Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 18 seconds

Working in the software industry for more than a decade, I’ve heard all the reasons why firms resist change. But the one that baffles me the most is, “my partners don’t want to change.” 

There are any number of reasons why a partner might not be excited about the prospect of change, but many times it is associated with fear and uncertainty about implementing new technology. Firms that make the leap and implement new software seem to use a handful of strategies to help technophobes embrace positive change in the organization.

First off, what is a technophobe? Technophobia (from Greek technē for “art, skill, craft” and phobos meaning “fear”) is the fear or dislike of advanced technology, software or complex devices, especially computers. Many of us exhibit technophobia to a minor degree, for example when faced with an update to software we are accustomed to, such as upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10. This results in us putting off positive change for an amount of time disproportionate to the potential benefits the update would bring. Let’s dig into this concept and how it affects accounting firms today.

As with most professionals, some accountants exhibit technophobic tendencies to varying degrees when faced with technology change. They may seem complacent and happy with how they currently operate and unenthusiastic when entertaining the prospect of change. I’ve had a senior manager at one firm tell me that everyone on their team is excited and wants to make the change, but the partner who signs the check is resistant. He suggested I check back with him in four years because they are hoping the partner will retire. 

This is not a rare occurrence; I get this from several firms each year. It’s a major issue when the entire staff have to work using outdated, inefficient methods because firm owners or partners are unwilling or unable to see the benefits of new technology. 

Firms responding to the 2019 AFOT survey cite recruiting and retention as the top challenge facing them. According to Pew Research, millennials now make up the largest percentage­—33 percent of the U.S. labor force. To attract young, newly educated, eager talent to your firm, you have to move with the times. No one wants to work at a firm using outdated technology.

The second most-mentioned challenge is the goal of increasing profitability. Firms moving to a modern document management system report significant reductions in costs related to paper file storage. They also realize increased efficiency and client satisfaction by having information instantly available on their PCs. Both results have an impact on profitability.

As much as the partners or decision-makers may not want to change the way they’ve been working for decades, it’s likely impeding the success of your firm. So what can you, as a technology champion, do?

Team up                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 There’s power in numbers. If the majority of your firm sees success in a new method of technology, go to your partners and decision-makers and push for change. Identify the problem and outline the solution. Share the benefits so they are informed, narrow down your options and include them in the product demo so they can see how excited and motivated you are. Emphasize how much it could help change your firm for the better. 

Don’t give up, mention it from time to time if they aren’t listening. Sometimes it takes hearing about something multiple times before any action is even considered. 

Seek professional help                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Consider hiring a consultant. Sometimes, it takes the opinion of an outside professional with in-depth knowledge of the options to open ears and get through to decision-makers. It might take someone with many years of experience to communicate the benefits to someone else on a senior level. Make sure your consultant or advisor is unbiased: many are compensated for recommending a particular product. 

Highlight the ROI—numbers don’t lie                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Sometimes, it’s the bottom line that gets everyone’s attention. Have your vendor help you with this by providing solid numbers of how much time new technology could save your firm. Inform decision-makers of any cost savings they could possibly expect. Sometimes, you can find a vendor that can replace several pieces of your existing tools for half the price.

Perhaps informing your resistant partners that they could potentially save “$100,000 over three years” is what they need if they are numbers-driven. The vendor you are considering may have a success story of a firm similar to yours or may be able to connect you with a firm that is already using the product you are considering.

Don’t accept weak excuses                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 If the technophobe partners are concerned that clients won’t use new technology, then debate that. Your clients are using technology in all other areas of their life, why wouldn’t they use it with your firm? There are obviously some expectations, but if your clients are opposed to using a web portal, for example, to receive their tax returns, imagine how much more time they are costing you than the client that is open to it. Which client is right for growing your firm?

Your partners may have considered a vendor a several years ago and decided against it for some reason or another; it’s worth taking another look. Three years in software development is a lifetime, especially if the vendor is consistently updating its product to improve and meet industry needs.

Think about some of the tools and processes we didn’t have three years ago that we rely on now. For example, not too long ago we couldn’t take a picture of a check and upload it to our banking app to make a deposit. Now this method is widely used, and it saves massive amounts of time by eliminating the need to travel to a physical bank location. 

Keep in mind that technology isn’t the answer for all your firm’s challenges, but it can definitely make a difference. It’s a good idea to review your processes every year or two to keep them current and in line with the technology available in your market. 

In any business, if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward because the firms around you are making improvements to be more productive and responsive to clients. Don’t fall behind your competitors and ensure your decision-makers are on board for the next large improvement to your firm. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 28 January 2020
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Kevin Sharma

Sharma KevinKevin Sharma is director of sales and marketing for Doc.It, a provider of document management, workflow and web portal products that help accounting firms optimize document management and workflow efficiency.  

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