These factors also slowed acceptance of practice management software in the last decade. Ten years ago, small firms were specifically resistant to the idea of practice management software. The main reasons given were: systems were too expensive, too over-featured and not able to meet the unique small firm needs. Even though firms had manual systems in place and were using a collage of software, they were resistant to change.
In most cases what we call today the “best of breed” set of applications were the only options. In some cases these disconnected applications and procedures worked for them. Repeatedly I was told if it wasn’t broke why fix it? To some extent this was partially true. Firms were waiting for something with greater value and ease of use.
I believe the opportunity for a solution using new technology is here and things have changed for the profession. We are seeing improved efficiencies when using these new breeds of software that are specifically designed to overcome the obstacles to evolution. One obstacle that’s been overcome is the ideas that practice management is only for large firms. Firms of all sizes are beginning to place their focus on practice management software. It has become the one area providing opportunities for improved efficiencies, even more than tax and accounting programs and evolved design is leading the way.
If by now, you are not completely paperless, you are probably making efforts to finally get there. Most of us wouldn’t even consider working in an office that hasn’t embraced a paperless culture. Today this is true for practice management software. Team members want effective organization and the latest tools where they work.
So, naturally, our current systems and software must evolve and support new standards. Thus, the evolution and improvement of our applications and the hardware must also support these new approaches. Naturally, the introduction and evolution of new practice management software was necessary to meet the needs of today’s firms. What was once reserved for firms with large resources like national and regional firms has worked its way to firms of all sizes. Thus the evolution has begun. This “new breed” has arrived.
Greater Insight Equals Better Management
In years past practice management software was considered a glorified time and billing system providing basic metrics about revenues, profitability and productivity. Now owners and partners want to know more than just billing metrics. Firms today want all management and administration functions combined into one system. They want systems to be simplified, provide better tracking and they want it to take less of their time.
They also need complete analysis on staffing, workflow and budgeting that can be used in management decisions. Ultimately firm owners and partners want to easily track information, accurately know what’s going on in the firm and have a system that can create improved management decisions. This is what I call the “three must haves” in practice management: track, know and manage.
I see todays practice management software doing many things that weren’t considered in the past. Today’s software helps firms increase their abilities to track, know and manage. To accomplish this goal, software must combine the tracking of client services information with workflow management and with staffing functions. These systems can no longer be separate. Software needs to do all of these in a simpler, more effective way than in the past. As you review applications in our industry, be sure they move us beyond the applications of the last decade. Look for software that provides better tracking, more knowledge and leverages the way you manage.
Practice Management Now Includes CRM
In years past, CRM was always considered a “sales tool”. We in the accounting industry shunned them as unusable. Now for a variety of reasons we are beginning to embrace them. One reason is what I call “client service”. It’s no secret we are, as accountants, in a service industry, so it makes sense that we need put a concerted effort into improving the way we provide service. Practice Management software now offers ways to do this. Another reason is the combining our contact management and our customer relationship management into our practice management software. Previously CRM was always considered another separate program and database. This is no longer the case if we utilize our practice management software’s CRM abilities.