Accounting Firm Counts on Enterprise Q&A SystemBy Guest Author | Posted 2015-06-19 Email Print
Re-Thinking HR: What Every CIO Needs to Know About Tomorrow's Workforce
The Kane Firm uses an enterprise question-and-answer system that houses the insight and expertise of the staff and is accessible by any employee, at any time.
By Laura Punyon-Kane
Staying up to date on industry best practices, while also applying company-specific policies, is a challenge faced by many fast-paced enterprises. The key to a successful company is to be dynamic, and this can be achieved only by giving employees access to the most relevant, accurate information available so they may provide continual exceptional service to clients.
At the Kane Firm, a New York-based accounting firm, we take pride in our accountants’ advanced training, technical expertise and financial acumen, but, most of all, we value our ability to meet new and difficult challenges.
As practice manager for the company, my responsibility is to ensure that all employees are prepared to face these challenges by providing them with the necessary documents or by pointing them to someone who can answer their questions.
Like most companies, we store our library of business-related documents on a server, which employees can access and search to find an answer. Most employees balked at this time-consuming route, opting instead to email a colleague or ask a nearby co-worker for the needed information. These traditional methods for finding answers hinder productivity and let valuable company intelligence remain hidden in lengthy documents, convoluted email threads and employees’ heads.
We needed a single place for employees to get answers without disrupting productivity. We wanted them to be able to access all kinds of information—from the firm’s benefits program to policies on filing financial documents.
In early 2014, I began searching for a solution that could solve our information-sourcing problem and also keep track of information within the company. When employees retired or moved to other jobs, years of employee knowledge and expertise went undocumented, so we needed a tool that could prevent the loss of company intelligence going forward.
A number of all-encompassing solutions had question-and-answer functionality, which was appealing, but we were not interested in replacing our entire operating system. The marketplace for enterprise collaboration tools is crowded with dozens of subcategories that offer similar capabilities, but most had Q&A as a second- or third-tier benefit, not as a substantial component of their offerings.
Though the options in the Q&A space were limited, I was able to differentiate between the broader, generic solutions and those that offered more enterprise-focused software. Of the latter, Haydle Enterprise Q&A was the best solution for our firm, based on its design for private enterprise and painless deployment.
Concerned About Employee Adoption
One of my biggest fears when introducing new software in our firm is employee adoption. Unless a tool is indispensable to a task or incredibly easy to learn, employees are unlikely to use the software because of the time wasted for training.
Fortunately, we were able to roll out Haydle with practically no training because of the software’s instinctual Q&A format, a feature our accountants found easily navigable and aesthetically pleasing. At first, our employees mostly asked simple questions related to general firm protocol or technology troubleshooting. However, as familiarity with the program’s capabilities increased, so did the complexity of the questions they asked.
Two instances in which the system serves our employees’ needs are documenting highly specific business policies and developing a firmwide response to a pressing problem for clients.
After repeated filings, one of our accountants noticed that when certain clients were eligible for foreign tax credits, the filing process could be significantly expedited if a particular, unnecessary form were omitted. This process was documented in Haydle and then consulted by all our accountants who had to file similar returns throughout the year.
Recently, an email scam targeted some of our clients, claiming they owed back taxes and would face severe financial consequences. A few of our quick-thinking accountants developed a response to share with clients, which was added to the software, along with the relevant IRS information. That kept our firm informed and prepared to adjust our response in future developments.
We have found great value in the shared insight of our employees through Haydle’s platform. By providing a system in which users rate and weigh the best available information, we can determine best practices and strategies based on the experience of all employees.
Participation is the key to the software’s successful deployment in our firm. That's largely due to its open nature, which gives everyone a chance to contribute and be recognized when his or her answer is deemed valuable.
It’s clear that Haydle has increased employee engagement and organized our communications on important business issues. Having all of our firm’s knowledge—including the insight and expertise of every employee on our staff—documented and accessible by any employee, at any time, is more valuable than I could have imagined. And, as a bonus, it has made my job much easier.
Laura Punyon-Kane is practice manager for the Kane Firm, an accounting firm based in Williamsville, N.Y.