In 2020, everything changed for everyone the world over...
Contact with friends, family and colleagues all became virtual. Masks became commonplace, and we developed a sense of germaphobia that we never thought possible.
Not only did our personal lives change, but accounting firms had to adapt to a completely new way of running their businesses as well. And fast. Because Covid-19 meant that for the best part of the year, people were essentially confined to their homes. Employees were packed off to their home offices if they were lucky, or dining tables if they weren’t. Our homes were work spaces and schools. And for many of us, the change to remote working has become permanent.
It’s safe to say that the world of accounting changed in a big way. And it’s unlikely to ever go back to how it was before. If anyone can even remember how it was before. That’s no bad thing. In fact, it’s becoming clear that Covid simply sped up a process that’s been happening for years anyway.
As IT support experts, we’ve been telling our clients for years to get set up so that anybody can work on any device, anywhere. Fortunately, the majority of our clients had that infrastructure already in place. The forced move to working from home made them realise what a simple shift it actually was for their accounting systems to adapt around remote working.
If you're not getting the answers from your current IT provider, read why accountancy business owners are switching IT partners? Perhaps it's time to get up to speed?
So, if you’re ready to talk and bring your accounting accounting up to speed, let’s see how we can partner to help you succeed!
Hopefully it’s something you’ve made changes to over the past 12 months, to take COVID-19 into account. If you don’t have an IT strategy, or if you haven’t given it much thought over the last year, now is definitely the time to get on with it. If you use any technology in your business – whether that’s something as simple as a cash register, or it’s a full blown network for 5 locations – a proper IT strategy will be your best friend. It’s the foundation to growing your business. It can mean the difference between surviving a time of uncertainty and thriving through it. OK, there’s a big chance I’m biased! But I cannot stress enough how important a well thought out IT strategy is for any successful business.
It can seem a little complicated to do this yourself. But if you’re working with an IT support partner, this is definitely something they should be getting involved in too. Now, more than ever, every spend needs to be justified. Every investment needs to work hard for your business. You want value for money from everything you do. Create a range of metrics to help you track how well your infrastructure is actually working for you. It’s nice that your team like the way a certain system works. But if you’re not getting a return on your investment then it’s not working as well as you might think.
Your IT support partner should also get involved with regular strategic reviews. It’s up to you how often you do these, but I would recommend at least every 6 months you should look at what’s going well and what’s taking longer than you’d like it to. A few adjustments may be all it needs to get you back on track towards hitting your goals. And this is why I keep talking about an IT support partner. Not an IT support company. Not an IT support provider. A partner. Imagine an office building. It has a cleaner who comes in every evening and cleans up the mess that people make. That’s how lots of IT support companies work. They just clean up the mess. We actually prefer to work as a facilities manager.
You see, a facilities manager is constantly thinking and planning. They schedule what maintenance the building needs. They look at what they can proactively do to stop the building falling into any level of disrepair. Yes, there’s still an element of managing the cleaners and making sure they’ve done their job. But they’re proactive enough to stop most of the problems happening in the first place. That’s what an IT support partner does. We take a proactive approach. We do as much as we can in the background to stop things from going wrong in the first place. Of course, things will still go wrong. Unfortunately, that’s inevitable when it comes to fast moving technology and data. But that’s when the clean-up work happens and things get fixed. All of that proactive work means that we need to clean up a lot less than an IT support company that doesn’t work proactively.
Your IT strategy should work alongside your business plan, detailing the ways your technology will accelerate progress towards your goals and objectives. It should take into account both long and short term targets, and leave room for change where necessary (if nothing else, 2020 has taught us just how quickly we might need to adapt). And while it’s called an IT strategy, it’s not actually about your technology. Sure, you’ll have plans for the technology and devices that you use, and those that you aspire to use in future. In reality, the strategy is about your business, and how your technology can help you to achieve all the things you’d like to, in the easiest way possible. A great starting point is to take a look at your current IT infrastructure. What works well, and what would you like to improve?
As your business grows, will your technology grow with you, or will you need to look at new software, networks, and even phone systems? Speak to the people working in your business. What do they think works really well, and what would they change if they could? Are there parts of your infrastructure that actually hinder what you’re doing? Could you save time if you switched over to different software, or if one app could communicate with another one? When you’re working with an IT support partner, they will be able to help you identify the right hardware and software. They will make recommendations based on the way you work, and the ways you want to work. They should even be able to spot potential issues that you hadn’t noticed, and suggest a simpler way of doing things. A technology roadmap as part of your strategy will help you to budget better, and know what’s going to be new, and when. It’ll stop those surprise costs and random invoices you didn’t budget for.
Our roadmap also allows us to see what can be delayed (if there’s a problem); what investments are critical; and similarly, if you’re ahead of things financially, what can be brought forward. In large part, it’s our partnership that allows this in-depth planning to take place. We get to know your business as if it’s our own. We’re constantly working with you on your business and learning more about you and your team. This commitment makes it so easy for us to help you because we know (just as well as you do) where the business is going.
Computers and other devices ask you to update them all the time. And that’s because things are constantly changing. The same applies to your network and infrastructure. Software is always changing; operating systems are being tweaked; and hardware deteriorates. It literally never ends. It’s virtually unheard of in professional IT circles that an IT setup isn’t constantly monitored and maintained. If you’re not offered 24/7 monitoring and maintenance as part of your IT contract, run a mile. You will start seeing issues before the ink on the contract is dry. Most IT support companies do it all in the background and you simply never hear about it. In fact, a great IT support partner will spend a great deal of its time monitoring what’s going on within your system, and fixing issues before you even realise you have a problem. You’ll simply never notice its going on. And really, that’s exactly what you want; monitoring and maintenance you don’t even notice.
This is a fun concept to learn about buying hardware. Picture a triangle in your mind. The three equal sides of the triangle represent quality, price, and speed. If you make one side longer, then all the sides will lengthen to keep the triangle together. For example if you pick a faster computer, typically the quality and price will also increase. IT support has an identical triangle with the same three sides: Quality, price, and speed. If you buy cheap IT support, it’ll be slow and lower quality. And vice versa. Ideally, you’ll look at what you can realistically afford to spend on IT support, and go with the top of your budget. That’s because you understand IT support is actually an investment into your business. Get your IT setup and your business IT strategy right; and it makes hitting business goals so much easier.
Let’s go back to them for a moment. Picture a guy, sitting in his bedroom, carrying out your IT support service. He hasn’t got the overhead we have, so of course his service will be a lot cheaper. But remember the triangle – his speed will be slow and he won’t have access to the professional IT tools, because they’re expensive. If you choose a bedroom warrior, doing everything themselves, to provide your IT support – that’s fine. Providing you’re their only client. Realistically, one person should be able to carry out the IT support, maintenance, and monitoring that a business like yours requires.
But what happens when he gets another client? And another? And then realises, because he’s cheap, he needs even more clients just to make a decent living? The quality of the service you receive falls. As does the speed in which he reacts to your problems. It’s likely that he’ll also stop doing the proactive work for you, because one person simply cannot service a large number of clients properly. Yes you pay more for a larger business with an office, team and all the tools. But you also know that they’re set up to keep service levels high, no matter how many clients they take on.
We don’t want to work with people short-term. We refuse to do ad-hoc work, and one-off crisis management. We only want to work with businesses as part of a long-term partnership. Why? Well, obviously, it’s good for us to build our own business around long-term clients. It‘s a great business model, if we’re honest. But the real benefit of long-term partnerships for us comes from the investment we’re able to make in our clients. So that we know you inside out.
It means we can:
Keep you better protected, because we can take an honest and strategic approach when we work as part of a trusting partnership. When you work with someone on a short-term basis, it’s impossible to do this. 36 A long-term partnership means we’ll be as invested as you will be. Because we genuinely care about your business. If you’re doing well, we are too.
As you’re reviewing your IT support, it’s probably crossed your mind that you could hire an in-house employee. There’s a big downside to be aware of. When you have an in-house person, you’re asking them to do several different specialised jobs, and support a huge number of people, all at the same time. Someone that can do that without having some kind of breakdown would be hard to find! Certainly they’d soon learn to cut corners, just to get home on time each day. When you outsource this work, you might pay a little more than an in-house person. But you’re gaining access to multiple people, with a broad range of skills and specialities. And they don’t go home until the work is done.
I have been in partnership with Technology for Accountants (T4A) for over 10 years. They are a one-stop-shop for all my IT needs and their industry specialisation means they know exactly what’s best for my company. If you need a dynamic IT partner who is always responsive, T4A is the support service for you.
Frank Vetere - LMP Accountants, Croydon
I have partnered with Technology for Accountants (T4A) now for over 20 years and my opinion of them could not be any higher. ‘’Trust’’ has been the key ingredient; having the support of an expert team who can strategically lead my business through the challenges of the cyberworld has ensured we always operate at our best! The support from T4A over the years has been exceptional!
Tim Kemp - MJA Accounting, Leongatha
At DJ Smith Group, we believe in fostering strong, professional and loyal relationships with all our business partners. Technology For Accountants (T4A) is one of our most trusted providers and has been for many years. T4A has proactively project- managed us through various IT challenges to reach successful outcomes and improve the overall productivity of our business. We always appreciate their friendly service and advice and highly recommend them to prospective clients.
- Joanne Smith - DJ Smith Group, Clayton
Your computer networks and systems play a critical role in the success and growth of your practice. Outdated computers slow down productivity, unsecured networks open up your sensitive data to hacking, and obsolete software causes problems with compliance issues. So getting the right IT support for your accounting firm is critical to the success and growth of your firm. The problem is in choosing the right one. That’s because most IT firms are generalists who work with all types of companies.
We specifically serve Accounting firms. We understand your needs, have a deep knowledge of the software you use to run your business, and understand how different tools impact your workflows. We are your technology consultant, installation specialist, and service desk all in one. Whether you need help deciding on new technology investments or support with your current tech, we can help you run your firm more efficiently by improving your technology. Technology For Accountants gives you the peace of mind that your tech is secure, supported and fully utilised so that you can spend your time working to grow your business.
I hope and expect to work with you for years to come, in our partnership. So my goal in these first 90 days is to set you up for success. You’ll know what we can and can’t do, with realistic expectations. What we need from you. And how to be a great partner. We’ll survey absolutely everything, and examine every tiny part of your current IT setup. The more we know the better. All of the answers are fully documented in our secure systems. We’ll even ask about your website hosting and examine any specialist software you use.
Even if we’re not directly supporting these things, we still want to know how it works and who’s supporting it. At some stage in our relationship, you’re going to ask us about it. So we need to know about every single service or third party vendor you’re currently using. Of course it will mean there’s a bit of work for you and your team. But I promise it will be worthwhile. And you’ll only need to do it once.
Once my team has all the information, they’ll strategically analyse it. To make sure they understand every aspect of your technology. Any IT support company that doesn’t do this is simply not doing their job properly. Then we’re going to talk to your team. Every single one of them. We’ll find out what their existing IT problems are; what frustrates them; and what makes their job more difficult. We’ll also review anything your previous IT support provider told them couldn’t be done, fixed, or created. There’s no promise we can make it happen. But of course we’ll try. Your first 90 days are going to reset everything. And then get your entire IT setup back up to the high level it needs to be (and where it will stay). Then – and only then – you and I begin our strategic, forward-thinking work together. This is a unique process for every client. I can tell you more about it when we talk. Here’s what to do next.
As the owner of an accounting firm you want your people to be productive and working – making money for the practice. What you don’t want to do is spend a lot of time managing your technology. More importantly, you don’t want to deal with technology that doesn’t consistently work.
I hope you’ve found this guide useful, and it’s covered many of the questions you’ve had about choosing a new IT support partner for your accounting firm. If you’re serious about working with a new IT support partner to improve your business and contribute to long-term growth, this is your next step: Pick a 15 minute phone call time that best suits you from my calendar below.
Remember, there’s zero commitment at this stage. You’re just discussing your IT and Technology requirements.
Looking forward to having a chat with you soon!
Iain Enticott - Technology for Accountants