AM Uncovered: Tasks, target dates and stress relief

18th Jun 2021
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Accountancy Manager
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Last year, we highlighted each of AccountancyManager’s main features in a series of ‘Spotlight’ articles. This year, we hand over the sanitised microphone to the people that use these features, day in, day out. Introducing AM Uncovered, your guide to the best bits of AM, by our users. First up, managing tasks and workflow through your practice.

The Task List in AccountancyManager automatically generates based on your clients’ accounting dates in Companies House. Each person in your team can have their own list and choose to order it however they like. Tasks can be assigned to the right people and you can change the progress status to re-prioritise the task and notify others.

...But these are all features. What about the benefits? How does this impact your working day, week, life? Your business is different - every business is - so we asked AM users from all kinds of practices how AM’s Task List works for them.

This is everything I was looking for, complete automation, fetching data from Companies House, creating jobs automatically...”

- Zia Tahir, Spherical Accountants

Caveat: Look out for even better task management - coming soon

In February we released our 2021 roadmap. One item in particular caught the eye of Harry Walker - owner of Harry Walker Accountancy. “Looking at the future updates on your 2021 roadmap, everything looks absolutely incredible. Being able to break down a task into subtasks is exactly the sort of thing we would like and automation of shared tasks between bookkeepers and accountants so that it tells the accountant ‘you can now start’ - is excellent.” 

Task breakdown

Currently, you can break tasks down into steps manually. Our new release will give these subtasks much more power and automation of their own. (Everything mentioned here by our users will still be in our new release.)

Add a client and AM creates all relevant jobs for you

task client

When you add a client to AccountancyManager, you select the services you’ll provide - such as Self Assessment, CIS, VAT, Payroll etc. Then, the integration with Companies House will automatically schedule tasks related to these services.

The number one reason why we like it so much is that, for every client, we indicate what services are required, then that generates a task list.”

- Ben Thexton, TAC Accountants

Lucy Drake, owner of Hassle Free Accounts and Tax in Southampton, was the first practice owner we spoke to in our recent series of ‘AM in Practice’ case studies, back in early 2020. “I like that tasks are automatically set up when pulling data in from Companies House which avoids human error costing me penalties!”

You just put in the client details and all the jobs are created. What more could you ask for?”

- Zia Tahir, Spherical Accountants

Harry Walker brought his accountancy practice together with his mum’s bookkeeping practice.  “The best thing about AccountancyManager is being able to rely on the Task List, as strange as that sounds.” Harry says. “It's knowing that when you create a new client, select their services, add the dates, the tasks have already been created and from then on it will tell you when to do those tasks and when they're due. That’s absolutely massive. In other software, you sort of get that, but not in the same way.”

Ongoing syncing of information and dates with Companies House 

The Companies House integration doesn’t just control your Task List (and automated emails to clients, which we’ll cover in our next AM Uncovered). Anna Nikolovska, owner of Digital Accounting, explains: “The integration with Companies House is great. When my clients decide to change their business registration address, I get a notification right away. Or if they decide to file their confirmation statement without telling me, I know they've done it, so I don't need to chase them.”

Empty your head of all dates, deadlines and to-do lists

The main reason Paul Cain at Cain & Beer in London came to AccountancyManager was for a systematic way to organise his - and his team’s - time without having to remember it all. Before, Paul would keep an ongoing to-do list in his head. “If I forgot it - or forgot to write it on the whiteboard - it didn't get done and all hell would break loose! It solves the problem that we had, which was - I don't have to remember things anymore."

The automated tasks are invaluable. You look at your task list: “Right. What do I have to do this month or this week?” And it's all there.”

- Mark Francis, Francis Bookkeeping Solutions 

Beth owns 2 Sisters with her sister Jessie and reports a marked difference in their sibling - and professional - relationship. “The Task List really helps. Just having confidence that the baseline admin is sorted and I know what I'm doing - that’s huge. My head can’t actually hold as much as I like to think it can! It stops me and Jessie [Beth’s sister and co-owner of 2 Sisters] growling at each other when we're both really stressed and have all this rubbish admin that's built up.”

AccountancyManager is at the heart of our business. It’s the first thing I log into every morning, then I know what's going on and what I need to do.”

- Anna Nikolovska, Digital Accountancy

Using AM to manage your team - and their workloads

Like many AM users, Khyam Chudhry, owner of Fortuous Limited, will check the practice-wide Task List every day to see how his team is doing. “Every morning, I look at AccountancyManager, at the tasks. I use a filter for account information, statements, VAT, payroll, tax returns and accounts. So that's what I'm monitoring. I'm looking at this data, what is due, when it’s due and when it will be done. In terms of visibility, that makes my life easy. So as a manager, I can see what everybody else is doing and how far they are from their deadlines.”

It gives us structure. Every team member knows their tasks and deadlines. And a manager can know exactly where every team member is.”

- Will Sterling, Sterling Accounting Solutions

Will Sterling at Sterling Accounting Solutions took a while to use the Task List, utilising other areas of AM first. Now, he wouldn’t be without it. Prior to using AM, Will had everything on Excel spreadsheets or the notes section of his phone. “When you've got 20 or 30 clients it’s fine, but when those volumes start to ramp up, you need something more foolproof than a spreadsheet. 

Nothing comes as a shock, nothing's 'Oh, my God. How come that hasn't happened? Everything's there.”

- Ben Thexton, TAC Accountants

“Because we’ve grown so quickly,” continues Will, “for us to keep on top of all the deadlines and make sure that our 500+ clients are compliant would literally be a full-time job. We’d struggle to operate without AM, not just because of the amount of data in there, but because of the workflow we've created. It gives us structure. Every team member knows their tasks and deadlines. And a manager can log on and know exactly where every team member is.”

Built-in employee stress relief

Andy Sullivan, owner of Complete HQ in Cornwall, has discovered another benefit to this visibility. “Workflow management can be a huge issue in accounting practices, because not everyone has that visibility of what's going on. So for me to be able to go in and view all the tasks we've got, target dates and deadlines, it's a great thing. Then making sure that those [deadlines] are physically achievable without our guys working themselves into the ground - because that's not why any of us are here. In AM I can easily re-delegate work from one person to another.”

Within five minutes, someone that's feeling stressed and worried is then all of a sudden fine - that’s a really powerful tool.”

- Will Sterling, Sterling Accounting Solutions

He’s not the only one. Will Sterling, has found the same thing. “If someone’s struggling they’ll say ‘can we look at my Task List?’ I’ll go down it and say, ‘Oh, don't worry about doing that’ or ‘we'll reallocate that to someone.’ Within five minutes, someone that's feeling stressed and worried is then all of a sudden fine - that's a really powerful tool, it helps massively.

Great for working weird hours and in different places

All of the staff at Digital Accounting have children, work from home and work different hours.  “But because everything is in AccountancyManager,” says owner, Anna Nikolovska, “everyone can just jump in and know where they need to start. I'm still reviewing the work done by the bookkeepers, so they’ll mark a task for approval. Then I see a notification saying 'to review'. Once I'm happy with it, I change the task to 'reviewed' and the bookkeepers know they can send it to clients for approval. 

I don't think we would’ve survived this year without AccountancyManager and we wouldn't be able to work from home.”

- Anna Nikolovska, Digital Accounting

Cut down on endless emails between staff 

This brings Anna to another unexpected delight… “If we didn't use AccountancyManager, we would be sending thousands of emails to each other - and emails can be missed. We add notes [against tasks] and we can notify people. That communication is just fantastic. To the point that we barely communicate with each other via email anymore, it's all done through AccountancyManager.”

Ben Steele, owner of Steele Financial, agrees. “It has cut out a lot of that time-wasting communication of ‘What job are you on?’ ‘What have you done?’. Rather than constantly interrupting them with phone calls, you log onto AM.” 

The 2020 game changer: Target Dates 

tasks

Last year we added the ability to set internal deadlines for your tasks. It went down rather well, “I think the Target Date functionality is brilliant,” says Will Sterling. “The whole point of using cloud software like Xero and ReceiptBank is that we don't need to wait nine or twelve months to file Year End Accounts and Corporation Tax returns. We should be able to do it two or three months after the Year End. Getting the team to prioritise these tasks was hard, so having that Target Date has completely changed that.”

Being able to adjust the Target Dates accordingly so we can hit those KPIs is brilliant, it’s really, really helped us.”

“One of our internal KPIs has been to get 75% of Year End and Corporation Tax submissions completed less than six months after the year end. We’ve hit that now, so in the next couple of months, I'll say 75% less than five months after the Year End, and so on. For Meha, whose responsibility it is to ensure we hit this KPI, the Target Dates have saved her the hassle of having to track progress in spreadsheets outside of AM. Being able to adjust the Target Dates at the click of a button so we can improve upon those KPIs is brilliant, it’s really, really helped us.” 

“We don't follow deadlines of 31st of January or even nine months after the year end - because we set up our own deadlines in AM.”

Andy Sullivan points out the huge impact this has on getting Self Assessments done early. “You know, in January, when accountants are still struggling to get tax returns done? We’ve already done it. So we don't have this ‘panic thing’ at all. We don't follow deadlines of 31st of January or even nine months after the year end - because we set up our own deadlines in AM.”

Harry Walker has gone one step further, adding his own automation. “We've also set it up so that as clients drop their records in, it sets an internal target date for when the task should be complete (based on what type of task it is). It’s really useful to have that internal limit.” 

Add your own Custom Tasks for ad hoc or non-compliance work 

Andy Sullivan also appreciates the flexibility of adding your own tasks - as well as those related to your clients’ compliance dates. “So if a client says, ‘look, can you just work out this for me?’ We'll set a task up based on the email. So it just helps us to make sure, from a customer service point of view, everything is being done to its fullest extent.”

I love the task list. I constantly add extra tasks. I used to always have bits of paper all over my desk. Now, instead of writing a Post-it note, I just put it on AM.”

- Mark Francis, Francis Bookkeeping Solutions 

Automation for your advisory services? Whatever next.

Anna Nikolovska has customised AM to organise and automate her advisory tasks too. “So in AccountancyManager I created a task called 10 Months Accounts Review, where the deadline is always two months before the year end. As soon as the task becomes due in AM, my clients get an email saying please get in touch. Then we won't forget about doing it because we've got the task. It's really amazing how we could just create this additional service in AccountancyManager.”

Intuitive, customisable and easy to use 

Mark Francis, up in Barnard Castle, compared AM’s Task List to IRIS. “I used IRIS practice management at the previous firm - but there were too many lists, too much in it - just too busy. AccountancyManager has the ability to be as busy as you want it. But at the same time, it can be as streamlined as you want it as well. Others can be quite strict in how you can change things. But you can change [AM] to how you want it.”

"We are the most up to date we've ever been with our clients' bookkeeping.” Mark adds. “Purely because we've got bookkeeping tasks. There's a manual breakdown in that task of tick boxes. So everyone knows the process.”

I preferred the visual appearance of the Task list in AM to other systems. It's really hard to get that overview of tasks. I find that really excellent”

- Andy Sullivan

We end with Christopher Blunn, our latest interviewee. He and his co-owners launched Praxis in late 2020, having already acquired another practice, just days before launch. “Everyone is adopting AccountancyManager very quickly as it's so easy to use. In terms of workflow, we update job stages and progress notes, monitor deadlines and feed those reports into our weekly team meetings. We’re using AccountancyManager to control the whole practice workflow, certainly in terms of compliance and recurring work which is allocated to different staff members, it's brilliant.”

Nothing quite gets there like AM. It's just the best software for automation and having a Task List which is completely intuitive.”

- Harry Walker

In summary, it’s a bit like having a personal assistant

Christopher Blunn is used to life in a big accountancy firm. He and his partners met at Haines Watts before deciding to combine their talents and launch their own firm. “It's a little bit like having a PA.” Chris mused. “I've had a couple of really good PAs in the past. They're not accountants and don't know the technical stuff, but they know the workflow. They know the clients. They know when things need to happen. And they’ll just remind you - because you're busy trying to win new work or deliver work.”

Look out for upcoming AM Uncovered articles where we dig deeper into more of AccountancyManager’s features.

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AccountancyManager has no doubt revolutionised the accounting industry by automating time-consuming administrative tasks. AM alleviates the stress of compliance work, allowing your business to have better capacity to take on more advisory work. We invite you to see it for yourself. Sign up for a 30-day free trial by clicking here, and let us assist your business.