With ten years of experience implementing software in CPA firms, Fieldguide’s Customer Success Manager Brittany Yandura is here to share six best practices to ensure each new software rollout in your firm maximizes impact and reduces unnecessary downtime.
#1 - Assemble the right Accelerator Launch team
The best way to set your firm up for success is to choose the right project team. When the right project team is in place, onboarding moves quickly and tasks get accomplished accurately and in a timely manner. Availability of time, project management capabilities, and influence or authority are all important traits for your project team to have. To create your perfect project team, consider the following:
- Select a project manager to head up the change. This individual should be organized, excellent at communication, be empowered with the influence or authority to drive change, and have the time to dedicate to the project’s success.
- Assemble a team that represents roles across your firm. This includes partners, managers, administrative staff, IT, and staff roles. A diverse team will ensure all perspectives and aspects of the firm's workflows are represented up front – and minimize any future course corrections. This also helps with grassroots communication at all levels of the firm and makes sure that all roles feel represented and heard.
#2 - Dedicate the time
Make sure the project team blocks and allocates enough time to roll out the software. The team needs dedicated time for sessions with your vendor and setting up the software, addressing open items, and learning the software to become power users.
Your staff also needs time to familiarize themselves with the platform and for continued education. The more time you allocate up front to ensure a successful roll out, the more quickly and effectively your firm will adopt your new project.
Fieldguide Accelerator, our customer onboarding program, recommends the project team allocate the following:
- Ten hours of onboarding sessions
- One hour per new client engagement launch
- A few hours per week for ongoing Fieldguide learning and assisting the firm in ensuring success
#3 - Communicate early and often to your audit department and audit clients
Communicate the change early to all your stakeholders, such as staff, clients, and vendors. This allows you to set the right expectations and manage the narrative.
Customize your communication based on what each group needs to know, from progress and timelines to impact and expectations. The right messaging sets the tone and can make or break its success. Consider different communication styles, from written messages to videos and webinars. Within the Fieldguide Accelerator program, you will be provided with templates to make this communication simple.
#4 - Encourage accountability and lead by example
Plan early to ensure accountability and adoption of your new platform once you go live.
- Remove the temptation of legacy software and processes. If there are software applications in your firm being replaced by Fieldguide, make that software read only or inaccessible to encourage adoption of Fieldguide. If you notice certain users gravitating back to pre-Fieldguide habits, be proactive in uncovering why and helping to remove those blockers.
- Make it easy for your audit team to get their questions answered. If your users get frustrated, they may get easily discouraged or form negative impressions of this new solution. Quickly removing those roadblocks and clarifying the positive gains will keep the sentiment around Fieldguide positive. Have a dedicated communication channel for Fieldguide questions, e.g. a dedicated email address, chat channel, or way to enter tickets in your IT system.
- Encourage feedback conversations and iteration. Your auditors should be given a clear process for sharing their feedback, e.g. a specific firm email or chat channel for this purpose. Show you are open to feedback and continue to iterate on how to improve your usage of Fieldguide based on your team’s feedback.
Firm leaders and influencers are key to a successful rollout. They will serve as advocates for the change, lead by example, and correct behaviors to encourage accountability.
#5 - Partner with Fieldguide
You are the expert on your firm, and your vendor is the expert on the software. Your firm's success will depend on a deep, open partnership between your project team and your vendor's onboarding specialist.
Don't be afraid to be transparent with your vendor. Be honest about your firm's strengths and opportunities for improvement. Let your vendor know how your team learns best, and what you need out of the implementation program to make your firm successful. Share what has worked well in the past, and what hasn't worked for your firm.
#6 - Timing and first engagements
Timing is important, but don’t let the fear of imperfect timing become a blocker. In a perfect world, you would begin your onboarding about a month before your next wave of clients or next busy season. That being said, as long as you have some clients you can begin in the new system starting soon, Fieldguide will make sure you’re set up for success.
This leads to the question: what type of clients should I start with? We recommend you start with an average client. Do not choose your most difficult client as your first. For some, that is tempting. However, you are setting yourself up to be frustrated by trying to perform your most complex work on a brand new platform. Build up your skills and confidence by beginning on a typical client first.
Technology change can be an intimidating process. But with the right vendor as a partner and the best practices shared here, you can be confident that your next implementation is successful, productive, and even a little bit fun!
To transform your firm's software, schedule a Fieldguide demo today and learn about the Fieldguide Accelerator program.