Accounting Software Conversions or Upgrades – Overcoming Resistance to Change
Auditing software tools have advanced so far and fast and are affecting audit work so profoundly that the word “tool” no longer seems an adequate descriptor.
Auditing software critically enables audit speed and efficiency. It makes sense of vast quantities of data, uncovers patterns and anomalies, identifies unexpected correlations and makes confident predictions. The software is key to audit efficiency and effectiveness, value delivery, client satisfaction, and the competitiveness of the accounting firms that use it.
Moreover, the technology is now so formidable that it is changing the very nature of auditing itself. More than 50 years ago, audits of 100% of transactions came to be regarded as impractical. By the 1970s, such audits had been rejected in favour of a sample-based approach. That’s beginning to change. With today’s ubiquity of data and advanced software, we’re heading back to the future. Audits of 100% of transactions are now both realistic and achievable.
Still, audit software is only as valuable as it is embraced and understood by audit partners, managers and staff. Indeed, it has never been more important for firms to embrace technology and technology-related change, nor more critical to overcome resistance to them. Here are three tips for doing that.
1) Focus on the Benefits
Be vocal in communicating the benefits of any audit software upgrade or conversion, in advance.
Leading edge audit software solutions are a win-win: a win for the firm in terms of audit efficiency, effectiveness and competitiveness; and a win for audit team members. Auditors get to learn more, dive deep into new powerful applications and, perhaps most important of all, get some relief from the tedium of manual sampling on which so many young auditors cut their teeth. Advanced software solutions free staff to focus on tasks more suited to uniquely-human higher reasoning, inquiry and judgement, which means the firm gets more from them, the work is more stimulating, job satisfaction is higher and, all things being equal, productivity increases.
Emphasis should be placed, too, on the time saved, the efficiencies gained and the software’s cloud-based collaborative functionality, if applicable. This latter feature empowers audit teams. Each member knows with 100% certainty that all files are up to date regardless of when and where they work, or on what device. Users love this feature.
2) Make Sure Leadership’s Onboard and Leading
Success in software conversions or upgrades depends on leadership. Managing Partners, Partners and Senior Managers must all be seen to be 100 percent behind the solution. Google recently published a report titled, “The Value of Change Management” based on a survey of C-suite executives in 11 countries. Executive leadership / sponsorship was found to be the single most important activity supporting employee engagement in change management initiatives.
“Cultural changes cannot happen without leadership,” Ryan W. Quinn and Robert E. Quinn wrote for the Harvard Business Review in 2016. “What’s more, leadership is not the sole responsibility of the C-suite. Managers at all levels of an organization must overcome resistance if genuine cultural change is to occur.” 
3) Training Avoids Failing
Training is key, as well, to successful software adoption or upgrades.
Network-based media and publishing company eLearning Industry publishes extensively on training best practices. The best training programs, according to the company:
- Define the objective and return to it often – Your firm has selected your accounting software to speed audit workflows, gain efficiencies, ease the burden on audit clients, and increase audit profit margins. That’s what your training’s about. Make sure this is clear.
- Give training context and relevance – Put case studies front and center in your formal training and actively facilitate on-the-job learning (e.g. naming and training team super-users).
- Customize the training – Make the training as, “relevant, practical, and meaningful” as possible for each learner, says eLearning Industry. Consider such factors as skill level (technology and accounting), method of training delivery (in-person versus online), and demographics (e.g. millennials may be more technologically literate than boomers).
- Easy does it – Learners can process and retain only so much new information at once. Trainers can make learning sessions more effective by focusing on a few key goals.
- Incentivize / Play – Consider rewarding the achievement of key learning milestones or strong performance with certifications or badges, or even time off or bonuses.
Advanced audit software applications have never offered so much. Make sure your firm drives the most value from its investment by:
- Communicating the benefits at all levels of the firm
- Ensuring the firm’s leadership is engaged – and leading
- Conducting training sessions that demystify abstract concepts through real-life examples and focus on the critical success factors above.
 Page 3, Data Analytics for External Auditors, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, 2016