How to “Cloud Accounting” for Tax: Phase 2 Implementation

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The implementation part of the new technology or process is critical to success. Running a tight ship through a proper change management plan will give you the best result. The fundamental pieces of implementation are timeline and training. Let’s drill into how to determine the best timeline and training schedule.

Implementations can be grouped into a few categories and the timelines and training plans for each type of implementation will vary based on the complexity of the change. Additionally, the size of the firm will make a big difference in how quickly implementations can be accomplished. The recommendations I am giving below are for firms sized five to twenty-five team members.

  1. Transformative firm-wide implementations
    These implementations will affect every single member of your team and will change the way they operate. For example, if you take a firm away from using file cabinets, printers, binders, and everything paper and convert completely to SharePoint, you are touching every member of the team.
  1. Process-only implementations
    This type of implementation is a change in the process used for a specific service. For example, previously you would check in with your business tax clients after year end and take a peek into their self-prepared books. After continuously finding issues you need to clean up, you instead add a step to your process where you now quarterly request access to the books and look for any issues.
  1. Technology-only implementations
    Sometimes, you can replicate a great process utilizing a piece of technology. In these instances, people are more accepting of the change. For example, you used to send out paper-based organizers to your clients and now you are going to send a forms link requesting all the same information. This changes the technology used in how information is requested, and received, but it does not change the underlying process – send the request for information and receive information triggering tax preparation.
  1. Specific-department implementations
    This scenario arises when you change something that only affects a certain subset of your team. For example, you decide to move your tax team to a new tax compliance software. Frequently there are other departments that will never use the tax software so they will not be subject to this change.

Timeline

Changes for firms between five and twenty-five team members should never extend past four months. In other scenarios, larger teams with more complex needs, implementations can take up to a year (or sometimes more).

  1. Transformative firm-wide implementations
    When deciding on the milestones and timelines for transformative firm-wide implementations, consider how much time will be needed for team members to adopt the change. Remember – it takes six weeks to form a habit. These types of implementations should be spaced out over a minimum of two months and a maximum of four months.
  1. Process-only implementations
    Process changes are a bit easier to implement. Change is never easy; however, these are the easiest of the bunch! For processes changes, focus on the documentation. These changes should be implemented over three to six weeks.
  1. Technology-only implementations
    These are the most fun! When you find a technology that automates some manuals tasks, people tend to get excited about it. Adopting new technology is slightly harder than a process change and there will be a learning curve on the new tool. Leave one to two months to get these changes implemented.
  1. Specific-department implementations
    As you find ways to make your teams more efficient, each department or team may have a different set of processes and technologies needed. The timing of implementing these changes can be anywhere from one to three months.

Training

Training plans are just as important in change management as identifying a good process. Training is the most overlooked piece of the puzzle and frequently an after-thought. Developing strong training plans is key to acceptance of the change. If people know how to do the new things, they are more likely to actually do it.

  1. Transformative firm-wide implementations
    The first training session should be before the system is even configured. Show a demo of how it will work to the team. Make it short – 30 minutes and get them hyped up for how much better the change will be. The second training should happen directly after the system is configured and ready to use. Invite everyone on the team and if they cannot attend, record it. Offer multiple times to maximize live attendance. This will likely be within two to four weeks of starting implementation. In addition to consistent communication about best practices, set up informal weekly sessions where the Training Sponsor is available to discuss issues or questions all at once. The last thing you need is to bog down your Training Sponsor with the same questions over and over from every member of the team. Schedule at least monthly trainings to get people from no knowledge, through basic use, and into advanced use before you close implementation.
  1. Process-only implementations
    This type of implementation really requires three trainings. First, have a session to explain the new process, why it’s happening, and what it solves. The next training should be half-way through and address questions and feedback on how it is working. Sometimes process changes need mid-implementation adjustment due to unforeseen consequences. The final training is more of a team huddle making sure everyone is following the new process.
  1. Technology-only implementations
    Technology implementations require a bit of handholding. Similar to transformative firm-wide implementations, you should plan on having a lot of training scheduled. The first training is the demo before the system is configured, again for hype. The second is the how to use the system training – offering multiple sessions and recording it for anyone unavailable during the times. Plan for the weekly Training Sponsor office hours to discuss best practices and any issues encountered.
  1. Specific-department implementations
    See above – these implementations follow the exact types of training plans outlined above depending on what you’re implementing in that department.

However you decide to time the implementation and train your teams, make sure to include them in the process. People will always think it is easier and quicker to implement and create the habits for acceptance than it actually takes. Plan out your timeline and add two weeks as a buffer (or even more). Tell your team exactly when you expect 100% compliance and ensure they are trained and supported before that date. It is okay to push back the date if needed and it is always okay to add an extra impromptu training sessions to give your team what they need to succeed.

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Liz Mason
Liz Mason is a serial entrepreneur, a giant nerd, and an involved accounting vanguard. She is CEO and Founder of High Rock Accounting, TheDepartment.Tax, and a few other related brands. Liz speaks on a national stage, guests stars on podcasts, publishes a YouTube show (The Hot Accounts), and writes frequently. To further her passion for the advancement of the accounting profession, Liz currently serves as a Xero National Ambassador and as the Content Strategist for Tax Practice News. Liz started her career in tax at Grant Thornton (at 20) and automated a portion of her job landing her in the national tax practice. She spent a decade in large public accounting firms working on highly technical tax consulting before branching off on her own. Liz utilizes her creativity and passion at her company to uproot traditional practices and replace them with innovative concepts. She finds joy in efficient technology and her core belief is that everyone and everything can continuously improve (she says "be better" too often). When Liz isn't planning world domination in accounting, she is a die-hard skier, down for any adventure, plays the ukulele, reads everything, and has a good sense of humor. If you're looking for her, you can find her traveling the world and enjoying new food and cultures with her husband and young son. Follow Liz and High Rock Accounting on Twitter at @LizzyNorMa and @HighRockCPAs.

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