Five tips to transform your practice workflowby
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.