Accountants frequently ask me: “How can I encourage my own client base to adopt cloud accounting solutions”. When they do I share with them a story about a meticulously maintained historical museum in Landsborough, Queensland with the largest collection of hand-cranked wash boards and vintage washing machines I’ve ever seen.
If there’s a chance your clients are still using vintage washing machines, then don’t waste your time trying to convince them to move to the cloud. If, however, you can see they are open to change and adoption of technology to improve their personal and business life and can highlight this to them, then they may be receptive to moving to the cloud.
Are there technical obstacles you should look out for?
The main obstacle to adopting cloud technology would be the reliability and speed of the client’s Internet. I say to anyone before they move onto a cloud solution they need to check their internet speeds – you can go to a site called speedtest.net. I also suggest to the client they speak to their own IT support, and/or contact their internet provider, to ensure they have the most robust internet connection available to them.
I’m not an IT expert, but I am in a home office in Camp Hill and getting 100MBps speed, and I come across big businesses in Brisbane CBD that are accessing woeful speeds. Not all IT specialists are created equal, so it’s useful to have in your cloud toolkit a referral to a ninja IT expert, who may be able to provide your clients with a second opinion, about their potential internet options.
I also work with clients in remote areas of Queensland who have minimal access to the internet, yet surprisingly they’ve adopted cloud technology. They’re benefiting from the automation, and collaborative aspect, and reconnect with the internet when they travel to areas with workable internet coverage. They are working with what they have available to them. However, this situation is not for everyone.
For any new system to be adopted, it’s essential that training and support is included as part of the implementation. Failure to adapt to a new solution or hair ball messes can frequently be attributed to lack of training. Training is a specialist skill, if your own staff are providing training, ensure they have training in providing training. Alternatively, collaborate with businesses who specialise in delivering accounting solution training – remembering of course that this can be delivered online.
Unexpectedly, I’ve found that some clients don’t understand how to use a browser, and they kept closing it down. So, as well as using skilled trainers, ensures the new user is given guidance on how to access the software, and use a browser.
What have been frequent objections to adopting cloud technology?
Before businesses make the leap to adopting a cloud business platform they typically have questions and concerns.
Change management – I don’t want to change what I’ve always done!
Part of project managing a move to the clouds is encouraging staff to embrace change. It’s important to have empathy for staff: they are worried about what the changes will mean for them, changing workflow, about using a new system, about whether they still have a place in the organisation after these ‘magical’ changes have happened. My suggestion for dealing with this is to provide information about the proposed changes, and take some time to listen to staff members concerns and answer their questions. Alternatively – if this is beyond the scope of work you want to offer, collaborate with an implementation specialist.
Where is my data stored?
Yes. Sometimes data is stored overseas, outside of Australia’s jurisdiction. It’s also likely that the client’s online banking data is stored overseas too. Does this concern them? Is the data stored somewhere with sensible data laws?
The cloud is scary!
If clients are worried about using the cloud, I would look at what the client is currently doing – are they using Evernote, Dropbox, Google apps, Skype, online email or online banking? It’s easy to forget how many applications many are using that are already cloud-based.
It may surprise you to know that I rarely tell a business to move to cloud-based business solutions.
I even have a few clients who are on the old desktop systems, and it suits their needs perfectly. However, I fully recognise that a well-executed cloud business platform rollout help’s client reduces their costs, improve productivity, provides them with convenience, flexibility and the opportunity for collaboration. So, if you are trying to encourage your client base to adopt cloud solutions, I would tackle it several ways:
Calculate the time you estimate they will save per week by moving their business solutions to the cloud, multiply that by 52 weeks, multiply that by the average pay rate of staff, and then you have a rough idea of how much money can be saved every year;
Identify IT specialists, accounting software training specialists and implementation specialists who can assist your clients;
Create and share content addressing benefits and concerns of people moving to the cloud; and
Develop and share case studies of businesses using cloud-based solutions.
With this insight, you need to navigate what works for your business and your clients. If the clients are not prepared to move from the hand cranked washboards, then maybe the final tool in your cloud toolkit is to find a business to refer them to.
This article first appeared on Public Accountant.