CPA INSIDER

A 5-step plan for adding new tech amid COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the blueprint for seeking, choosing, and implementing
By Amy Vetter, CPA/CITP, CGMA

The COVID-19 crisis has altered everyone's lives, changing the way we do business now and for the foreseeable future. These changes have made technology even more important. With remote work now a necessity for millions of people, business owners are scrambling to implement new technology. 

Normally, you would want the adoption of new technology to be a measured, careful process. Right now, you probably don't have that luxury, but it doesn't mean your approach should be entirely haphazard. If you want your new tech to function successfully and help your team do its job, you still need to be systematic where you can. While months of testing may not be possible, there are still ways to optimize your team members' experience with new technology. To achieve that goal, it's helpful to follow a guided framework, even if you have to do so quickly. 

Step 1: Identify a need

You've probably already identified technology needs during this pandemic. Organizations everywhere, from small businesses to Saturday Night Live, are using technology to abide by social-distancing policies. Zoom has gone from business software to cultural touchstone in no time flat. Having a need present itself quickly and having to meet it immediately isn't optimal — nobody wants to have to plug a leak as water is pouring out — but the upside is that you won't have to convince anybody that new software is essential. The way we work has changed, and you need the tools to thrive in it.

Step 2: Shop around, but decisively

Many businesses are dealing with make-or-break threats to their livelihoods, which means there's no time for trial periods or comparing every little detail between competing options. While you shouldn't just jump at the first option you encounter, neither can you afford to spend time waffling over choices. Once you've selected an option, you need to move forward with a clear head. Buyer's remorse will lead to a less-than-ideal outcome. You have to believe in the platform if you want your team members to buy in. Survey the technological landscape, decide on a path forward, and get moving.

Step 3: Put it in the hands of somebody savvy

In most companies, you can find somebody who will serve as the de facto software educator. Maybe it's you, maybe it's somebody who has used the software before, or maybe it's just somebody who has a knack for this stuff — but whoever it is, it's a great idea to have them leading the charge. A person who can help guide people through new technology in a friendly, approachable way is an invaluable resource right now.

As surely as you have some folks who are naturally adept at technology, others struggle with it. Bridging that gap helps ensure that certain team members don't suffer performance dips or excess frustration as a result of tech mishaps. If you notice somebody who can't seem to get the hang of it, try to connect them with somebody who can help.

Step 4: Start with the basics

As you roll out the software for the team, don't attempt to wring every bit of functionality out of it. Getting value for your purchase is great, but not if it comes at the expense of a smooth debut. It's best to give everyone time to acclimate to using the new technology in a straightforward way. Once baseline familiarity is established, you can begin introducing new features or utilities. Everyone is already dealing with enough overwhelming change, including in many cases working at home alongside a spouse and kids — a challenge that has become commonplace (as evidenced by this Google search).

Step 5: Make it fun

With the right mindset and some creative thinking, you can find ways to make new technology fun. Many companies and groups have begun hosting virtual happy hours as a way to bring team members together outside of the bounds of work. Remember, an office culture isn't just defined by the work done; the little conversations that happen in between meetings are a huge part of fostering camaraderie. When you can find a way to introduce those moments via technology, it's a lot easier to embrace said technology.

Do you want to approach tech adoption this way all the time? Probably not, but we're all adapting right now, and the better we can adapt, the brighter the future becomes.

Amy Vetter, CPA/CITP, CGMA, is CEO of The B3 Method Institute, a keynote speaker and adviser, host of the Breaking Beliefs podcast, and Technology Innovations Taskforce leader for the AICPA's Information Management Technology Assurance (IMTA) Executive Committee. Learn more at amyvetter.com. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor, at Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com.

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