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Intention vs Implementation: A post-event guide

You might find it odd, given that I didn’t attend the Digital Accountancy Show this week. In fact, I even steered clear of the noise on social media and focused on some paid work instead. So, why am I talking about attending such events? Having attended dozens and spoken at several in the past, I have some insights to share, especially as a flurry of similar events loom on the horizon—none of which I plan to attend. Here’s what I’ve noticed: you likely invested a great deal of time, effort, and energy just to be there. Yet, I’d wager that amidst all that preparation and participation, little thought was given to what you take away from these events (no I don’t mean swag), considering the time spent away from clients and family.

Attending events like the Digital Accountancy Show can ignite a firework display of ideas and inspirations. However, all too often, the spark fades as soon as we step back into the daily grind.

Extracting Real Value from Accounting Events

The Great Divide: Intention vs. Implementation

When you attend a high-calibre event like the Digital Accountancy Show, the intention typically includes learning new trends, discovering tools, and networking. However, these intentions often fail to manifest in meaningful changes without deliberate implementation—the active execution of the ideas gathered. Here’s how they differ significantly:

Intention is about aspiration—wanting to incorporate new software solutions, hoping to adopt the latest best practices, or planning to enhance client relationships.

Implementation, on the other hand, is about action—integrating these new solutions into your daily operations, revising your methodologies according to the best practices discussed, and actively working on enhancing those client relationships.

Why Implementation Often Falters

The gap usually stems from a lack of a structured follow-up plan post-event. Without specific goals, clear accountability, and set deadlines, the enthusiasm and ideas gained at these events can quickly dissipate once the daily routine resumes.

The Role of Your Team

Involving Non-Attending Members

Yes, involving your team is crucial, even those who didn’t attend. Here’s why and how:

Broader Perspective: Team members can offer fresh insights or raise concerns about the practical aspects of implementing new ideas, which might be overlooked by attendees caught up in the event’s excitement.

Increased Buy-in: Involving the team in decision-making processes helps in gaining their buy-in, which is essential for smooth implementation.

Strategy for Team Involvement

Share and Educate: Start with a detailed presentation or a workshop where attendees share their learnings and experiences from the event. This can spark interest and open discussions on potential applications within your practice.

Divide and Conquer: Assign different team members specific areas of responsibility. For example, one might focus on researching how a new tool could be integrated, while another could work on a cost-benefit analysis. This division of labour can cover more ground quickly and efficiently.

Pilot Teams: Establish small pilot teams to test out new technologies or processes. This can be an effective way to troubleshoot issues in a controlled environment, allowing for adjustments before a full-scale rollout.

Feedback Mechanisms: Set up regular check-ins to gather feedback from the team on how the new tools or strategies are performing. This not only helps in making necessary adjustments but also keeps the team engaged and accountable.

Post-Event Guide from Intention to Implementation

Here’s how to make sure the money and time spent at these events isn’t just a ticket to a professional get-together, but a catalyst for meaningful change in your accounting practice.

1. Debrief and Document

Before the dust settles, organise a debrief session. Gather your attending team within a few days post-event while memories are fresh. Discuss key takeaways, innovative ideas, and potential strategies that were presented. Document these insights meticulously. Tools like Microsoft OneNote or Google Docs can be used for collaborative note-taking and later reference.

2. Prioritize Actionable Items

From the myriad of ideas and tools showcased, identify which are immediately actionable and which are long-term goals. Create a priority list—perhaps using a tool like Trello or Asana to track progress and assign tasks. Consider which initiatives can bring the most significant impact or ROI to your practice and focus your energy there.

3. Set SMART Goals

Convert your priorities into SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals. For instance, if a new software solution was introduced at the event, a SMART goal could be, “Implement X software by the end of Q3, aiming to reduce processing time by 20%.” Tools like Monday.com can help in tracking these goals against specific timelines and metrics.

4. Integrate and Innovate

Look at integrating new technologies and practices learned at the event into your existing systems. If a new cloud-based accounting platform caught your eye, consider setting up a pilot project. Innovate on small scales before a full rollout. Keep the team motivated by demonstrating quick wins, however small.

5. Training and Development

Invest in training for your team to effectively use new tools and technologies introduced at the event. Consider online courses or on-site training sessions with vendors. Platforms like LinkedIn Learning and Coursera offer courses that can boost your team’s proficiency and confidence in utilizing new tools.

6. Network Follow-ups

Networking shouldn’t end at the event. Reach out to new contacts and reconnect with old ones. LinkedIn can be an excellent platform for maintaining these professional relationships. Sharing insights or articles related to the event topics can keep the conversations going and open doors to collaborative opportunities.

7. Measure Impact

Continuously measure the impact of the changes implemented. Use analytical tools to track performance improvements, cost savings, or revenue growth from new technologies or strategies. Adjust your approaches based on these analytics to optimize the benefits of your new implementations.

8. Feedback Loop

Create a feedback loop where employees can continuously share how new tools or strategies are affecting their workflow and client interactions. Use tools like Google Forms or Microsoft Forms for periodic feedback collection. This can help in fine-tuning processes and making necessary adjustments.

9. Share Successes

Celebrate and share successes, both internally and externally. Whether it’s a successful software implementation or an improved client service strategy, sharing these wins can boost morale and establish a culture of progress and innovation within your team.

10. Plan for the Next Event

Finally, keep the momentum going by planning for the next big event. Early preparation can help you better define what you aim to achieve from the next gathering—be it learning specific skills, scouting new tech, or deepening industry connections.

Practical Tips for Effective Implementation

Clear Communication: Ensure that the goals and the strategic importance of the new implementations are clearly communicated to the entire team.

Training and Resources: Provide adequate training and resources to the team members responsible for the implementation. This could include access to online courses, attending additional webinars, or on-site training with experts.

Monitor Progress: Use project management tools like Microsoft Planner, Asana or Trello to track progress on different tasks and keep everyone on schedule. Regular updates in team meetings can also help maintain momentum.

By bridging the gap between intention and implementation and actively involving your team in the process, you can maximize the return on your investment in attending industry events. It’s not just about collecting business cards and free swag; it’s about transforming those connections and ideas into actionable changes that drive your practice forward.

To Wrap Up

The true value of an event like the Digital Accountancy Show lies not just in attendance but in the actions you take afterward. By strategically implementing, measuring, and refining the ideas and tools you gather, you can ensure that your time and resources translate into tangible benefits for your practice, your team, and your clients. Let’s not just add pages to our notebooks; let’s write new chapters in our professional stories.

Many years ago, I attended a 2020 Innovation conference in Birmingham. I worked at what can only be described as a ‘traditional practice’. You know the one, grey walls, grey people and oak panelled offices. Horrid!

I didn’t know just like the vast majority of our 130+ person accountancy practice that we were members of 2020 let alone utilise any of the tools at our disposal.

There are two things that stick out about attending that conference:

  1. Many attendees were there to get away from their ‘partners’. A few drinks, a whinge about the industry and go home. We didn’t leave the hotel bar till 3am. I’d had my fill of listening to everything from social media to Cloud Accounting being a ‘trend’ a ‘flash in the pan’. The second day was a write off and we left early. (I’ve seen this quite a few times since).
  2. There was a group of people who were eagerly listening, taking notes, and then splitting into groups and implementing a plan of attack. It was Paul Bulpitt from The Wow Company. Check them out to see how that went.

What did I take away from that experience? My P45. I told the Managing Partner on the drive back that I saw my future elsewhere. I setup my own accountancy practice shortly afterwards.

Don’t add issuing P45’s to the best members of your team a post-event task.