This is part five of a five-part series on Workflow in your Accounting Practice. Over the course of this series I’ll walk you through best practices in setting up a workflow system for delivering Client Accounting Services (CAS) and the benefits you can expect once you have it up and running.
In the first four blogs of this series, I talked about why you need a workflow management system and the steps you should follow when setting one up. You may be wondering at this point if all the work is really worth it; what can you expect to get out of a workflow management system? The short answer is: a lot.
Clearly defined processes and procedures are the vehicle through which you put your knowledge capital to work for your firm. Once you have systematized your unique way of doing business, your firm’s growth is no longer constrained by your available time; any qualified staff person can transform resources (documented procedures, task checklists) into revenue for the firm. This frees you up to do things like interact with your clients as a trusted advisor and investigate new growth opportunities.
A well organized workflow system will provide visibility for the owners and managers of the firm. You will be able to see exactly what the firm’s commitments are so that you can properly manage your resources – manage your firm proactively instead of reactively. In addition, knowing what work is already scheduled in the firm allows you to make informed decisions about taking in new work or hiring new staff. Visibility of the work being performed helps you make sure that due dates are being met, and allows you to keep an eye on unscheduled work, watching for costly scope creep.
Having a centralized system to manage your firm’s work, and track the time associated with it, gives you access to real data you can use to measure your firm’s performance. For example, you can develop a metric for the average time a certain service takes to perform and then compare it to staff or client specific averages. Having real data about your firm’s performance allows you to develop specific targets for improvement.
Having a Life
Of course, one of the biggest returns you can expect from getting a workflow system up and running is that you will be running your firm, instead of allowing it to run you. The workflow system we have at Redmond Accounting, with it’s clearly defined procedures, step-by-step checklists, and easily available resources, allow me to do things like be unavailable all day while I’m teaching at a conference. The same sort of system gave my business partner the ability to take a vacation where there was no internet connection. If you can’t imagine doing something like that, it may be time to for a new workflow system!
Laura Redmond is founder of Redmond Accounting Inc, a boutique cloud accounting firm in Silicon Valley awarded Intuit's 2015 Top 20 Firm of the Future and a top 10 ProAdvisor for “Leading QuickBooks Online Practice”. Redmond Accounting's workflow is based around QuickBooks Online and its ecosystem of apps.
Laura co-authors Intuit’s QuickBooks Online training and certification programs for accounting professionals. She is a regular speaker at national accounting technology conferences and member of Intuit's esteemed Trainer / Writer Network. She joined forces with industry colleagues to co-create Aero Workflow app for accounting firms to manage multiple recurring activities, clients and staff.