Although new technology is great for accountants, there are obstacles. For attendees at our recent Tech Live event in October, the time-saving potential of new technology is exciting, but the time investment required to develop, implement and learn to use it is a huge barrier.
These are the parallels within the obstacles and benefits: we want to realise the time savings that technology can bring to our teams, but we don’t have the time to make it happen. While we may lack time-travel capabilities to solve this easily, there are some things we can do to make this technology paradox more manageable.
Project management is key
A good project manager is worth their weight in gold for any technology implementation. Organisations often don’t have sufficient internal capacity for someone to take on this role, so it’s worth including budget to bring in an external, experienced project manager to oversee the process and ensure it runs smoothly. They can cut through any internal politics, get the right stakeholders involved and report on the project’s progress regularly to internal sponsors.
Project managers don’t necessarily need to have a deep understanding of the organisation to ensure a project is successful. When this role is filled internally, someone ends up juggling their day job with a major-change project. In those situations, it is unlikely that person will fulfil either role to the required level. Worse, an individual with sufficient capacity but lack of experience might be tasked with project management, undervaluing the skills that the role requires.
Build excitement before building solutions
Technology transformation is largely about managing the people and cultural change that comes with it. This means engaging with staff about tech change at an early stage.
This theme came through loud and clear at Tech Live; if you involve the whole team from the outset, the chances of success are far greater. Run workshops across the organisation and agree your aims and requirements to get early buy-in. If the team is genuinely excited about the coming change, they are more likely to go the extra mile to make it happen.
“Focusing on low-hanging fruit and quick wins can help to demonstrate the potential benefits of new technology, and to build excitement with stakeholders,” says Esther Mallowah, ICAEW’s Head of Tech Policy. “However, some elements of the implementation may be more complicated, requiring more time and effort and taking longer to provide returns. Having a longer-term view of benefits is important to keep the momentum going and having the patience required to see extended projects through.”
Champions of change
To really leverage the excitement within teams, it pays to have a series of ‘champions’ throughout the business when implementing change. These individuals don’t have to be deeply technical. They act as advocates for the new technology, creating a mechanism to collate feedback. They can also be the eyes and ears on the ground for the project manager and senior stakeholders.
Although being a champion may involve an additional time commitment, a network of champions can spread the load of this vital role and lean on each other as their capacity ebbs and flows.
Setting realistic expectations
When budgeting for and hiring project managers and consultants to support technology implementation, there will still be a draw on internal resources throughout the process. Consider scoping requirements, testing stages and the time investment to train team members prior to launching.
How you prioritise technology transformation over other activities is crucial. Business critical services must be maintained, but it is rare that 100% of someone’s role is business critical. Can you live without that report? Can that meeting be pushed back? Be rational about how you use people’s time now so that future time savings can be realised.
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