Streamlining accounting processes frees up time to incorporate new services or add clients without requiring more bandwidth.
Meanwhile, digitizing administrative work like data entry and check runs allows more time for forecasting, problem-solving, and planning with clients. Similarly, efficiency provides a better client experience by providing information on demand.
Below are tips on how to build a strategy for efficiency.
Create and refine your workflow
It’s important to understand and optimize your internal workflows. Having clearly defined processes in place creates a common language and lays the groundwork for efficient collaboration in the organization. It also boosts transparency among clients and stakeholders.
Developing your workflow is a big job that pays dividends — but only if you give it the due care and attention it deserves.
Every firm is different, and size will play a big part in how you approach this. For smaller companies, it’s a job typically done by the team manager. For bigger businesses, day retreats with every firm member’s participation aren’t uncommon. Exactly how you approach this will depend on your business needs, but here are five key steps to guide you.
List your organization’s key tasks, including primary services and the processes that support each one. Start with the highest-level activities before digging down into smaller tasks, which will require the input of team managers and team members. The more collaborative you can make this step, the more effective your workflow will be.
Prioritize the processes that have the largest business impact. Tackle the most important ones first before going more granular.
Create a workflow diagram to visualize the process. This can help you spot inefficiencies and bottlenecks.
Test your new or revised workflow in practice. Start small before rolling it out across the entire business. That way, you can work through problems on a small scale.
Train your team so everyone can hit the ground running.
Use cloud-based technology
Cloud-based technology supports business continuity, an important metric for any accountant. It also creates a more seamless experience for your clients.
The cloud makes it possible for accountants to offer a wider scope of services that were previously limited by paper or cumbersome processes relying on multiple platforms. It also eliminates the need for paperwork, leaving more time for business-critical tasks.
Cloud-based documents and portals boost transparency and efficiency. In fact, respondents in the 62% of accounting firms taking part in a SmartVault study that felt their COVID-19 response was successful were more likely to be using cloud-based technology — particularly cloud-based document management and client portals.
As accountants juggling several clients know all too well, every job has interruptions that can take a heavy toll on productivity and overall efficiency.
One online survey by found that 71% of workers get interrupted frequently during the day, while another study found it takes, on average, 23 minutes to find focus after a distraction. That’s a massive loss in productivity that ultimately affects your business’s ability to meet client demands.
To minimize distractions and boost efficiency, accounting firm leaders should encourage employees to schedule their time in blocks so they are dedicated to the task at hand, automate manual processes, and consider setting times for team building to boost overall productivity.
Communicate efficiency procedures
Good communication forms the backbone of strong, trusting client relationships. New workflows must be communicated effectively with all stakeholders. This may require some in-person sessions between you and your clients to help guide them through the new processes. The more helpful, available, and hands-on you can be, the better.
It’s also important to get those within the business on board. Work together to define roles within each workflow, and make sure the overall vision is clearly communicated, so each person can see how they fit into the bigger picture. Ensuring everyone understands what the new workflow hopes to achieve helps to create a shared language across the entire business.
Continuously improve processes
Efficiency should be a primary goal. As you grow your client base and expand service offerings, new workflows will be introduced into your ecosystem. It’s important these stay up to date and properly integrated into existing workflows. Look out for opportunities to automate repetitive, labor-intensive tasks, and review your workflows as a matter of course.
Taking the proper steps now to improve your accounting efficiencies will position your firm to minimize friction, remove roadblocks, and create a more seamless experience for your clients now and in the future.
— Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an employee time-tracking application. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Chris Baysden, a JofA associate director, at Chris.Baysden@aicpa-cima.com.