Checking Your Technology Wish List Twice

November 17, 2017

Needed Tech or Not?

By Adam Blitz, CPA
Ho, ho, ho! The holiday season is upon us and, if not careful, it’s easy to indulge in everything from the delicious cake in the break room to spur-of-the-moment technology investments. At the end of the year it’s important to take in the holiday season, while not letting great deals cloud your judgment when it comes to making your firm’s technology investments. 

This year has been an exciting one for technology improvements and efficiencies. SAAS-based programs have taken a foothold in many accounting firms, while IT security is an issue that promises to continue well past our lifespan. Hardware continues to evolve with continuous marginal improvements, begging practitioners to ask, “What do we really need?”

Budget meetings taking place late this year will inevitably include the question: What technology investment should we make in 2018? So many options, such small budgets—how do we maximize our investment to make the largest impact? Well, to help your budget committee define your technology investment, consider the following (before you buy that “too good to pass up” holiday special):

  1. Review the firm’s five-year plan: As your firm invests annually, it should constantly be re-evaluating the five-year goal. Where did you start? Where are you now? Where would you like to be? If the firm is well on its way to meeting its long-term goals, those goals should be re-evaluated to ensure that the next challenge is an actual challenge that will push into uncomfortable places. If the firm does not have a long-term strategic plan, go ahead and buy whatever you want next year. Without a set path (or a semblance of a path) it’s nearly impossible to identify what impact any technology investment will have on your target other than measuring the impact with your thumb. 
  2. Consider what you’ve done lately: In 2015, the focus was client onboarding; in 2016, workflow efficiency; in 2017, we made sure our hardware was right for our future moves. Well, 2018 is around the corner … what’s the focus for your firm? By having a focus or a theme, it will help your firm focus your investment in areas that the firm seeks to directly improve. Having that theme also helps evaluate your success during the prior year. In many situations it may be difficult to quantify in numbers the impact of investment in technology, but if you ever catch somebody saying, “Do you remember when we used to do it that way?,” then your firm will know it has made a successful change.
  3. What has not worked (and worked) for your competition: At the next CalCPA event you attend, make sure to talk to your peers at other firms to discuss what has worked for their firms—and what has not worked. While most competition may not be 100 percent forthcoming about all of the challenges or successes regarding specific investments that have been made, you’re bound to get a sense of the what your firm should absolutely stay away from. And if anything, that’s big win for your firm.
  4. When should you get this done? Once committed to buying, the question of implementation is next logical step. Has your firm succeeded in the past to implement during tax season, a period when your firm is 100 percent engaged? Or do you prefer to implement changes during lower profile times during the year to reduce the impact of stress and client workflow? In my opinion, I’m a big fan of immediate implementation. I don’t consider there to be any “great time” to implement. As long as employees, clients and any other party involved feels engaged and supported, implementation has the opportunity to be successful.
  5. What is this gadget going to cost? The million-dollar question! As you advise clients to ensure a return on investment in each project, it’s important for accounting firms to confirm the same on internal projects. Just because your firm invests a lot of time and resources into a technology, it does not ensure guaranteed results. The budget committee should fully understand the time and dollar commitment with an understanding of the potential short-and long-term efficiencies the technology will build. 
At the end of the day, the results of 2018 investments should be focused on helping the firm grow toward its ever-changing long-term goals. While building toward those goals, it’s imperative to make sure your firm’s client service and expectations are retained while changes are made. 

Cheers to a blessed 2018 and a successful end to 2017! Happy holidays!
Adam Blitz, CPA consults with accounting firms and SMBs in process improvement, business development and leadership training. You can reach him at or on Twitter via @getblitzed
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