As excitement from CCH Connections User Conference 2017 beings to wear off, we are faced with the challenge of successfully implementing new processes and changes at our firms. We just learned new ways to make our firms successful and make our lives easier. But change is not easy. I have worked with many firms who were frustrated that they were not able to successfully implement/improve a process and didn’t understand why it fell apart. Does this sound like what is happening at your firm? Learn how to take what you just learned at the User Conference and create lasting change at your firm!
Before you start reading, check out my video on creating change at your firm.
The key to successful implementation and change is managing the entire process. For example, let’s pretend that we are implementing CCH ProSystem fx Scan with AutoFlow for the 1040 process. Let’s take a look at what we need to do at each step to be successful with our implementation.
Step 1: Planning
Assemble a team to champion the project, along with a team leader. The team members should be a range of firm employees from staff up to partner to ensure that all levels of the process are consulted prior to any changes being made. The team leader needs to be a respected member of the firm. This champions team is also with the process for the long haul. This isn’t a short two-month team that fades into the background. They need to own the process forever in the firm and make sure it is always improving.
The first step is to map out the current process/flow of documents that occurs in your office. Then think about what steps you can improve or eliminate through the new technology. Our goal is efficiency and to remove wasted steps. You need to sit down and think about the flow in your office and how this new software can actually improve the process. When doing your evaluation, don’t be afraid to think outside the box for team members who can add new ideas.
Too often firms simply duplicate a paper process. They do the exact same thing in a paperless world and wonder why they don’t see any efficiency improvements. The problem is that what worked in paper doesn’t always work in a digital world. And the whole point of going paperless is to leverage technology to find new and more efficient ways to accomplish our tasks. In the past, preparers spent time manually assembling workpapers. But now with a scanning software package, temporary/seasonal hires or college interns can do this work just as effectively. This saves valuable preparer time, which is at a premium during the busy season.
Step 2: Implementation
Now that you have created a new process, you need to train your staff. If the firm is small enough, you can have one session for all the employees. However, larger firms should break out the sessions not based on title or division, but based on familiarity with technology. You should structure the training to support each group’s comfort level with technology. The millennials will soak everything up before you have finished talking, while the baby boomers might need more support. Just as important as the initial training is the continued training and follow-up on the new process. If your firm employs a one-way workflow approach, make sure feedback on the new process is communicated, along with any technical feedback items. If you are using a traditional review process where items go back to the preparer for changes, make sure these review notes include feedback on the new process.
The most important part of the implementation falls on the back of the team leader. He or she should be doing random audits of returns flowing through the process. The leader should provide additional feedback to all firm levels, from partner to staff on . Feedback should cover what parts of the new process they are not following, while also seeking to proactively make adjustments for any changes that are needed. This is how to ensure you are finding the detractors, who are your biggest roadblock to success.
Step 3: Managing the Pushback
This is where most firms fall flat and where you need to spend the most effort. Champion teams need to spend time thinking about and identifying who will be pushing back against the change and what their objections will be. All firms and companies have people who will resist change. They will fight very hard to prevent anything from rocking their boat. But if you can identify those people and plan ahead, you can overcome their resistance and put them at ease. If the team knows that one particular partner is not in favor of the paperless 1040 process, the team should spend time getting ready for his or her pushback. Will the person object simply because it’s a change? Does he or she object to working without paper? Will he or she object to the short term increases in time charges?
This is where a great team leader can really make a difference and help to drive a successful implementation. If the team leader knows that the partner prefers paper vs. electronic documents, in most cases additional training and coaching can help alleviate the transition. Insist on training the partner on how to be comfortable with the paperless process. Make sure he or she has multiple monitors – three is better than two. And work with him or her to gain comfort with working electronically. It is the team leader’s primary role to get to the bottom of the partners objections, understand them, and work to reduce those objections. Doing so will allow the firm to see great success.
Now that you have identified what the objections will be, stay ahead of them. Check in with the objectors often. Provide them with additional one-on-one training, and remind them that in the short term, it takes time to learn a new system. By turning an objector into an avid supporter of the process, you can quickly gain firm-wide support and propel the firm to future success.
Create Lasting Change
Change can be a challenge for everyone. By successfully managing the entire process from planning to implementation, to the inevitable pushback, your firm can move quickly into the future and be successful. We all know that failed changes and implementations are tremendous drains on a firm, the staff, and job realizations. Even if you value bill, your staff’s time is still valuable and is not a resource that you should squander. Follow these steps to turn your firm into an efficient machine that will allow you to conquer even the busiest of times.