Like herding cats

The Practitioner
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That's what it feels like when I'm trying to organise our clients.

Try as I may, I just haven't been able to come up with an effective solution to the annual workflow conundrum: how do I get clients to match the delivery of books and records to us with our ability to turn them round? Over the years I have come to hate August, it's the month when we always seem to have the largest number of jobs in waiting to be started - and likewise it's the month when we have the fewest available chargeable hours to get accounts and Tax Returns completed.

What that means is that those of us who ARE in the office this will be working flat out. And to make matters worse we'll be balancing our planned work schedules with clients phoning up and effectively jumping the queue because there's some urgency they forgot to tell us about before, or they just think that the longer turnaround time at this time of year is unacceptable.

Over the years I have discussed this issue with numerous practitioners, and generally it seems we're all in the same boat. I have, however, met a few who look at me as though I'm mad. Why would I put up with such a situation, they ask. Those lucky few who claim to have cracked the system manage to maintain a short turnaround time on all jobs all year round. What's more, they plan their workload 12 months ahead and KNOW what work to expect in at any time - and therefore, of course, what bills they will raise in any given month.I have no idea how they do it, they must have their clients drilled to know exactly the date each year they have to deliver their books and records. I have even come across a firm where a junior member of staff is tasked with going out to collect records that fail to arrive on the specified day - which they need to do because there's a member of their accounts team sat there waiting to start them, and they have just that one slot to do them before they move on to their next planned job!

Fact or fiction? I'm not sure, but if there's a grain of truth in any of these stories it means there are firms out there who have found a way to get their clients more organised than we have.

If anyone has any tips, please post a Comment below. In the meantime I've got a pile of accounts to review before the phone rings again.

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06th Aug 2012 07:49

Fact or Fiction

You are not alone its Fiction and even if they say its Fact they just trying to feel smug



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By Flash Gordon
06th Aug 2012 08:44

I plan my workload a year (or so) ahead...

And then during the year I rearrange it to allow for the clients who blissfully ignore my emails until it suits them (remarkably close to deadlines for submissions) and then say 'oh sorry, I forgot'!! They don't seem to realise that I don't actually just sit here waiting for their work to the exclusion of everything else in the world.

But if you know your clients well enough you know that if you ask so & so to provide their stuff on a certain date then you'll receive it 4 months later - you can then schedule the job in for 4 (or 5) months after the original date instead of being disappointed (or p'd off!).


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06th Aug 2012 08:56

As for Flash

We organise 12 months in advance and give our clients a date when we want their records by.

Most of them oblige, and some actually bring it in early. The early ones usually give us something to do while we wait for the late ones.

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By Old Greying Accountant
06th Aug 2012 11:50

12 months! ...

... I struggle with planning the next 12 hours :o)

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By Jimess
16th Aug 2012 18:26

July felt like January all over again!

Most of our clients are quite good at bringing in books at the time we need them - but last month several clients needed accounts urgently for review of payments on account, tax credits, banks, going away on holiday for 6 months so want to get returns filed, you name it the reasons were there.  Add to that staff on holiday, sick leave, water leaks at home etc and I had a  July that felt like January all over again.  August has started pretty much the same - catching up on the jobs we could not get done in July because of all the urgent jobs that crept in. Best laid plans going awry and all that - I think I got the t-shirt last month!


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12th Nov 2012 13:25

workflow management

I have been looking into this recently.  It can be a job to remember who is due when and to ensure the process is handled correctly.  We are running a trial with Glide practise software, mainly because each partner/accountant has their won dashboard.  It is also a stand alone system, so it doesn`t intrude too much.  Other systems are Logical office and HQ, but they tend to embrace everything and therefore you do have to make a major commitment.

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