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Workflow hacks to streamline your accounting practice
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Five tips to transform your practice workflow

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As a 100% digital practitioner, Sidgrove’s Dave Sellick is keen to encourage other accountants to pick up the latest productivity hacks. Here are five tips to get you started.

29th Sep 2021
Founder Sidgrove
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Your workflow is awful. I can pretty much guarantee it. I know this because mine was the same before I spent the last three years obsessing over it and exploring a world far beyond accounting for inspiration. 

However, you don’t have to spend the hours and hours, like I did, exploring different solutions; I’ve done this work for you and summarised a few of my current favourite underrated tips.

Personal to-do list: get more things done

Task management is personal to the individual. So a central practice management task planner, optimised for team-wide use, probably isn’t going to tick all the boxes for managing your personal workflow. Repetitive tasks and important client deadlines work well within a central system. But throw ad hoc items, personal items and daily planning into the mix and it gets fully hectic.

Check out a separate to-do list manager for your personal workflow planning. I’ve experimented with the likes of Asana, Things (Mac only), Trello, Notion, Clickup and more recently, Todoist. My favourites are Things or Todoist, but feel free to go on your own exploration!

Todoist personal productivity app

Monitor clients’ data 

Xavier Analytics, now Dext Precision, hit the scene with a fire emoji literally strapped to itself (that’s a good thing). Its success has been underpinned by the recent and continued evolution in the mindset of practice accountants; less backwards-looking compliance focus and more real-time and forward-looking insights and support. Hindsight, launched recently at the Digital Accountancy Show, is another exciting app in this space.

These tools monitor practice-wide client accounting data in real-time and flag inconsistencies, KPI alerts and other actionable insights. Without these tools you’d have to constantly move between individual client files, while running numerous reports, to get the same level of access to insights - a workflow disaster. Actioning inconsistencies is also a dreamy workflow; links within the apps will take you straight through to the accounting software where you can make changes.

Hindsight is my personal pick, due to a stronger focus on real-time alerts. Currently, its integrations are limited to Xero (additionally QBO for Dext Precision), but I’m sure Hindsight will extend to other cloud platforms in the near future.

Hindsight data monitor app

Use familiar software platforms

We are infinitely more valuable when clients actually interact with the platforms and interfaces that we use to communicate with them, store documents and present our insights. We also have to bear in mind that many of our clients will now have ever-increasing app stacks themselves. As such, we should consider collaborating and communicating using apps that clients are already familiar with, wherever possible, to significantly improve engagement.

Most of my client base use the Google ecosystem; therefore, I share docs in Google Drive and I share collaborative spreadsheets in Google Sheet format rather than Excel. Other examples of software that clients often have familiarity with are Notion, Whatsapp and Slack; these are my go-to apps for communication, guidance and collaboration - particularly when a client is already using them.

TIM, a new client communication app, is an exciting evolution of this premise of using apps that clients are more familiar with. TIM is based around the Whatsapp user interface, but has been optimised for the additional needs and integrations required by accounting firms; it’s a win-win.

TIM client communication app

Video walkthroughs via Loom

Loom is a software that lets you record and instantly share a video of your screen and camera at the same time. I’ve been using Loom for around four years to create walkthrough videos for internal process documentation and for client deliverables. 

Video with Loom can replace pages of text when used in the right scenario and can prevent constant back and forth with clients. Be wary not to over-use Loom though (I have been at fault for this). Short, concise videos, when a video will add more value than text, is the way forward. 

Loom app for recording video and screen

Automate repetitive actions on the fly

Regardless of the rise and rise of automation, repetitive manual actions are still a very real issue in accountancy workflow. An app called Textexpander is a great gateway into the world of “on the fly” automation.

Textexpander stores regularly written text strings and allows you to fire these off instantly, in any app, when you type a designated shortcut. You can start with things like your name, email, Calendly link, Zoom link. Over time you can move onto entire emails, eSigner messages, poems, the whole lot - get creative.

I couldn’t end this article without a shout out to my favourite bit of tech, the Elgato Stream Deck. When you start wondering where the shortcut is to show you all your shortcuts, you know you need to reassess life. Stream Deck is a visual, tactile and engaging interface that absolutely smashes it when it comes to launching shortcuts and workflows on the fly. Stream Deck isn’t a game-changer, it’s a life-changer - check it out!

Textexpander text automation app

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Dave Sellick will be speaking at AccountingWEB Live Expo on 1-2 December 2021 alongside such guests as Rebecca Benneyworth, Peter Rayney, Paul Aplin, Anita Monteith, Carl Reader, Steve Collings, Reza Hooda plus representatives from HMRC. 

AccountingWEB Live Expo takes place on 1-2 December 2021 at Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry. Registration is now open. A full content programme will be announced in early October enabling you to register for specific sessions. Please visit the AccountingWEB Live Expo website for full details and to sign up to our newsletter.

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Replies (13)

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By Hugo Fair
29th Sep 2021 16:12

Is this article available in an English translation?

Thanks (2)
Replying to Hugo Fair:
Dave Sellick
By David Sellick
30th Sep 2021 14:12

This did make me laugh to be honest Hugo; hopefully it brings a smile to others as well! I can translate it into the language of disco-infused house music; would that be any better? I presume not! Other than that, I don't have another translation - this one was true to me and my style of communication.

In honesty, thanks for taking the time to comment and raise awareness around what is clearly an important theme in the industry - i.e the disconnect between those wanting to promote incredible new tech in the accounting space vs. those that feel this is a foreign language.

Hopefully we can continue to work on creating more alignment between the two mindsets as this industry continues to evolve into an increasingly tech-enabled age.

Thanks (2)
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
29th Sep 2021 17:31

Welcome to the world of productivity hacks, Hugo. To give Dave his due and considering the applications he's describing, I think Dave has done pretty well at explaining new concepts without dishing up too much jargon.

Which phrases are causing you confusion? We'll try to adjust the pitch of Aweb articles to make them more accessible, but if you're stumped, you could probably find out more by searching AccountingWEB, Any Answers or even out on Google.

Rather than closing your ears to his new ideas, the one idea you could take from Dave's article is open your eyes to the potential of all these new apps and do a little exploration of your own. Who knows, with the extra time accountants have gained to prepare for MTD ITSA, you might find tools that will help you move clients to the new regime?

Thanks (2)
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
29th Sep 2021 17:31

Welcome to the world of productivity hacks, Hugo. To give Dave his due and considering the applications he's describing, I think Dave has done pretty well at explaining new concepts without dishing up too much jargon.

Which phrases are causing you confusion? We'll try to adjust the pitch of Aweb articles to make them more accessible, but if you're stumped, you could probably find out more by searching AccountingWEB, Any Answers or even out on Google.

Rather than closing your ears to his new ideas, the one idea you could take from Dave's article is open your eyes to the potential of all these new apps and do a little exploration of your own. Who knows, with the extra time accountants have gained to prepare for MTD ITSA, you might find tools that will help you move clients to the new regime?

Thanks (0)
Replying to John Stokdyk:
avatar
By Hugo Fair
29th Sep 2021 20:38

Hmm, maybe my earlier comment was a bit of a cheap shot.
FWIW though, I wasn't referring to the technology jargon (I own a software company amongst other things) - it was more the marketing hyperbole that sent my brain cells scurrying:
* 'hit the scene with a fire emoji literally strapped to itself'
* 'and other actionable insights'
* 'also a dreamy workflow'
* 'the Google ecosystem'
* and more.

Anyway I occupy a different world ... one where technology is subservient to my needs, not my master. Probably before your time, but if you want to see the thrills (and terminal spills) of a human becoming part of the machine then watch Tron.

My takeaway was near the end of the article, where David says "When you start wondering where the shortcut is to show you all your shortcuts, you know you need to reassess life." I'd re-assess a little earlier on the journey, but each to his or her own.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Hugo Fair:
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By pf1234
30th Sep 2021 13:51

"I own a software company amongst other things", sent my braincells scurrying with notions of David Brent.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Hugo Fair:
Dave Sellick
By David Sellick
01st Oct 2021 10:55

You've mastered the art of the 'grenade comment' Hugo! This is your truth so I can't argue with that.

What I have written is entirely based on my own beliefs in relation to technology that accountants could be exploring to help them with workflow gains. There was no commercial incentive or driver behind anything that I've said (hopefully this is clear); I'm just passionate about the evolution of great technology in the accounting space.

Perhaps if this wasn't an article that you resonated with (in a positive way) Hugo, it would be great to hear some of your workflow tips that you do resonate with and that you feel would benefit others? On that note, I'd welcome input & suggestions from any of the readers of the article.

Thanks (1)
alastair_barlow
By Alastair Barlow
30th Sep 2021 10:51

Great to share your productivity experiences and hacks for the benefit of others here Dave.

Thanks (2)
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By Ascentis
30th Sep 2021 11:02

Thanks David, great article written with passion for the topic.

Thanks (2)
Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
30th Sep 2021 11:52

Great stuff Dave. After watching a few of your stream deck videos I get battered with pop up adverts for them everytime I am online and its only a matter of time before one is on my desk. Love your content very refreshing and what you can do with excel highlights the fact that is not about flooding everything with apps that only do part of the job.

Thanks (2)
Jon Jenkins - accountant, app adviser
By jenks81
30th Sep 2021 15:25

Thanks for including us on this list Dave very much appreciated.

Thanks for educating. If these articles spark a bit of imagination and inquisitiveness that is the real win.

Thanks (1)
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By johnt27
30th Sep 2021 15:45

Excellent summary Dave of some great tech that others, including myself, have been adopting over time. Haven't quite made the leap into Stream Decks yet.

Loom has been an invaluable tool for us, both internally and externally, to record clips of repeatable processes and common queries that arise from staff and clients. We've built a significant bank of explainer videos as a result and the benefit of jumping in early is that most of the recordings were done prior to them bringing in their monetised features and subsequent restrictions on free video recording length amongst other things.

As we use MS products their To Do app is great for keeping on top of personal tasks and assigning tasks to others. It's fully integrated within O365 and they scour Outlook/Teams channels for potentially missed tasks which is really helpful. If MS could copy some of Airtable's features I could manage client deadlines and tasks all in one place :)

Thanks (1)
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By Winnie Wiggleroom
03rd Oct 2021 08:47

TBH, I have tried so many digital to do lists, I always go back to pen and paper, there is something about it that I never get digitally.

I am all for as much tech as makes my life easier, and there's no doubt that it does, however I often find these Apps both expensive and very reminiscent of the Emperors New Clothes - don't throw out the old and trusted "babies" with the new hot "bathwater"

Thanks (0)