Blog post featured image of a woman working near a server room

Embrace IT Now, Don’t Chase IT Later

An article by Virginia McGann for Enterprising Women, Fall 2023

AI, Automation, ChatGPT. Whichever development we speak of lately, we all can agree that technological advances are happening so rapidly it’s hard to keep up.

I remember when my father brought home our first microwave oven. My grandmother, from Ireland, wouldn’t go near it for fear of the havoc those “waves” would wreak on our little kitchen. That havocwave sat unused in our kitchen for over a week before one of my brothers programmed it and taught us how to use it.

Six months ago I got my first air fryer. I invited my daughter for dinner “once I set this thing up.” “Set it up?” she teased me. “Plug it in and cook!”

Sometimes we don’t even realize how far technology has brought us.

For over 14 years, my team and I have been in the accounting space. We provide accounting services and business management consulting to professional services and construction firms. One of the most difficult initiatives we undertook for our clients was moving them to the Cloud.

That was a tough sell for some of them. They felt safe having their server in the closet down the hall. The costs required to maintain those machines (the IT provider’s time, the cost to scale up the capacity of the machines as their firm grew) the space they required for proper ventilation, and the capital cost to replace them ($$$$) were significant.

In late 2018, we used a marketing piece with the headline, By 2020, 80% of business will be in the Cloud. What are you waiting for? Seems we underestimated. Forbes reported that 73% of all firms already had at least one application in the Cloud by 2018.

That all seems like ancient history now. I’ll bet that most of us access more than one application in the Cloud these days. Ok, great. We’ve made the move. Here’s the next challenge: optimize our cloud-based platforms so that our operations are as integrated as possible.

For us at Value Management Resources, that means that we actively encourage and sometimes direct the integration of disparate practice and project management platforms with billing, payroll and accounting platforms. It is essential that, after investing in new management automation options, and having your team adopt new protocols and learn the new software, that your back office and bookkeeping data is accurate and mapped properly to accommodate the new format of the integrated systems.

A colleague of mine who runs an IT firm reminded me that for years at most companies the IT operations reported to the Finance Department. It made sense. Data drives business, the Finance Department used that data to report results, predict various scenarios and plan management decisions. A little over 20 years ago, IT broke out to become an essential function on its own. As we all know, from there the industry exploded, as the world embraced technology to understand and accomplish more.

Back office operations, including accounting platforms and services, lagged more than a bit behind the explosion of technology. Much remained unchanged in how we did our work until just a few years ago.

With more SAAS (Software as a Service) available for back-office functions, it makes sense that we integrate these essential functions (finance and IT) to optimize our firm’s operations. Reduce redundant data entry, anticipate improved efficiencies by preparing databases to coordinate seamlessly. The cost savings achieved from going cloud-based instead of using the hardware infrastructure is significant.

Now is the time to take a big picture look at the disparate platforms your firm is running on. There is probably some integration that can be done to increase efficiency, thereby saving time and money. If you use multiple programs in your operations, do they “talk” to each other?

There are myriad methods priced well for SMBs to enable data sharing. Too many firms acquire updated versions of existing software, or move to a new product, without considering the next and essential step of integrating all the platforms. Operating in silos remains one of the bigger wastes of vital cash flow for some firms.

Embracing the possible now will help you avoid chasing optimization — and your competition.