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Digital transformation isn’t the easiest choice, but increasingly, mid-sized accounting firms are making that choice as they respond to powerful market forces. As they adopt innovative technologies to “future-proof” their businesses, they also face the challenge of building new cultures that will accept and support continual technological change. 

Mid-sized accounting firms have lagged technology adoption due to the burden of a legacy culture. There are myriad points of resistance and challenges to overcome, including aging legacy systems and the need to create new strategies and visions.  

Digital transformation is a long process that can span many years and will require radical changes to day-to-day operations. Effective change management is crucial for success. Firms that continually manage change and build engagement can be confident of higher user adoption and positive business outcomes.

Becoming a “Firm of the Future”

Digital transformation starts with envisioning a future state. This is a preparatory stage aimed at setting the firm up for success. It’s less about technology and more about strategy and culture. A firm’s leadership can play a visionary role, presenting a clear concept of a future state to the employees. Leadership needs to decide: Who do we want to be as a company? What will the ‘Firm of the Future’ look like?

It starts with the decision that technology is a top competitive priority and that the rewards far outweigh the risks. It also involves deciding which processes to automate and how automation should take place to ensure organizational growth. Here are the key steps in becoming a firm of the future:

  • Set a vision – how “tech-forward” is your current culture? Technology adoption to automate and streamline processes is crucial for organizational growth. 
  • Identify the right technology partner who understands your business and can help you navigate your digital transformation – from determining your digital strategy to building a roadmap and implementing a new solution.
  • Get leadership and cross functional buy-in across the firm. It is important for a successful transformation program that leadership gets buy-in from all the functions that will be affected.
  • Continuous change management is critical for higher user adoption and positive business outcomes. 

Change management pre-implementation

In order to turn a vision into a new culture, though, continually empowering employees to seek and embrace technology is key. Resistance to new things, especially new technology is natural. Generally, employees are eager to eliminate repetitive tasks and employ sophisticated tools that allow them to provide better analysis and learn new skills. However, it’s vital that employees do not see the automation of processes as a threat to their jobs, but understand that leadership wants to enable them to do their best value-added work. It is also important that leadership provides frequent communication to engage everyone in the vision.

Vital steps in pre-implementation include:

  • Identify and engage major stakeholders – managing the expectations of all the various stakeholders is key. It is important that stakeholders are included in celebrating milestones even ahead of the implementation. Technology advancements can give large returns.
  • Develop communication material – from business, process, technology and data perspectives. Part of the communication process should be to generate excitement about where the firm is headed, highlighting the benefit from improved accuracy, increased volume from scalability, as well as faster insights for clients and transparency for regulatory compliance. 
  • Collaborate and integrate with multiple business functions and departments.
  • Measure wins in phases –progress should be tracked and celebrated even before the firm is ready for the implementation.

Change management during implementation

Training programs should start ahead of the implementation with time to build proficiency in the new systems. Once the technology is implemented, it is important to be continuously aligned with the implementation team on business processes and technology changes. The communication strategy should include process design and definitions. The new process design should be clearly communicated and obstacles to adoption should be monitored with surveys and follow-ups.

Change management post-implementation

There will be continuous work by product champions to troubleshoot any issues. There should also be continuous communications and training with a dedicated helpdesk and ongoing collaboration with the technology partner. Everyone has a role in digital transformation. Success will depend on how you train people to use technology and on building a workplace culture that embraces your firm’s future vision.

A culture of innovation

There is no one-and-done in digital transformation. Ultimately, digital transformation is about people embracing technology and the future direction of the firm. Addressing this challenge is a process, not a single operation and requires careful change management from planning to post-implementation to ensure successful adoption. Orion has been a digital transformation partner to Professional Services organizations for the last two decades. We understand the professional services industry and guide our clients on both their technology road map and how to drive adoption and a culture that embraces and encourages continual innovation.

Contact us to learn how we can help your firm with its digital transformation journey.

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