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7 signs your accounting practice needs better workflow management [and how to solve them]

5th Nov 2019
Brought to you by
uku
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Accounting workflow management is notoriously plagued by starts and stops. 

According to research, accountants in practice work an average of 42.09 hours a week. Industry accountants work a slightly higher average of 43.05 hours a week, demonstrating that accountants work significantly longer hours than usual.

If this sounds like you or your accounting business, maybe it is because you are experiencing any of the 7 problems outlined below, now is the time to address them. 

It is time to set the stage for efficient accounting workflows for years to come.

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1. Management of missing information 

Problems with accountancy workflows tend to arise as soon as source documents are received. 

Firms are only made aware of any missing vital information when they begin the review stage. 

Your staff need to know what information is present. Missing files cause delays and waste everyone’s time.

Tip: You should keep the linear aspect of the workflow by adding optional stages after the preparation and review stages. 

For example, add a notification within your workflow when a client fails to supply all the necessary documentation. 

Workflows are paused until all materials are obtained. Software like Uku has a task checklist so users are aware when documentation is missing.

Plus, accounting software has the function to assign files and tasks to those who need to add their input should the workflow be paused. 

Having this level of workflow control identifies suspension in the workflow and what information is needed to get the process moving again. 

2. Tracking work in progress and on-demand reporting 

Accounting is demanding on your resources: 

  • scheduling work
  • monitoring the status on each task and 
  • keeping the staff productively moving the work forward 

A lack of knowledge on a clients case smacks of unprofessionalism. Appearing professional is critical to both your accounting practice's revenue and reputation. 

If this sounds like your firm, then you are adding more unneeded stress to your practice. You do not need this on top stressful periods throughout the year, for example, when tax returns are due at the end of each January. 

Tip: This issue is resolved by having the capability to report on work in process and the various task stages at a moment's notice. 

You will no longer have to scan information online, download a report and read it.

By being able to filter reports by drilling down into their details means you can locate the required information your client needs.

3. When due dates cause panic

Accountancy practices fret about missing something when client and task due dates become closer. 

Have I included all the necessary documentation?

Did I check all the specific boxes unique to my client?

Should I re-read the entire process to double-check?

Any of the above questions sends shudders down an accountant's spine. Checking and rechecking only drains further hours on you or your staff's resources.

Tip: The answer to this problem is whether your firm can perform real-time reporting. 

When dealing with accounting due dates, having the ability to check en masse, accountancy tasks and their workflow stages, ensures staff identify when something is missing or is not completed. 

Furthermore, staff can extend or amend due dates and in the process, remove the panic that often comes with approaching due dates. 

4. Real-time task prioritisation

Due dates are compromised when you cannot prioritise real-time tasks. Accountancy workflows should be able to handle several real-time, higher-priority task scenarios, for example: 

  • higher client priority
  • the task has been dormant for a while
  • advancing due date

Tip: Ensure your accounting workflow software operates as a real-time source of information. That it does not need manually checking on a daily or weekly basis. 

Plus, it should permit you to set tasks as a priority or become a priority on several factors that you have set up. 

5. Integrated workflow software

One critical factor inhibiting accounting workflows is the frequent search for required information or documentation in one system that is used in another. 

When your accounting workflow software is not integrated, it will force you to search for all materials needed to complete the work. 

Wherever they live on your system or another, or you need to examine several Excel spreadsheets to find the specified information. All delay your workflow.

You are ultimately forced into workarounds. Launching other programmes to search for, and access required documents at that very moment when the work on a client's file should have begun already.

Tip: Ensure your accounting workflow software is integrated and automatically linked to the task itself. When working on a client file, you have all the documentation at hand. 

Quickbooks is one such accounting software that places software integrations at its core so that users do not have to search in several platforms.

You will not only eliminate the added labour of tracking down documents in another software location. You will be faster at finishing your tasks per se. 

6. Monitoring workflow stoppages 

With accounting work, there will always be workflow stoppages for a variety of reasons. Through the use of accounting workflow software, you can identify a systematic approach on how your accountancy practice can remedy future stoppages. 

Tip: Check how long tasks are kept in certain 'stages.' By understanding the length of time-specific tasks is kept in an idle state - accountancy business owners can determine the reasons why this occurs. 

Thus, new solutions can be adopted, whether adding more resources or chasing up clients for information. The new workflow process can then be included ensuring that future tasks and clients receive only the utmost efficiency.

7. Balanced workflows amongst your team

Maximising the use of all resources in an accountancy firm can be difficult. 

Overtasked staff members slow-down a clients' project completion if their situation is not monitored and remedied with efficiency.

Tip: Figure out how much workload a staff member or partner has and how long it will take them to complete the tasks. 

If one job requires a higher workload capacity, assign other lower-intensity tasks to others who have more time. 

Working out task-level budgets and their estimated completion times will make it easier to balance task workflows.

Final Thoughts

Clients’ needs are changing. 

They place a higher value on proactive services rather than compliance tasks that many younger, tech-enabled clients can complete using software available.

Accounting workflow management must keep pace with changes, especially considering the UK’s exit from the European Union. 

Using innovative accounting technology like Uku will automate several processes so that not only do you reduce the time taken to serve your clients, you surpass their service expectations.