How to Pick the Right Accounting Software
Randy Johnston, Executive Vice President at K2 Enterprises and Owner, knows how to tackle software for accountants and their firms.
We’re in a special time in the industry when technology is advancing at a fast pace. Let’s unpack it.
In this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast by Jetpack Workflow Software, David Cristello and Randy Johnston discuss:
- How Accounting firms should think about software and technology implementation
- How to review and understand which application will fit your firm
- Common mistakes owners make when reviewing their technology stack
- And much more! Click below to listen to the full interview and implementing the best software for accountants:
What is the Best Software for Accountants in my Firm?
Randy Johnston, EVP at K2 Enterprises, was always drawn to the technology of the firm. Today, when he’s not helping 60,000 accountants through the 1,100 events managed by K2, or writing for industry pubs, he’s doing strategic consulting on the best technology and software to put in your firm.
Now, when you think of new software, your eyes might glaze over. Not because it’s boring or important, but it can get extremely complex very fast. Most firms that are smaller still use 70+ applications! Larger firms even more!
It’s overwhelming to do your own analysis of the tech, which is what Johnston typically helps with.
Adoption of technology can be challenging for small (and medium-sized) firms, but Randy found in his research that we have to look at technology for the core practice (example: tax) vs extended practice (example: Advisory services). Then getting the technology education, and then looking at business development angle.
Successful adoption of technology varies between firms since many firms are not “cookie cutter” firms for technology.
So for many accounting firms and accountants, think about clients, what you’re trying to deliver, and the client process. Then, select the right tool for the future of the firm.
The best way to figure out what you need is to sit down with the client directly. Ask them “what works for you? what do you find helpful right now? what do you find as inefficient?”
Clients probably aren’t as tech-savvy as you so they will be able to explain their issues without any barriers. Your job is to match the problem with a technology solution. This may entail introducing new software ideas to them. Perhaps even a training with them. The key, again, is not to come across as ‘cookie-cutter.’
Cloud technology is good for client-facing activities, but tax software might be best (for your firm) if it’s desktop based. Same for your client. They may not be a good cloud client. If you only want cloud clients, then they might not be a good client for you period. However, it’s OK to have a mixture of cloud and desktop applications, but again it’s dependent on your firm, the process, and the technology.
So there are applications and software for completing client work, others are client modeling and forecasting, others with productivity. You need to remember and review compatibility between the existing platform and new.
When outlining a job or service, think through the current process AND the associated applications/software that are used to complete that.
DAVID’S TIP: Think through the frequency of usage, the importance of usage, and the foundation of your technology and software for your accounting firm or practice. Whether you’re a CPA firm, bookkeeper, accounting practice or firm, it’s critical to map out the tools paired with the process. Finding the right software for accountants can be challenging, but following these steps, you can begin to gain clarity on the proper technology stack for your firm or practice.
How to get an ROI on Your Software:
It’s tempting to try as many apps and software as you can in order to not be ‘left behind.’ However, remember, you’re trying to get an ROI on the tools. Whether that ROI is in time, productivity or profit.
You may find the new upgrades in one software may make it non-compatible with some of your older software. Then, you’re trying to juggle updates, patches, and bridge-technology to fit the problem. New software may be even more of a headache.
That’s why you look at only what you need in the moment.
The simple rule of thumb to get an ROI is: don’t buy software you, team members and/or clients don’t want. It may be sexy to try a new software so you can call yourself a ‘pioneer,’ but that will lead to in-efficiences and work falling through the crack.
Many thought iPads would be the future of accounting firms. “You can run your firm from a tablet,” many thought. Turns out, not yet. Too much trouble and some of our fingers are too stubby for that!
A basic question to ask yourself and the team is: “Does it make sense at this juncture to do this?” Are you actually solving a problem or is this a show? Remember, you’re working to better the client experience. All technology should center around: faster turnarounds, better client service.
How to Pick the Right Software Today?
Funny enough, as you try and make more simpler tasks, the software back-end gets more complex. That’s why you need someone in your firm that’s well-versed in tech.
But, to avoid any stumbling blocks now, here’s the best way to pick the right software for accountants in your firm:
- For simpler tasks — master them. Even if that requires manual work
- For repetitive tasks — automate them now. This is where you get the big gains
The first step is to sit down with your team every 6 months and discuss the processes. Where are there simple, small tasks you can master? Where are there regular, repetitive tasks across all clients you can automate?
Build that culture where everyone is invested so they all feel confident to speak up and contribute.
This comes into play most with the ‘great’ clash between the up-and-coming younger accountants and the older ones. Many younger CPAs may not be used to certain manual tasks, while older folks grew up with them. Everyone will have a different way that they think is the right way in their own unique processes.
Get everyone invested in one process, and the technology surrounding it. Have entire team bring their best ideas to make processes move fastest and throw out the steps not needed.
When selecting software, think through:
*What’s best for clients?
*What’s best for the firm?