Improving your workplace starts with developing, implementing, optimizing, and managing workflows. With the right set of workflows in place, you can minimize errors, guarantee consistency, and steadily build your accounting firm into a success. But how do you get started with creating and managing your workflows?
In this guide, we’ll discuss what you need to know about workflow management for accountants.
What is Workflow Management?
Let’s start things off by briefly defining the system known as “workflow management.”
Workflow management refers to the sequence of steps that one must take to complete a certain task.
While there may be multiple ways to complete any given task, a workflow points to a specific path. When you follow this path, it will take you from step one to the expected outcome every single time. It eliminates guesswork and it reduces the mental strain of coming up with new ways to arrive at the same solution.
Why is Workflow Management Important?
Why should you bother taking the time to develop workflows for your accounting firm? Let’s take a look at the major benefits you’ll gain from doing so.
Developing workflows will improve your team’s productivity—guaranteed. When you create an accounting workflow, you reduce redundancy. All of those repetitive tasks that burden your team members can be automated and thus eliminated from your employees’ daily task list. It will free them up to work on other tasks. You and your team can get more stuff done within the same 8-hour workday.
As we discussed earlier, there may be various ways to arrive at the same destination. However, if two team members take different paths to the same destination, they probably won’t arrive at the same time. Some routes may take considerably longer and require a greater strain on your resources.
That’s one major reason why developing a standard workflow is so important. Without workflows in place, you cannot guarantee a consistent outcome. If you want to create the same result every time, you must follow the same steps. This also reduces errors or undesirable results.
Streamline Your Processes
By developing workflows, you can remove unnecessary or repetitive steps and simplify your processes. You will also make it easier for your team to focus on what works and get rid of what doesn’t.
This can often reduce human error and help you spot inefficiencies that could be slowing down your team or costing you money. When you streamline your processes, you make it easier for employees to do their jobs more effectively and you’ll even increase accountability across your entire accounting firm.
Increase Work Output
Your accounting firm is only as successful as your employees are effective. If your employees, as part of their workflow, spend most of their day wrestling with spreadsheets and trying to get different accounting tools to talk to each other, they won’t be very effective. However, if you implement easy-to-follow processes that have been optimized for maximum impact, you will enjoy better results from your team.If your employees, as part of their workflow, spend most of their day wrestling with spreadsheets and trying to get different accounting tools to talk to each other, they won’t be very effective. Click To Tweet
Accept More Clients
Are you hoping to expand your accounting firm? When you implement optimized workflows in your daily rhythm, you can scale your firm more rapidly. A big part of workflow management is automating repetitive and low-level tasks so that your team can focus on the high-level tasks that grow your firm. This may include working more closely with clients and offering special add-ons, like client accounting and advisory services. Automating your workflow gives you the freedom to do more in the same amount of time.
Delegate Work More Freely
If you have a standard workflow that’s well documented (more on that later), you can delegate. Having workflows in place gives you the flexibility to assign a rotating list of team members to complete the same tasks. This also gives you the ability to cross-train team members so that everyone on the team is empowered to handle the same tasks.
Without workflows in place, your firm can easily descend into a state of chaos. What happens if a team member isn’t there to complete a task due to illness or a change of employment status? If no one else knows what to do, your entire firm could be affected. When you take the time to create and implement workflow standards, you minimize the risk of instability to your organization and ensure that the work will be completed.
Workflow Management Best Practices
Now that we’ve looked at the benefits of implementing workflow management into your accounting firm, let’s discuss the best practices to follow.
Identify Your Most Essential Tasks
What are the most essential tasks you do in your accounting firm? These are the tasks that, if left undone, would lead to negative consequences. Start with these tasks.
Define the tasks that are most important for your firm’s ongoing success on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis. These tasks can likely be turned into standard workflows.
Next, study your current processes and ask yourself the following questions:
- How do you accomplish your tasks currently?
- Do you have any standardized processes?
- Do you have multiple ways to accomplish the same task?
- Who’s involved with each task?
- How long does it take to complete a task?
Now, ask yourself the hard questions:
- In an effort to bolster efficiency within your team, can you reduce the number of people involved with each task?
- How consistent are the outcomes?
- Is there a way to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a task?
- How much does it cost to complete the process, in terms of human and other resources?
Answering these questions will give you a big-picture understanding of your current processes and what you may need to do to improve your workflow moving forward.
Define Who Does What
When developing your workflows, identify individual responsibilities and tasks. Every member of your team should have clearly defined responsibilities. And everyone on your team should have a clear understanding of who does what. Collaboration is easier when everyone knows what they are responsible for and who to go to for help. Also, greater collaboration leads to increased productivity.
Automate Recurring Tasks
A huge chunk of your work day may be occupied with the same tasks day in and day out. Think of how many times you find yourself asking new clients to review, sign, and send over the same documents. This task, and many others, can be automated. By automating, you free your staff to do other tasks that cannot be automated.
Invest in a top practice management software like Mango. Our tool allows you to automate administrative tasks like invoicing and time tracking. These workflows can be triggered automatically and work in the background while your team works directly with clients and on other high-level tasks.
Document the Process
When developing workflows, don’t forget to document your steps. This is a major key to your success, especially for workflows that are manual or only partially automated. By documenting each step in the workflow, you ensure that everyone who sets out to do the task will know exactly how to do it. Make it so that they can easily replicate the steps without wasting time.
Improve the Process Regularly
Workflows should never be written in stone. It’s a constantly evolving system as you discover new and more efficient ways to complete essential tasks. Even workflow automation software will have updates every now and then that can change the way you accomplish your tasks. Be willing to revisit your processes regularly (at least once a year) to decide if they can be improved upon.
Listen to Feedback From Your Team
You are part of a team. Don’t forget to ask them for their input. Your team can provide valuable insight into what’s working and what needs to be tweaked or scrapped. They can also identify bottlenecks that you may not know about. As part of your commitment to improving your processes, be sure to ask your team to share their thoughts.
Developing, optimizing, and managing your workflows will contribute to your success as a team and as an accounting firm. When implementing workflows into your practices, be sure to follow the above best practices.
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