8 top expert tips for increasing client cloud adoption
Caroline Harridence Magazine Editor and Managing Partner, Counting Clouds
They say habits are hard to break! It is not uncommon for people to want to stay with the familiar and not change how they perform certain tasks.
A good example is a client’s financial accounting system. Comfort from the familiarity of their current system and concerns about changing often means that clients do not have moving to a new cloud solution on their to do list. This can then be a problem for the advisor so what steps can we take to improve client cloud adoption in our businesses? We spoke to eight experts in cloud technologies to give us their top piece of advice to increase the adoption of cloud technology by your clients.
Segment and target your client base
We have two approaches to enhance cloud adoption, segment and target.
Initial segmentation work can help reduce what might appear a mammoth task into bite sized chunks. This works well across your client portfolio, separating the urgent from the longer term, and the easier conversations from the more difficult. It also enables you to tailor your message, potentially focussing on benefits of cloud for one group and requirements of Making Tax Digital for another, or having an industry/sector focussed approach to your recommended solutions.
This ties in well with a targeted approach. Having a consistent message is key to success, whether that is for a specific period of time or to an individual client. A client is more likely to transition to cloud if they feel that the benefits of doing so are tangible for them rather than generic to everyone.
Ryan Pearcy, Director, Scrutton Bland
Talk to your clients and focus on value
Cloud adoption doesn’t start with technology, it starts with talking to your clients. They need to be taken on a journey.
Don’t just tell them that it is happening. Understand what their current challenges are and create a cloud strategy that suits them. Explain the value of each cloud tool you are bringing into their daily/monthly routine.
To deliver advisory services on top of cloud bookkeeping, data accuracy is vital. Use something like Xavier to be confident in the figures and make the decision as a practice to do daily or weekly bookkeeping. Monthly doesn’t cut it in this economy. Client’s must understand the numbers and be able to trust them.
Also, if you are using AI software watch out for inaccurate VAT calculations and wild prediction figures - SMEs do not have enough data for AI to work correctly”
Helen Cockle, Chief Operating Officer, Futrli
Look at the benefits of cloud adoption
Focus on the carrots of cloud adoption (a single source of truth and enabler of informed business decisions) rather than the stick of Making Tax Digital with clients.
Have industry specific success stories and identify tangible benefits - ideally including cost savings! You should also be prepared to explain which additional applications they may need to solve certain challenges such as complex inventory management or consolidated management reporting.
Then remember we live in a new way of working - one that firstly means cloud accounting has even more ‘carrots’. However, secondly you will need to create a process of online meetings and actions you need the client to take in order for the project to be successful.
For momentum, look professional in those early meetings and be sure to give your team some extra wiggle room in order to ensure that you deliver on schedule.
Also always keep the team and the client up to date on progress and if you run into challenges lean on the many accounting forums, network groups or get in touch with software companies product experts.
Andrew Jordan, Director EMEA Business Development at Fathom and Founder of Connect4
How will the tech help the client?
It is important that we don't focus on the tech. Instead we must focus on the problem it solves for the client. There is no point in waving shiny tech at someone if they have no idea how it will help them!
It is the client that your focus needs to be on and the focus should not be on you as the accountant. Yes it will make our lives easier but it is essential to examine how will it help them. What problem of theirs will it solve?
Clients will be much more likely to adopt the cloud if they see the benefit to them rather than just to us!
Cheryl Sharp, Director, Pink Pig Financials
Think outside the practice….
Put yourself in your client’s shoes.
For your clients to get the most from the cloud, and thereby want to work with you, you have to see things from their perspective. What are their problems, challenges, pain points?
As accountants we can be introspective, we are looking at our practice, our service lines – and of course the associated revenue streams. But we are uniquely placed, with experience across multiple businesses and sectors.
If we look at our clients’ service lines and their revenue streams instead, then our services will follow as their businesses flourish. We can help them develop their systems, improve their insights and help with their business development. We can truly become their trusted advisor and a valued part of their team, giving them what they really need – which might be different to what we think they need!
Hilary Dyson, Director, Bridge Financials
Remove the choice
How do we encourage businesses to adopt cloud solutions? Well, in short we don't give them a choice!
We believe our position is to advise our clients on what we believe is best for them, what we see work for other businesses and indeed what works for our business.
Going digital is, for us, the best place to start. It provides the base for so many things that businesses owners need to be successful:
- good processes,
- easy collaboration and
- accessible and insightful data.
So, from the very first conversation we make sure they know it's the only way we work because we believe it's the best way to work.
Jonathan Bareham FCA, Director and Co-Founder, Raeden
Focus on the whole project
My top tip is if you’re going to take cloud accounting seriously as an accounting firm then ensure that you concentrate on all aspects of the project.
Those aspects being:
- Targets and KPI’s
Too often firm’s spend time just on gaining knowledge and not thinking about the other areas which allow for this knowledge to be offered to clients as a commercially viable quality service.
Matt Flanagan, Director at Blue Hub and Co-Founder of Appacus
Appoint an internal cloud champion
It is essential to deliver high quality setup, implementation, onboarding and training experiences to all your clients.
Also write case studies about the clients and their cloud project. Next ask the clients to review their experiences on Google, QuickBooks Find an Accountant, or other relevant places. Reviews provide social proof that what you're offering works, and case studies help clients to understand the use-case for them. Use these reviews as part of your sales and marketing strategy so that other clients can see what you can do and the benefits that this brings to their business.
Offering fixed-fee ongoing support also provides reassurance to the client that they aren't going to be left in the dark once they've been onboarded. To do this all properly, you'll need a dedicated resource so appoint an internal cloud champion to oversee the projects and drive the internal promotion of cloud accounting forward.
Rowan Van Tromp, Operations Director, App Advisory Plus