How to successfully manage change within your accountancy firm

By Jim Scott | 23rd June 2022 | 4 min read

Even though change is an important part of growth, we still face a hard time liking it. We try to resist it for as long as we can before giving up. Not just in our personal lives, but even in our professional lives.” - Pooja Agnihotri, Author. 

Change is an inevitable part of life, and while crucial to progress, most people are initially apprehensive about it – accountants are no different. 

In fact, accountants have been subject to immense change with the introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD), but our recent research highlights that many firms are lagging behind in embracing the necessary digitisation. 

We found that towards the end of last year, only 25% of accountancy practices felt they had the right technology to support clients with the transition to MTD, and 80% admitted to not having regular conversations with clients about how best to implement the change.    

Is this reluctance to embrace MTD because of an aversion to technological change and digitisation?  

Most likely.  

In fact, studies show that most change initiatives fail to get their intended outcomes and may even limit the business’ potential and its people due to employee resistance. So, what can be done to overcome this resistance to change?  

Focus on ‘managing’ change

Changing legislation creates new process demands, and modern software is automating what really talented people currently do in our economy. This is not the future – it’s happening now. 

While the instigator for much of the change in accountancy is technology, it’s ultimately a revolution that’s centred around people. 

People are at the centre of any change in the workplace as they’re the drivers behind adopting a new way of working. Often, to make projects successful, a dedicated support strategy is required, also known as change management.  

Change management is the systemic approach to dealing with people during the transition/transformation to a new way of working, outlining strategies that help people adapt.  

The psychology behind change management  

Paul Crichton, MD of Dundee-based MMG Archbold, recently reflected on their transition to becoming a tech-driven, forward-thinking accountancy firm: “I believe it’s very much about learning. Staff need to engage with the tech and behavioural change is required.” 

During our time as a software vendor, we’ve noticed a recurring trend in many change projects – businesses often jump straight to training staff on new systems and processes. 

However, a step before software training is required; prior to introducing new technology, behavioural change is needed, which can be achieved by creating awareness of, and desire for change.  

Awareness: people need to know why the change is happening and what’s in it for them. Answering these questions will help people understand the purpose. 

Desire: build desire by showcasing the benefits, helping ensure people are eager to use the new tech when it’s ready. 

Four ways to optimise your change management efforts

With your change project, the primary goal is to sway those who are uncertain or against change by using the awareness and desire methodology – but where do you start?  

Below are four tips you can look to implement in your own change management strategy: 

1) Spread the message  

Frequent communications within your firm are crucial to ensuring people are aware of the change, understand the reasoning and look forward to the benefits. 

I’d advise you to set out a communication plan that details what messages you’re sending, who you’re sending to and when you’re sending them.  A few messages you should look to relay are what software is changing, the day-to-day benefits for staff and when the change is expected. 

2) Celebrate successes  

To tackle people’s natural apprehension to change, it’s crucial that you highlight each success, helping shift the perception of those resistant.  

Whether it’s time savings or positive feedback, showcasing what’s working can help facilitate adoption across your entire firm.  

3) Foster change champions  

A fantastic way to promote change internally is to foster project champions who act as messengers for why other employees should adopt the new technology. 

Select a few employees, get them involved in the project and nurture their understanding – these people will naturally become change advocates.  

4) Accept fear  

Accepting fear may initially come across as an odd tip, but it’s important that you’re realistic about change. 

There will most likely be fear around what the change means for people, but by accepting it, you’re in a much better place to address concerns and have open discussions.  

Ready for a change?  

Hopefully, following this blog, you now have more confidence regarding managing technological change and your people.  

If you’re looking to take your firm to the next level, we’re here to help. Our newly updated cloud integration platform, IRIS Elements, offers accountants the tools required to streamline their tech stack and eliminate tiresome admin.  

Looking for more information? Learn more about cloud integration and IRIS Elements in our recent blog here or read our new accountancy report here