The biggest hurdle to implementing any new software, including tax software, is the feeling of not having the time to absorb the change. It’s hard enough to keep up with the increasing amount of client work, let alone implement something new, especially at the rate software is changing and new apps are developed.
This creates the question of timing: when is the right time to take on the potentially huge time drain of implementing new software? The time saved has to outweigh the time it takes to implement. The need will demand the change and will drive the desire for change.
Although my firm is extremely busy, I am committed to implementing change as needed. We recently went cold turkey and switched from Intuit® ProConnect™ ProSeries® to ProConnect Tax Online. Here are four tips we learned along the way that I hope will help you make a similar transition.
Tip 1: Do the hard work up front
Research the new product and read reviews from actual customers. Talk to the software provider’s tech support staff to determine their knowledge and availability to walk you through any issues. Have a detailed conversation regarding rolling over all your historical client data into the new software. Most programs will only bring forward prior year data, so be prepared to keep your old program for historical year data until it’s no longer needed. Ask questions about carryforward items and depreciation to ensure you do not lose client tax data. Reach out to your IT team or consultants to ensure they are aware of the change you are making, and ask for their guidance regarding integration with other software. IT will also help you determine if your current hardware is adequate and recommend necessary upgrades to support your new software.
Tip 2: Make sure your team is on board
Let your staff know why you are implementing the new software, and how it will affect the efficiency and productivity of the firm. It’s important they also see the trickle-down effect the new software will have on their daily tasks and client retention. Be open to hearing their concerns and take the time to consider how to mitigate those concerns. Give them realistic expectations regarding the hurdles they will face and the ways in which you will help them overcome those obstacles.
Tip 3: Create a thorough implementation plan
Take care to prepare an implementation plan that will set your team up for success:
- Set a timeline for your IT team to load the new tax software on to your hardware; if the new software is in the cloud, have IT ensure the internet service and security settings are appropriate.
- Before training your team, have IT test the new software integration with other applications.
- Familiarize yourself with the product to ensure you’re training the team properly and revealing shortcuts to them.
- Test a few of your complicated client tax files to ensure everything rolled over.
- Review available forms so you can inform your staff of additional forms available to them, as well as any shortcomings you have become aware of with the new software.
- When ready, introduce the software to your staff; make sure donuts, coffee, pizza and/or whatever comfort foods they enjoy are available! Be confident and excited. Your attitude will affect their receptivity to the new product.
- Make training sessions fun by being creative with the type of training offered. Allow plenty of time for questions. Give the staff all the tools and resources they need to minimize roadblocks.
Tip 4: Follow up and feedback
Make sure to test the product and keep open communication with your staff to ensure the software is working correctly. Continually monitor tax calculations and implement product updates. Don’t be afraid to give feedback to the tax software provider. Intuit ProConnect is always open to my concerns, and when issues or recommendations are presented, I usually see changes very soon.
I hope that the above tips will help you implement new software. They are the steps we took when making the change and taking our tax software to the cloud. As a result, our firm benefitted greatly from switching to ProConnect Tax Online, which made all the struggles associated with doing so seem small. Good luck!
Editor’s note: This article first appeared on the Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Pro Center.