Creating Real Change

Xavier and Experts share tips on how to best approach change

By Helen Lloyd • May 22, 2020


Things are looking a little bit brighter across the world this week, and we’ve seen the changes already in many of the small businesses in Bristol. While there is still far to go, and change has to be made safely, we’re starting to think about how accountants, bookkeepers and their small business clients might be able to come out the other side, and how we can do this in a way that is new, improved, and better for business.

From our discussions with our practice partners, we've heard from many looking to use the current environment as a catalyst for change. We’re in a time of disruption - it feels like the boundaries have broken down enough that when it comes to rebuilding, we can do something different. We have an opportunity to step back and review our processes, particularly in a shift towards flexible, digital solutions.

This isn’t just about COVID-19. Technology is changing the accounting profession - with the increase in cloud solutions and automation of manual tasks across the app space, the role of the accountant is shifting towards that of a trusted business advisor. It’s a role accountants are well placed to play, by being able to not only access but also understand the financial data that many small business owners would not otherwise interrogate. The goal for the app stack is not to replace the role of the accountant, but to provide the time and confidence to interpret and communicate this value to their clients.

However, we shouldn’t have to be forced into change by a global pandemic. Change is a natural and essential part of remaining relevant and competitive, regardless of industry.

There's a good reason change can be scary; without the correct approach, you can be setting yourself up to fail, even with the best intentions and solutions. This is why you need to focus on your change processes. Planning your change appropriately mitigates the risk, so you can reap the rewards. Mckinsey reported that “good implementers” achieved superior performance on a range of financial-performance metrics. Perhaps more importantly, two years after a change effort ended, good implementers sustained twice the level of financial benefits as poor implementers did. Financial rewards aside, effective change can re-invigorate a team and a firm, in the eyes of both employees and customers.

Xavier spoke to a few experts including Matt Flanagan from Appacus and Bluehub, and Dr Rhiannon Lloyd from Auckland Business School, to pull together Xavier’s 5 tips on making changes successfully.

1) Validate Your Idea: What are you going to change and why? It might be driven by a high-up requirement (saving money, or developing new opportunities) or an operational requirement such as plugging a gap in your processes.

To validate this, you'll need to explore how this will impact your team on the ground, and get their feedback from the very beginning.

"My advice is to try and avoid thinking you know everything. You know why you're doing something strategically, but you need to speak to the people who know how changes may play out in the real world. Whilst there is always an impetus to protect the status quo, you need to listen to understand, not listen to respond - there's an important distinction here" - Dr Rhiannon Lloyd of Auckland University

2) Share your Vision: Once you've decided on your change from a strategic level, make sure everyone in your team understands and shares the vision. This is about internal marketing, so ensure that your messaging works and make it meaningful to get buy in from your team. Since you've already spoken to those that are impacted by this point, you should understand what's motivating them, which will make this a lot easier to communicate.

3) Decide on your change team: Take some time to determine who needs to be part of conversations, invite them into those conversations and structure those meetings so that their voice is heard. Remember, you're not here to impose change (if you think you are, you're undermining the expertise that you hired!) - you're here to leverage the intelligence of those around you to best implement something that will improve the competencies and value proposition of your practice.

4) Prepare the Resources: Make sure the key drivers of your change (e.g. your Cloud Expert) have the resource to actually see it through, or else you'll be setting them, and your project, up to fail. Matt Flanagan has seen many firms through their cloud adoption projects, and feels that resource is one of the single biggest differences between a struggling and successful project. His key advice is to ensure the team you're using has the capacity in both time and skills to manage the task. You can read Matt's Appacus blog on Resource here. On the other hand, don’t waste the time of busy high-level experts on low-level aspects of the change such as data entry.

Human resource availability aside, you also need to make sure that you allow time for change to happen. Don't expect to see results immediately, you'll need time to iron out any issues, and allow a bedding-in period that comes with the discomfort of any changed routines.

5) Know what success looks like: You need to decide the key KPI’s you can use to measure success, and decide who will be responsible for monitoring these outcomes. Make sure these KPI's are aligned with the vision you set out with at the beginning - it's easy to stick with what you know, but don't just measure costs if you're setting out to create new expansion opportunities.

Putting it into Practice

If you’re planning on creating change in your practice, we recommend the following tools in Xavier to get you ready to measure that success:

  • Use the Practice Analytics to keep an eye on your portfolio; whether you’re changing your remote working patterns or bringing in new staff, you can rest assured that the practice dashboard can provide the oversight to make sure work quality or business performance doesn’t slip down for your clients while you’re focussed internally.
  • Use Tags in Xavier if you’re going to try things with a subset of clients, so you can monitor them separately. You could then take a snapshot of these clients’ health scores, perhaps an export from the practice dashboard, pre-and post change to see how the change has impacted your client’s data quality
  • The Health Score is an at-a-glance metric for general quality. For bookkeeping, it’s a great way to help any new or junior team members monitor their own performance and understand where they might be making mistakes, without needing constant reviews.
  • If you’re using Focus as part of your new processes, you can use the Focus dashboard as an easier way to monitor the progress of Flows; we’re improving this on a really regular basis so stay tuned for some great new features here soon!

Watch this space, as we're working on developing even more resources to help our practice partners implement change with Xavier. As always, let us know if there's anything we can do to help you on your journey!

~ Helen

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