Moving Clients to New Software: 6 Tips for Doing It Successfully

October 13, 2016 Yoseph West

Standardizing on your tech stack is key to making your practice efficient. To fully standardize, you need to roll-out software to your entire client base. Migrating clients to new software is the fifth stage in the workflow adoption curve. Getting this process right makes standardizing significantly easier.

Here’s how great practitioners approach migrating clients to new software:

1. Make one person accountable

A complex project like client migration needs a team member responsible for managing it. They will have support from you and the rest of the team. And will be able to call on vendor and partner resources. But they have ownership of the process. It’s their responsibility to get all your clients on-boarded effectively.

They don't just define and manage timelines. They are charged with maintaining or improving client relationships as the tech roll-out happens. They look for efficiencies, make the workflow cleaner and reduce client frustration. 

They are accountable for responding to client issues if something breaks down. All staff should be primed to over-communicate. They need to raise any issues to the point person right away.

If you have one, your technology operations leader would be a good candidate to take on this role. Or your onboarding manager. If you have neither of those, look to one of your most tech-savvy bookkeepers; someone who understands the workflow and has tech experience. They might be a great point person to lead the migration.

2. Revisit learnings from the Initial Adoption Trial

Prior to the roll-out, take time to review what you learned during the initial adoption trial. Interview the clients, staff and vendors involved. Ask them, what went well? What processes and behaviors do you want to emphasize during the roll-out to the rest of the client base? But also probe for any issues that arose during the trial. How do you plan to support your clients if they recur? Make sure all staff are aware of the problems that may crop up. Train them on how best to handle them.

3. Segment your client base

When it comes to the roll-out, you have choices about how you want to handle it. One across the board roll-out completed all at once. Or a staged approach in which you complete the on-boarding of one group before moving on to the next.

A lot depends on the size and profile of your client base. And also on the size of your firm. Rolling out to all clients at once can be resource intensive. If you have an onboarding and/or a tech operations team, this may be a suitable strategy for you. But if you are a smaller firm with more limited resources you may need to do it in chunks—say 25% of your clients at a time.

If you take the staged approach, you need to segment your clients. Sort them from easiest to hardest in terms of the potential difficulty of onboarding. Consider their current frustration level with the existing tech and workflow. Their level of tech competence. Their openness to new processes and behaviors.

4. Create a migration system

Some new tech roll-outs will be simpler than others. For some, there won’t be much new information to communicate to your clients. The app may be easy to use and require little training. Great. But other installations will require more hands-on support. Regardless, you need a plan for training and support. It should get the information across effectively, positively impact the client experience and it should be scalable.

In your plan, identify the different needs of your clients. Consider what each of them will need to know. Keep in mind people in different roles will have different needs. They will use the technology for different things.

5. Set clear client expectations

Make sure to include a step in your plan in which you set expectations. Take the time to speak with each client before the roll-out. Show them the benefits of the new app. Demonstrate how it fits in the workflow. Communicate how you expect them to work with it. Then show them how it works

6. Allocate enough time for success

Be realistic when it comes to estimating how long the migration will take. Plan for each cycle of on-boarding, training and evaluation. Make sure to test the roll-out over 2-3 cycles of financial statements. That makes a 90 day roll-out a pretty sensible benchmark.

Wrap up

Standardizing your tech stack requires that you get good at migrating clients to new tech. Migration works best when you name one person to manage the process. Segment your client base and decide if you will take a staged or all-at-once approach. Create a plan for training and supporting your clients during the transition. Get these key pieces right and you’ll be able to add continually add new tech and grow your practice.

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