By: Thomas G. Stephens Jr., CPA, CITP, CGMA
When making your Continuing Professional Education (CPE) plans, consider what CPE can do for you beyond simply satisfying your minimum hours required. In particular, think about how technology-focused CPE can help you and your team to become more efficient and proficient in using everyday technologies—such as Excel® by Microsoft™—when performing routine and non-routine tasks.
Many organizations routinely invest, heavily, in new hardware and software, thinking it will provide its team with the adequate tools needed to perform job functions more efficiently than ever. To illustrate, consider a CPA firm that employs 30 team members. In order to provide the team with current technology, the firm might invest in new personal computers with Windows 8 and touch-enabled monitors at a cost of approximately $1,500 per team member. Additionally, the firm might choose to invest in the latest release of Microsoft Office™; more specifically, the firm might install Office 2013 Professional Plus onto each team members’ computer at a cost of approximately $500 per team member. What will be the expected increase in productivity for this investment of $2,000 per team member, or $60,000 for the firm?
In all likelihood, beginning just a few months after implementing the new infrastructure, firm partners will begin questioning whether they are receiving an adequate return on the investment in new technology. In fact, many will recognize that team members are still reporting approximately the same amount of time to complete a specific task in the new environment as they reported in the previous environment. In other words, there likely will not be any immediate, substantial return on the $60,000 capital expenditure. Why not? Because the firm omitted one key ingredient from the technology recipe and that ingredient is training.
Mistakenly, many owners and managers have espoused the theory that team members will “learn it on their own.” Sorry, but that simply will not be the case. Until team members are shown, not only the new features in a particular application, but how they are implemented in ways which are relevant to their jobs, they will likely continue to do things exactly the same way they have in the past. This means that, in the absence of training, the investment in new technology is not likely to provide a substantive return on investment (ROI) at all, except in cases where the previous hardware was failing.
Returning to our sample CPA firm for a moment, let us assume that the average fully-loaded salary of each team member is $70,000 and that the firm chose to invest $4,000 in a full-day training session on how to take advantage of Windows 8 and Office 2013. Further, let us suppose that as a direct result of the training effort, each team member picked up just five minutes per day of additional billable time and that the firm billed this time at an average rate of $150 per hour. In this scenario, the total investment of $64,000–$60,000 in hardware and software, coupled with $4,000 in training—would yield additional billing opportunities totaling $264,375. Now we’re talking ROI! This is why we should be investing in technology and this is why we should be investing in training our team members on how to take advantage of the technology tools provided to them.
Online, Interactive ROI Calculator Now Available
Similarly, a recent analysis conducted by K2 Enterprises indicates that the three-year ROI of a worker earning $80,000 annually is approximately 390% if that worker saves just five minutes a day as a result of participating in an eight-hour technology-centric CPE program. The analysis incorporates both the amount of money spent on the program and the amount of time it takes to complete the program when calculating the ROI. It does not take into account the potential billing opportunities associated with the time saved; of course, if it did, the reported ROI would be even higher.
To estimate what your individual ROI would be resulting from participating in technology-centric CPE, click this link to use the interactive on-line calculator; once you access the calculator, click the “Edit In Browser” option and enter your own assumptions. Alternatively, you can access the calculator by visiting http://1drv.ms/1ABO0pM.
In today’s ultra-competitive environment, it is absolutely necessary to invest in all of the tools required for your team members to perform their jobs faster and better than ever. However, our expenditures should be viewed not as expenses but rather as investments and we should demand an adequate ROI on each investment in technology that we make. As demonstrated in the case study above and in the online, interactive ROI calculator, the missing piece to the ROI puzzle is often training the team on how to take full advantage of the tools provided to them. For you to receive the ROI necessary to justify your technology investments, be sure that you provide your team with adequate training; otherwise, you will likely not see the ROI you expected on your investment.