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If you’ve ever let your accounting workflow dissolve into disorder, you know the flailing and chaos that ensues. Managing workflow requires more than workflow management software – it requires planning and organization.
In this article, we’ll show you how.
Table of Contents
What is Accounting Workflow?
An accounting workflow is an organized and repeatable way to keep track of projects. It allows you to remain updated on timelines, which projects are in progress, and who is working on those projects. The minimum information required to make a workflow includes deadlines, open projects, and assignments.
Workflows can take many forms. The simplest example would be a to-do list. A shared list might work for a team of more than one. However, as your company grows and your projects become larger and more complex, to-do lists just don’t make the cut anymore.
An accounting workflow management system will organize the setup, tracking and performance of your services. Such systems work best when they include:
Separate workflows for each kind of project
A unified system that gives you an overview of the team’s workload
When evaluating your business workflow process, it is a good idea to start by identifying inefficiencies and shortcomings. These can then be addressed, and you can create a more streamlined accounting workflow.
Do You Really Need to Manage Workflow?
If you’re all right with missing deadlines or staying awake till 4 in the morning to meet them, then no.
We’re assuming you’re not.
In an accounting business, the way you deliver services is crucial to your success. You must manage workflow to deliver quality services and maximize profits. This is especially true if you use fixed fees or plan to use them. In this case, you will need to control costs.
Levels of Accounting Workflows
Simple Accounting Workflow
This can consist of a spreadsheet or a to-do list on a piece of paper.
In such a system, projects are fed in with due dates and client information. Based on a single entry, you can understand what each person needs to do for a project.
The workflow system will need to be checked every day, and assigning tasks will involve emailing or calling teammates. A simple workflow can work well enough for a small team. However, it tends to fall short when it comes to a large number of teammates, projects or clients.
More Complex Accounting Workflow
When a simple workflow cannot keep up with demand, most companies opt for a slightly more complex workflow management system. This system swaps to-do lists and spreadsheets for online systems and shared task lists. You can track deadlines and easily assign tasks to teammates.
However, this system still requires manual entries, setting up checklists, finding the right templates, etc. Furthermore, these workflows don’t often come with time estimation tools, which makes it harder to determine workloads across projects.
Advanced Accounting Workflow
An advanced accounting workflow will help minimize the time spent onboarding new projects and clients into the system. Hence, you will have more time to spend on your projects.
Seamless integration of workflow into existing practice
Quick training of employees on intuitive system
System will proactively inform you of upcoming and missed deadlines
Best Ways to Manage Workflow at Your Accounting Firm
1. Understanding & Planning the Workflow
A good place to start is understanding your accounting workflow. This includes prioritizing operations based on relevance.
To efficiently manage workflow, bear the following points in mind:
Creating checkpoints for progress
Recording what needs to be delivered to the client
Managing time for tasks based on resource availability and priority
Maintaining client involvement throughout the process
Efficient division of workforce for every process
2. Turning Emails Into Tasks
Emails can be difficult to manage. There’s a lot to remember and keep track of, and features like folders, labels and stars can only get you so far.
All this becomes easier with the right advanced accounting workflow software.
It will allow you to create a task directly from an email you receive
All emails sent between you and your client will be in one place
You can manage your email directly from the workflow software
3. Investing in Technology
Routine tasks such as data entry, copying and filing should be left to technology so you can focus on running your business. If you have the resources, it is wise to invest in faster laptops, newer computers, shifting to cloud technology, and the latest apps.
One way to do this is by using practice management software. This combines workflow management, automated time & billing capability, document management, and a client portal. Document sharing becomes much simpler, as does managing client communications.
Say goodbye to unsecured emails, lost faxes, and stacks of paper needing filing.
4. Automating Tasks
Constant tool switching, manually tracking tasks, and trying to remember the status of projects can get in the way of actually finishing the work.
If certain tasks are repeatable and “low-skilled” (but still important), you can automate them. This will help free up your staff so they can focus on other tasks. With automation, you can set parameters and just let the technology run in the background.
For example, for reconciliation and data cleaning, you can use software like Crush Errors, Which imports data from Excel and SAP and reconciles differences in a manner that other products do not cover.
According to Sage Practice of Now 2020, 45% of accountants intend to automate repetitive tasks such as data entry. It would be wise not to fall behind in this and lose your competitive advantage.
5. Empowering and Retaining Staff With Cloud-Based Tools
According to a survey of 25,000 Americans by McKinsey, 35% of respondents said they had the option to work remotely five days a week. 58% reported being able to work remotely at least once a week.
This doesn’t have to result in lowered productivity. Remote work becomes much easier with cloud-based accounting software, which allows you to keep all your information in one place. As long as an employee has a working Internet connection, they will be able to access it.
In today’s corporate landscape, especially post the Covid-19 pandemic, flexibility has become one of the major perks that companies are offering to attract and retain the best talent. Go ahead and jump on that bandwagon – with the right tools and strategies, your employees’ productivity can remain the same or even improve.
We hope this article has given you an insight into how to manage workflow at your accounting firm. Is there a pointer you would like to add? Let us know in the comments!
If you need advice on managing workflow or other aspects, NextGen Accounting offers financial consulting services.
Our management team has decades of experience and includes former executives of Barclays Bank, Bank of America, and ICBC.
If you want corporate finance consulting that streamlines your workflow and helps grow your business, contact us today!