Re-Imagining Workflow: Change Management and Process Improvement

I think for any firm – or any organization really – it can be easy for some to overlook the importance of having a properly defined change management process. Change isn’t easy, and unlike our innate need to be social, humans shy away from change. We just don’t like it. We don’t like the uncertainty. And we don’t like feeling like we have no control.​

​Here are a few tips I’ve collected from firms over the years, related to implementation changes. Most of these can be applied to any major process or software change.​

Clearly Define the Project’s Scope

First and foremost, you must start with a clearly defined scope for your project. Why are you making the change? What problems are you trying to solve? What is the definition of “done”, in other words, how do you know when the change is complete? ​Your change management plan should include all of this information.

Find an Executive Champion

Next, it’s so critical to have at least one executive champion. If you can get multiple partners on-board, even better. With executive leadership on-board, staff employees can see that it’s being pushed from “up high” and are much more willing to try.​

Recruit the Champion Team

The Champion team is made up of various users across the organization. I recommend selecting a cross-section of staff across roles and tenure: Partners, interns, managers, IT, admins, etc. The more variety, the better. The champions team is responsible for planning and executing the change, and communications about the change to the rest of the organization.​

Define the Workflow You Want to Improve

This is where all the magic happens – this is where you define the workflows that your staff will need to follow. These will be determined based on three things: 1) the goals of the firm, 2) the capabilities of the technology, and 3) your firm’s threshold for change. Now what I mean is: if your firm is totally open to reinvent your processes – if you take advantage of the technology that’s available to you, the change will be painful, but the reward will be more than you ever thought possible.

Remember, your ultimate goal here is to define the most efficient workflows possible. You have to accept that change will be difficult at first. Instead of recreating old, inefficient processes, you should instead develop new, more efficient processes wherever possible. One more word of caution: While you do not want to get stuck in analysis paralysis, you really need to make sure you’ve at least fleshed out all the most important scenarios, as they relate to your business objectives.​

Embrace a Training Mindset

Now I talk to a lot of customers… I talk to a lot of new customers, in particular. I know training for software is expensive. Many times it’s mandatory, or some level of training is required at least. But I can honestly tell you that the firms who pay for their training – those who opt for the additional recommended training and those who go through regular update training – these firms are HAPPY. These firms are EFFICIENT! And these firms are outpacing competitors who did not take the training.

The fact of the matter is, you are professionals using professional software applications. If firm staff are constantly calling each other, or calling into Support for help, or looking for help online, where is the efficiency gain? And how frustrating is that for your staff? Start off on the right path and provide your staff the proper training to be successful. They’ll thank you for it, I’m sure!​

​Plan Your Implementation Timing

​And finally, Implementation Timing. Each implementation is unique and timing can vary. I don’t recommend rushing through implementation. Be sure to give your firm plenty of time up-front for planning. And give yourself sufficient time afterwards before any critical timeframes (like tax deadlines, for example) so staff have time to adjust. Also, keep in mind that in the first year of using any new software, you’re likely to see a slight decline in efficiency at first while the staff learn and adjust. By the second year, customers tell us you should start seeing significant improvements and efficiency gains. By the third year, you’ll wonder how you ever managed before!​

Change is a Team Sport

One of the best pieces of advice I can give about change management is to include your staff in the decision making process. Involve them in long change processes, such as when changing software vendors, for example. You need the buy-in of your staff to be successful, and including them in the process will help ease some of their concerns about the changes that lie ahead. They won’t feel completely out of control, and will feel like they have some ownership.

Change management was just one of several topics discussed in a recent CPA Practice Advisor Webinar called Modernizing Process and Efficiency. Watch the recording now. 


Damon Russel

All stories by: Damon Russel