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Stagnation of the cloud accounting nation....

Having spoken to numerous practices over the last year I have seen consistent issues with converting clients to the cloud, or onboarding new clients. For many it is a surprise when I calculate how long it will take them to convert their cloud-ready clients and create their practice success report.

All too frequently there has been an early peak of clients being moved to cloud but then it stagnates – the momentum is lost.

So what is happening? Here are some reasons I have seen so far:

  • No dedicated, non-fee earning resource leading the project
  • Sometimes there is a strategy in place but no low-level plan for the actual delivery teams to work to
  • If there is a plan in place it is not monitored by the practice
  • The standard issues/understanding aren't managed internally by the practice, if these issues aren't resolved or closed down quickly then the teams revert to existing ways of working
  • Adequate change & project management skills/understanding aren't always within the practice
  • Selection of the clients for conversion to cloud is not thought through thoroughly enough
  • Process for onboarding or transitioning clients to cloud have not been clearly defined
Any of the above can lead to wasted effort from all parties as there is no foundation for the change. This can lead to a failed project, bringing numerous negatives but the main ones being:

The impact to Foot Soldier Staff

  1. The staff who actually undertake the conversions or onboarding to cloud feel unsupported
  2. With that feeling, they lose the confidence and momentum gathered with the initial project discussions
  3. They revert to existing ways of working
  4. Targets for conversion or onboarding slip

The impact to Partners/Management

  1. Normally fee earning requirements elsewhere within the business take their attention away from the project
  2. Once they re-engage with the project they hear a plethora of negatives which in turn makes the change management project feel in a negative state
  3. They need to start again with gathering momentum on the project but there is now a negative team that needs more cajoling for the changes ahead
  4. This seems to happen several times with many false starts – each project kick-off, in turn, getting harder
Obviously the above is how the practice can be affected and the dynamic of the practice as regards with staff with ongoing false starts. But there is one other key element, your existing client base – what is happening to them whilst all of the above is happening?

What about the customers?

  1. They are being marketed to directly by the cloud accounting systems – through radio, TV, billboard & expos. They are aware that there are cloud options
  2. Other practices are marketing too. For example, KPMG has commissioned a telephony campaign to contact businesses direct – I have heard this several times since June 2016. I have seen Xero being demonstrated at every single expo I have been to in the last year.
  3. Business owners are getting younger meaning it is likely they will want to utilise cloud systems for their businesses – they will want an accountant who fits in with that.
So whilst your internal delivery mechanisms (people, processes, politics) are waning or failing I would be expecting that some other accountancy practices will have your clients on their radar.

If they have set-up their project correctly, aligned their people, plans and processes and are hungry to take advantage of other practices lack of delivery, I can see some practices client base quickly being decimated. I predict we will see the emergence of some quick moving practices that are mopping up the opportunity presented.

Do it differently this time.