Accounting Firm Workflow Tools: I Can’t Find the Unicorn

I like to joke that 3-7 year Managers in the accounting industry, and further, ones who want to stay in our industry, are unicorns. Mythical creatures that are beautiful and amazing, and rare, hard to find and expensive. As we continue to explore what we need to be thinking about in selecting accounting firm workflow tools, today, I want you to think about the unicorns. What does it take to get a unicorn?  What does it take to keep your unicorns?

It takes great culture for one. They need to love working for the business, for the firm. They also need to feel vested. And, they need to feel supported, like they have the tools necessary to do the work they believe in. We all know that keeping these very important staff is critical to the success of any business in our industry.

It’s also important to make your firm attractive to the unicorns that might be out there looking around, for a better rainbow to float onto. Part of making yourself attractive is having the best tools, that meet certain clear strategic firm goals. Having well articulated goals around project tracking metrics, dashboard tools that give managers clear insight into work assigned to them as well as unassigned work in their areas of responsibility are all critical to supporting managers in achieving firm goals as well as their own goals. A good project tracking tool will provide your managers with great tools to manage their work assignments as well as maintain operational oversight over broad areas of work in a specific office or practice area. A workflow tracking product, will integrate into other products crucial to delivery of services to your customers.

Finding and Keeping the Unicorns

If I was going to create a checklist, to keep the unicorns and attract new ones, look for:

  • Notifications when something new hits a manager’s plate. Managers should never have to wonder if something new and very crucial has come on to their plate recently.
  • A clear list of assignments where the manager is the current bottleneck. If the manager has to get something done in order for the project to progress again, they shouldn’t be left wondering, “Am I responsible,” and “Am I responsible RIGHT NOW or later?”
  • Graphical presentation of the distribution of work across the service area they have a leadership role in. Instead of managers searching for patterns, the program brings the pattern to them.
  • Any list of information better have a way for the manager to take action. Nothing is worse than having a list (or printed report) that you can’t take action on. If the manager can’t update the information, assign the project, and update the status, the system is wasting their time.
  • The software integrates to critical compliance, deliverable, and firm management tools (tax prep, workpaper management, time, billing). Who creates a client in each of the programs without thinking, “Geeez, my firm is behind. Who still wastes time on redundant data entry?” How do we meet firm goals, when we don’t have a single data base of client info?

In the next article in the series, we’ll explore how to think about the role Executive Assistants and Administrators play in the success of the firm achieving strategic goals and how this impacts your selection of accounting firm workflow tools.

Making a workflow software decision? Download the “Project Management/Workflow Checklist” by Brian Tankersley of K2 Enterprises.


Samantha Grovenstein-Deal

All stories by: Samantha Grovenstein-Deal

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