Survival of the fittest: Can your tech keep up?

Written on Jul 18, 2017

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager

Learning any new technology – from a cell phone settings update to a new computer operating system – can be confusing for even the most tech savvy among us. This is something Mike Giardina, CEO of OfficeTools, understands well.

“Embracing technology is unique, and each person has to make their own decisions,” he said.

Giardina is the keynote speaker at the Accounting Technology Conference on August 24 in Columbus, and knows with new technology there can be feelings of trepidation. But when it comes to the accounting profession, he said technology will be what separates those who will thrive in the future from the businesses that eventually close up shop.

The few companies that might get a pass on upgrading their technology, Giardina said, are those planning on retirement soon and thus have no need to learn about the most recent software to stay afloat. But businesses will find exciting advantages from adopting new

technologies now, instead of dragging their feet year after year. Giardina said he understands change isn’t easy, but you have to start somewhere.

“It is so much better to start now than to have to do some massive change that affects every part of your business and every part of your life at a later date,” Giardina said.

The key is continuous adoption
Giardina prefers the approach of a “continuous adopter” when it comes to thinking about technology and business long term.

“You have to continuously adopt so you can digest it,” he said. “Most accountants or CFOs are not going to adopt a million things in a year. Take it a chunk at a time.”

He warned against being the first one to jump on something new or the opposite, always lagging behind the herd. Each company is different, so what it should adapt to, whether that be a new phone system or better monitors, will vary. It’s also important to measure the stress, cost and resources it will take to develop the new technology, Giardina said. Even if it’s not the most comfortable transition, it should make sense for your business.

Technology is changing the cost of doing business
“I think if you privately talk to any CPA, they will say there is always pressure to not just do a good job but offer it at a fair market price,” Giardina said.

Updating technology can help a company compete with, or even bypass, the competition. He said instead of shying away from technology as something too confusing and time consuming to deal with, look at it as something that can assist you.

“The continuous adopter is finding ways to cut costs and reduce the amount of time it takes to do certain tasks,” he said, keeping these businesses competitive.

Giardina said in some situations, the cost of doing business can actually go up if you lag on your tech.

“You can’t perform as well, you can’t give raises when you need to,” he said. “You can’t reduce the cost as easily when you want to provide a service at a lower cost. This makes it really hard to stay competitive.”

Using technology to attract a younger generation
Becoming an organization that appeals to a younger generation doesn’t just happen overnight, and good technology can play a part in that.

When it makes sense, Giardina encourages offices to consider going paperless.

“Millennials don’t want an office that has paper laying around everywhere,” he said. “That’s a big issue, because we as historians and record keepers typically have a lot of paper going into the accounting offices.”

He also cited the option to work remotely as important, both in the freedom it gives the individual, and the opportunity it gives the business to find promising talent that may not live near the physical office.

“So a firm has to make a real conscious effort and decision that says we’re going to build a culture that allows for the individuals coming in to say this is the best firm,” he said. “Otherwise, you’re going to lose out on some real gems coming into the industry.”

Evaluate your needs
“For business owners this is not the first rodeo they’ve been in,” he said. “And as business owners we are very leery about expending a lot of time and money and resources and not getting a great outcome.”

Giardina said he knows what it’s like to invest in applications that never get off the ground. That’s why it’s important to consider what your goals are, he said, and how upgrading your technology fits into those.

“It’s about using the tools that can facilitate higher levels of service, reduce cost to the team and help you interact with clients in a digital world,” Giardina said.

Consider things like streamlining your workflow and what it would take to accomplish that. Your company’s needs could mean hardware, procedures, software, or the cloud.

Don’t wait, start now
For those who recognize the need to embrace technology but are at a loss for where to start, Giardina said to attend a technology conference, like OSCPA's new Accounting Technology Conference in August, first.

“You’ve got to find out what technologies are out there because that’s where you interact with those who are using it, others who are seeking it and those who provide it,” he said.

Such an event gives you the chance to connect with vendors in person, so you can ask any questions about specific products you’re interested in.

Giardina said to create a list of technology changes you want to make and narrow it down to a few items to accomplish at a time. Don’t try to get it all done within a year and put undue stress on yourself and your company.

He also suggested finding a consultant who works in the space to help identify your business needs. Chances are someone in your professional network could make a recommendation.

One of the biggest reasons people lag on their technology is the time they will have to invest to find the right product for their business, Giardina said. Passing that responsibility to a more tech-savvy employee could help solve that issue.

“No matter who you are, find a younger champion who can go with the orders you give them to say ‘this is what needs to be fixed this year,’” Giardina said. “Tell them to go out and do a really good vetting job on that information. That means you have to empower them to go to some technology events.”

Giardina said adapting to new technology needs means positioning yourself as a CPA of tomorrow, something imperative to survive in this business climate.

“You can do it at a steady pace and not an alarming or shocking pace,” he said. “Become a continuous adopter of technology, and neither a lagger nor a bleeding edge.”

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