Information overload, lack of good information, and not finding time to sort through all the garbage are the three complaints about technology I hear most often. However, it is imperative for your firm to grow and to streamline its workflow that you remain current in what the technology ecosystem has to offer. Of course, it can provide a competitive advantage in the short-term, allowing you to reach new clients or to make tasks more efficient, but more importantly, staying on top of these innovations will allow your firm to thrive long-term.
Why Keep Up
Every day, new innovations beg us to disrupt the inefficient methods of our old-school industry, and only by responding to these cries can we improve the future of accounting.
Even beyond the internal structure of our industry, as other industries embrace technology, accounting will be required to do the same. Understanding and implementing streamlined applications will become an un-negotiable expectation enforced by our clients in the near future, in the same way that completing a client’s taxes before April 15th is un-negotiable.
If one firm cannot perform this expectation, clients will gravitate toward other firms which do. You can no longer rely on the traditional model to secure success for your clients when they have already shed their own outdated practices. Moving forward, to ensure you can support the success of your clients and your firm, you must embrace technology at the same rate, if not before, those you work with.
So how on earth can we keep up with the ever-changing environment?
4 Practical Suggestions
Even with the busiest schedule, there are guides you can use to navigate the accelerated rate of change, access quality information quickly, and become the first to know about new technologies with ease. Here are the four practical suggestions I have relied on throughout my career to keep my firm at the cutting edge of technology, complete with curated recommendations to get you started:
Listen To Podcasts
Finding time to read additional resources can be difficult when life is always pulling us in several directions. It can sometimes even feel impossible to find even ten minutes to sit down and read, so podcasts provide a great way to fill yourself in on what’s going on while you accomplish something else.
I love listening to podcasts in the car, the shower, the gym, on planes, or just about anywhere I am alone and capable of absorbing information audibly. I find that these are times that I can multitask to make better use of my time.
For me, the greatest advantage of podcasts is the timeliness of the information. As soon as any breakthroughs occur, podcast hosts react and produce content, often being the first to report how major technological innovations will affect our industry.
Skip the Sing Along and Listen to These:
- AICPA Journal of Accountancy Technology Roundtable (hosted by Jeff Drews)
- Cloud Accounting Podcast (hosted by David Leary and Blake Oliver)
- Growing Your Firm (hosted by Jetpack Workflow)
- Beyond the Cloud (hosted by Jay Kimelman)
Join Social Media Groups
There are so many Facebook and LinkedIn groups that focus on accounting technology. No, really! Joining groups on social media naturally turns those five-minute social media breaks into learning opportunities.
Every time I log on, there are posts in my feed about diverse new tools that could support my practice. Even when multiple groups post about the same advancement, each inserts slightly different details in the conversation, ensuring a deeper understanding of these new technologies.
I find social media groups especially beneficial because they not only keep you educated, but they introduce you to how others in the accounting community are doing with the technology, how they are implementing it and what problems they are solving. Social media groups are a fantastic place to find practical tidbits on best practices when utilizing the latest technology.
When I was first looking for groups, I discovered that joining the ones dedicated to the software I already used was the most helpful. The groups lead me to learn about further integrations and provided a space to ask any questions I had about better utilizing these tools.
Definitely Join These Groups:
- Xero Facebook Group (if you use the platform)
- Xero LinkedIn Group (if you use the platform)
- WorkFlow WateringHole
Watch YouTube Shows
Despite popular belief, YouTube has content for everyone, not just for the kids watching other kids play with toys (yes, this is a real thing). However, approaching the vast sea of YouTube can be overwhelming and disorienting if you don’t know what you’re trying to get to.
Look for experts in the industry. Follow the channels of people that are technology forward and proven pioneers in the industry. Many of the leaders in accounting who you already search by name for their latest article, not always knowing even who published it, often have YouTube channels as well.
I rely heavily on YouTube videos to time my work breaks or to help me recenter between tasks. By limiting myself to one or two videos depending on length, I offer myself space to breathe outside the spreadsheet without completely sidetracking (because sometimes I do that too).
What To Watch On Your Next Break:
- Heather Smith’s YouTube Channel
- Catching Clouds Academy (hosted by Patti Scharf focuses on ecommerce)
- Zapier YouTube Channel
Stay Classic and Attend Conferences
We all attend conferences to get our CPE. However, many people pick tracks at conferences that are aligned directly with what they are already doing or already have a knowledge base in. This can be really valuable and help you establish expertise in your particular niche.
I would challenge you to attend a technology conference and commit to sessions outside your comfort zone or stay on the exposition floor to learn about emerging technology. It might be uncomfortable at first, but this is how you will really grow in your field.
Conference organizers do a fantastic job finding speakers with real-world industry experience who have not only been there already but know how to communicate these experiences to the rest of us. And every year, conferences prove an incredibly valuable space to network with industry influencers and ask questions. Sometimes we forget that we can go offline, take the office elsewhere for a day, and grow our firms by fully immersing ourselves in our accounting community.
Hope To See You There:
- AICPA ENGAGE (I highly recommend attending the Prac-tech sessions. Life changing)
- Xerocon (You would be amazed at the amazing technology partners that come to exposition their software at these events happening around the world)
To stay relevant in our industry’s ever-changing technology, you have to start somewhere, anywhere. To really form a habit it takes 66 consecutive days of repetitive action. Introduce any one of these tips into your daily routine (okay, so this probably won’t be the conference tip, but you really should check those out too) and make it a point to follow through for two months. Through this practice, you will gain in-depth insight into the technology available today for accountants while forming a habit that will help you stay relevant in the future.