By Andrew Webb
From Fathom: At Fathom we speak with accounting firms of all sizes every day. From those sole pratitioners just starting out to Top 100 firms, everyone is looking to become a digital practice and is looking for technology that helps them achieve this.
The past 12 months have only accelerated this trend, with people working from home and clients needing timely and informative business advice now more than ever. Having a strategic cash flow forecast with multiple scenarios a few clicks away is a game-changer for clients.
Being a digital practice is not one size fits all
There is no golden formula to becoming a digital firm. Every firm is different. You may have specific goals that being digital helps, and your process will change according to your goals.
For instance, some firms use Fathom for business development and winning more fees, others offer it free of charge as a distinguishing feature of their firm. Depending on your specific goals, you may use a tool differently from others, and that’s perfectly fine!
Process mapping is important
Before implementing any new tech or digital processes, map out your current processes and score them from 1-10, with 10 being a perfect process. From here, there will be some processes that need some love and can benefit from digitalisation. This will also help you prioritise the areas that will have the most impact first, rather than those where gains may be more marginal.
Avoid a big bang approach by building a house
Often firms get excited by moving to digital tools and end up trying to sign up to lots of tech at once, and getting all of their client base onto all of the tools at the same time. This ‘big bang’ approach is dangerous as it does not give you time to iterate and make changes as you go.
It can also be damaging to staff morale as they will feel overwhelmed by all of the tech being implemented at the same time, and as a result, they may be less likely to want to use the tech, and want to revert to the status quo.
You build a house from the foundations up, and slowly so that it doesn’t fall down easily. Your digital firm’s tech stack should be similar. Slowly created, methodological and purposeful. Otherwise, you run the risk of spending money and time on something that will not be a long-term fit for your practice.
Use technology to automate processes
Using tools like Fathom helps save time as we automate otherwise manual processes. This now-free time lets you win more clients, speak to existing clients more regularly, work on your business, and/or spend more time outside of work doing whatever you love to do.
Without technology, you are limited in the number of clients you can serve, as the processes will not be automated and are reliant on manual data entry as a result.
Invest the time upfront to get it right
Whilst becoming a digital practice and using tools like Fathom will help save you buckets of time in the medium term, it does require some upfront time investment.
Taking the time to get the team fully trained on the new process, the new software(s) being used, and the end goal is crucial to securing buy-in. If the time is not correctly set aside you are setting yourself up for failure, as you will likely select a solution that is suboptimal as you have not had the proper resource set aside to fully evaluate the process and/or software(s).
Review progress and goals at a regular interval
A common pitfall that firms fall into when they embark on their digital journey is to select a process and/or piece of software and then forget to review it. Fast forward a few years and the subscription fees have added up and no client or internal process has benefited.
Having a regular committee meeting to go over the current processes, progress towards your firm’s digital goals, and ensuring that the current software being used is best in class and still achieving what it needs to, will ensure you are on track. Even better, get regular feedback from colleagues and clients on how they find the process and software, as this information is invaluable.
Plenty of firms are on their digital journey and they are willing to help you with questions you have. Check social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook for groups where you can ask questions, and ask the support teams of apps such as Fathom for help as chances are we have discussed that topic with others already (and if we haven’t, we may know someone else who can help!).
For Advisory content, Fathom has a sister site, Advisable, where we have trusted advisors sharing their thoughts and advice on delivering advisory services.
Finally, if you are interested in Fathom we have a free 14-day trial and are currently running a 12-month introductory offer to new South African customers (33% off). Get started for free today.