As laws and legislation have made accountants’ work more complicated, changing client demands and staffing shortages increase the time pressures faced in a typical CPA firm. The result is that most firms are looking new ways they can improve their workflow efficiency, so they can continue to produce the same or more work in less time or with fewer staff. While some firms will achieve some level of improvement from making small workflow tweaks throughout the firm, others are looking to completely revolutionize the way they do business.
Whether you’re looking to turn your business on its head or trying to take a more conservative approach, creating a digital workflow has many benefits in terms of saving time, enabling better client service, and even improving compliance. Here are three steps to help you get started:
- Implement Digital Route Sheets – The traditional paper route sheet is a holdover from the past. As the work of accounting firms has turned digital, a paper route sheet not only doesn’t make sense, but it is also inconvenient and even risky. Automated routing of work from step to step, fileholder to fileholder, eliminates the need to physically move work around the office and ensures that assignments can’t get “lost”. An electronic route sheet is always attached to the right project and always accessible to multiple people at any time — allowing anyone in your firm access to a project if needed.
- Define project types – By spanning multiple types of work in the firm, a digital workflow system can leverage shared client data, ease workload imbalances, and create consistent administrative processes. For tax-focused firms, this certainly means integration with the tax software, but in other cases, integration with engagement software is also important. Regardless of the type of work being done, integration with document management, time entry and billing/invoicing not only provides workflow efficiencies but also supports unified processes across the firm.
- Set up project templates – Whether you have recently hired new staff, brought on new staff through M&A activity, or just have a staff who have gradually adopted their own ways of doing things, variations in workflows can cause friction within the firm and confusion for clients. A digital workflow system can provide project templates that can be customized for the variety of work in the firm, and worksteps can be defined based on the level of granularity your firm wants to track. When you use project templates configured for specific workflows, the result will be more consistent workflows, which result in staff members who understand exactly what needs to happen next for each project, and clients who receive a consistently high level of service for every engagement.
Times have changed, and firms need to change to keep up and stay relevant. The infographic below explains how workflow concepts have changed over time. The new digital workflow helps firm management stay on top of the work moving through the firm, while also helping staff do their work more efficiently.