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How to improve workflow management for accounting firms?

by Frank Caccio | August 1, 2020 | Accounting
improve workflow management in accounting firms

The accounting and finance field is deeply process-oriented. You offer a service that entails a step-by-step chain of events to produce the desired results for your clients.

On a daily basis, you might not think about this organizational process and structure, but it exists as a guidepost for every task performed. In organizational terms, we refer to this as “workflow” or “workflow process.”

Workflow management is the identification and mapping of each of these steps to accomplish your task. Workflow management is a means to analyze your approach to improve your process for efficiency, speed, consistency, and quality.

One of the ways to monitor workflow—or to create it if your accounting practice has not done so—is to utilize a workflow management software platform. This system moves the tracking and distribution of tasks into an automated format for easy review, collaboration, and data sharing.

How workflow management tools improve accounting practice

Trust and integrity serve as key attractants for accounting firms to acquire and maintain clients. Your customers want guarantees they will receive the same high-quality service as anyone else within your client roster.

What becomes crucial in this respect is the knowledge that your services are focusing on primary tasks while not getting sidetracked by checklists and administration of your workforce. Your clients, to be frank, are paying for your accounting practice, not your staff management or filing system.

A workflow management system should be designed to produce more work for your client in less time while minimizing process errors. A quality workflow platform should also be flexible enough to accommodate and integrate your existing software systems. By doing so, the platform works for your process instead of forcing you to redesign the process to fit the platform.

The benefit of workflow management platforms is that accounting firms no longer need to seek out additional software solutions for individual tasks that can be monitored by the management software’s features. A workflow tool allows access to all your individual processes in one place, in effect creating a grand interface for your monitoring your entire accounting practice.

How to understand and document workflow management in accounting

In order to improve workflow management in accounting firms, you need a company-wide understanding of what your services are, how they are currently working, and how they can be analyzed for effectiveness. Good results come from good planning.

Identify each of your services and prioritize them by revenue stream

  • Your internal accounting department can provide an estimate of each service’s income
  • Interview staff and clients to see which services provide value—note as client service opportunities.
  • Build a flowchart of your current process

Break out each main task into the sub-tasks that achieve the main task

  • Identify all software systems necessary for each task and sub-task
  • Identify staff and positions involved at each step, including software support
  • Note where client interaction is needed
  • Review time spent on tasks – estimate versus actual
  • Use flowcharting to visualize these main tasks, their sub-tasks, and their relationship to other tasks within the service

Once you have this visual representation of your workflow, you can use it as a blueprint for how a workflow management tool can support it. Keep in mind the need for a workflow tool that can access and integrate all the disparate tasks of your services, who can and should access the necessary data, and how to support collaboration among staff and between staff and clients.

Develop metrics for meaningful assessment, which can include:

  • The time an entire service takes to accomplish
  • The time taken for each main task within a service
  • The time taken for each sub-task
  • Cost factors for each component
  • Accuracy and quality measurements
  • Develop metrics that determine client satisfaction

Effective metrics measurements will help you monitor your process for consistency, achievement, and—often—reveal pain points.

How to assess your accounting workflow?

Once you’ve outlined all your process, the next step is to use what you’ve learned to improve workflow management for the accounting firm. Analyze each step for its expediency, necessity, and performance.

Look for redundant activities

Note when the same data needs to be shared with multiple people and whether that data can be centrally located.

  • Note routine, repetitious, and administrative functions that can be automated
  • Assess time spent on all activities
  • Review actual time spent and whether they match expectations

Flag time-sinks for deeper analysis to discover delays, be it staffing, an ineffective system, or volume of work

  • Begin the process of understanding how a workflow management tool can improve your inefficiencies and delays
  • Understand the need for a flexible platform that can accommodate most, if not all, your processes
  • Bear in mind scalability of the platform for future growth and expansion

Seek out a user-friendly, dynamic system that supports your staff and allows room for innovation and creativity

Why a Workflow Management System is Your Answer

The finance industry has unique needs. Task/workflow management systems are the modern alternative for managing business operations; no more spreadsheets, emails or Outlook are necessary.

The answer is a software solution built for the financial community by financial operations experts, that will greatly mitigate operational risk. This cloud-based system offers full transparency when working in the office or remotely. Team communication & coordination are enabled and a culture of accountability and operational excellence is promoted.

OpsCheck is the premier finance operations platform. It is an operations/compliance control and oversight application that combines proven advancements in task, project, and workflow management into a single tool.

It’s easy to get started, easy to operate and is cost effective. Management and staff, as well as, regulators and auditors will reap the benefits of OpsCheck. Why not join the reputable firms around the globe that have already subscribed.

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