping us from meeting our goals?
- Training schedules should be created and distributed to applicable staff at this stage.
- If necessary, identify staff that will be taking part in a conversion process.
- Identify potential speed bumps and obstacles.
6. Communicate how roles are impacted
- Consider the impact of the technology solution on the end user of the program. Does it significantly change what their current role is? Be careful in how this is conveyed.
- Support the staff, especially those who have had significant time working in the legacy product. Convey that staff aren’t rated based on knowledge they have about the old technology solution, and that buy-in to the change is critical to the success of the overall transition. This is crucial messaging.
7. Determine the impact of efficiency gains
- Evaluate staffing needs given the efficiency gained by implementing change.
- Depending on your plans for staffing, be clear and direct about the impact on the staff.
8. Post implementation
- Do bi-weekly check-ins with staff to see if additional process changes are needed or new issues arise.
- Measure efficiency savings and report out to staff.
- Seek additional training as needed.
Discuss how to approach change for your firm, how to track it, the benefits of proactively managing inevitable change and the costs of reactively handling change.