How tech boosts your practice workflow and efficiency

24th Sep 2020
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Keeping on top of your practice workflows during busy times can be tricky. Accountants may be the business heroes of the coronavirus crisis, but the challenges of a prolonged pandemic, economic recession and increased client demand for services have all added to the workflow problem, making it even more of a challenge to run a tight, efficient ship.

But, never fear! Help is here in the form of our next webinar, ‘Under the hood of a cloud accounting tech stack’, which takes place at 11am on Thursday 29 September.

We’ll be bringing together our team of Practice Ignition specialists and partners to give you the best possible tech and workflow insights. If you’re drowning in low-level admin, we’ll explain the key role that an effective tech stack has in overcoming this hurdle.

The biggest hurdles to efficient workflow and an effective practice

Carl Reader is Practice Ignition’s new Head of Accounting (EMEA) and Joint Chairman of d&t Chartered Accountants, with a wealth of hands-on experience in running an efficient practice. For Carl, the issue is having the right focus on time management, as he explains:

“From what I’ve seen of most practices, time is the big hurdle. Often the leaders of accounting firms are so busy serving their clients’ businesses that they just can’t devote the time to working on their own business.”

Lauren Harvey, founder at Full Stop Accounts, agrees that time is a real issue when it comes to workflow, and that it’s important to dissect and analyse your workflow process:

“Once you understand the pain points and blockages, something can then be done. From experience, depending on the services offered, this can be a mammoth undertaking and that can be off-putting if you’re already busy.”

The impact of coronavirus for your firm and clients

Busy is certainly what most firms have been in recent times. During the coronavirus crisis and over lockdown, firms have been providing increased support around cashflow, the furlough scheme and accessing Government loans, and this increased workflow is having a stressful effect on accountant’s mental health.

Willem Haarhoff, Co-founder of DoughGetters Accounting in South Africa, has been a long-term advocate for working in the cloud, and being a digital practice has been a help for many firms during the lockdown period, as he explains:

“Lockdown was kind to tech-heavy practices, but not so kind to the rest. Tech-heavy practices were able to continue servicing their clients as usual in most cases, while the others struggled because they were unable to access their clients’ records and, consequently, there were missed deadlines and additional pressure as the lockdown restrictions eased off.”

As Carl Reader points out, these workflow issues are not necessarily down to the Covid impact, but more to the ways in which firms are managing their people and service offerings:

“The reality is that UK firms are advertising these Covid services but they’re not necessarily being taken up by clients. Instead, there’s a capacity crunch. From what I’ve seen, across a range of firms, the workflow issues are down to the furloughing of the practice’s staff, ironically, coupled with the extra workload of processing furlough claims for clients!”

Key ways that tech can ease your workload

So, how can firms use tech to streamline their practice processes, become more productive and get on top of their workflow – without feeling utterly daunted at the prospect? For Lauren Harvey, the important step is getting totally proficient with your tech stack:

“To get those workflow benefits, you need to know your internal and external tech stacks and inside out before adding or amending them. So, try exploring the links and integrations between solutions like Zapier, Practice Ignition and XPM, or finding out what each app can do individually. There’s extensive functionality in many apps that’s often underutilised.” 

Taking a look at the app market is important too, and Willem Haarhoff underlines the importance of choosing the right apps for the practice, as well as for clients:

“There are many great apps out there that can do the job you want. Just do your own research, design a tech stack that you think will work for you and just start somewhere. Don’t try to change everything in one go.”

It’s about investing in a tech stack that’s fit for purpose, and that’s something that Carl Reader believes is central to getting real value from your technology:

“Many firms offer a great ‘tech stack’ to their clients but have cobbled together a system of spreadsheets, whiteboards and so on for their own business. Choose providers who are well funded, actively developing their product, and don’t be afraid of the work required to make the change. It might be painful to invest the time and energy now, but it pays back month after month, year after year.”

Freeing up time and empowering your people

Finance teams are facing new Covid-related challenges daily, and need the fast and effective support of their accounting partners in these challenging times.

Any steps you can take to improve your external and internal firm processes will help you offer the extra support that’s needed, while also running a practice that can scale up and cope with the extra workload.

To get the most from your tech stack and workflows:

  1. Understand the pain points in your existing workflow

  2. Standardise your processes and explain them clearly to clients

  3. Invest in tech that removes human resources and saves time

  4. Choose best of breed tech that integrates and adds clear value

  5. Free up business time and clear your headspace for work

  6. Empower your people to focus on value-add tasks.

Tech offers a way to improve your productivity, but it does so much more. As Carl Reader states, ‘The real time saver is from the peace of mind and clear headspace that you get knowing everything is in order, allowing you to focus on growing your firm’.

There are multiple benefits of a coherent, fully integrated tech stack, and that’s something that Willem Haarhoff will be keen to talk about during the webinar:

“You can significantly reduce your business’ overheads and focus more energy on improving your margins. You also become infinitely more mobile and flexible, which helps with a better work/life integration. Finally, there’s the feeling of knowing your project, client and finance information is only a few buttons clicks away. Who wouldn’t want all that for their business? It’s a no-brainer!”

Join us for our ‘Under the hood of a cloud accounting tech stack’ webinar at 11 am on Thursday 29 September. We’d love to have you onboard.

Book your place at the webinar