Imagine you’ve landed that client you’ve had your eye on for months. You totally nailed the discovery call, and your proposal was accepted with open arms. As a business owner, you remember why you quit your full-time job working for someone else’s dreams as you start to realize your own. But then the first deliverable date finally comes, and your team is poking you with questions.
Where’s the file for this project?
What format does the client receive their work?
Who do I contact and CC?
Is there already an email string going?
By noon, your inbox is filled with strings with this client’s name on it, and you wonder why you decided to take the leap out of corporate America. You drop everything to ensure final delivery and completely lose track of time, not able to finish your own financials or marketing for the week.
Enter workflow management software. There is a better way to do this, and we can help. In this article, you’ll learn the difference between project management and workflows, reasons to implement technology to support both, and download a buyer’s guide to review 10 other tools (along with ours) to help avoid this headache next month and much more.
How Workflow Management Can Help You Run a Better Accounting Firm
In a perfect world, your team would know exactly what they need to do, and clients would get the work you agreed upon on time, under budget, and with the special touch you’re known for without you having to manage each moving part or deliverable. You’d have more time to achieve your growth goals, land new dream clients, and invest time in developing your team’s talents and capabilities. Even better, you’d do this all with a few taps when you check-in during the day whether you’re working from your office, home, or wherever you want!
To do all these things and more, you need to get better at doing the work that you spend all day marketing and telling your clients in pitch meetings. You not only need to figure out what you do, you also have to figure out how to do it, scale it, and optimize it for the future with growth and new opportunities and clients. Keep reading, and we’ll break down each of these big goals into smaller, easy-to-digest components so you can get started planning for your firm’s next big thing.
Workflow Management Definition
First of all, managing workflows is not the same as managing projects. A project includes timelines, deliverables, and allocating resources appropriately. A workflow is a series of tasks and steps that help you scale processes across multiple projects and individual tasks. For example, a common workflow used by our accountants is the recurring due date feature that helps owners manage all recurring work to ensure it doesn’t fall through the cracks when onboarding new clients or employees. Managing multiple tasks across multiple projects helps you stay in control of your company’s work, reputation, and the success of you and your team.
Project Management Definition
A project, on the other hand, is limited in scope to one deliverable from simple (like your monthly newsletter) to complex (weekly payroll for all of your payroll clients). There can be multiple team members involved in the final deliverable; there are individual timelines with milestones of key stages in the process, such as client review and feedback or issuing financial statements. Projects have a clear start and end date, as well as processes in place for each element of the project.
32 Free Accounting Workflow Templates & Checklists
So, how are the two different? Maybe they sound exactly the same to you, and that’s totally normal.
Think of project management as encompassing all of your projects and workflows overall. Workflow management, on the other hand, is how you can scale, optimize, and improve your work over time at a high level.
Another way to think about it is in terms of visuals: Workflows can be illustrated with flow charts, while projects can be visualized with colors, statuses, or custom dashboards from various business tools and applications. Ideally, as the firm owner, you’d manage workflows (how the work is done overall to meet goals), and your team would be empowered to manage projects (individual client work and deliverables for your business).
Workflow Management 101: 5 Reasons to Implement a Workflow Management Software in Your Accounting Firm
Managing workflow is a skill that takes time and training. Because our work as service providers combines humans with technology, knowledge, or intellectual property, the science of project management must include tools to support your team and customization for the human element.
Reason #1: More time to think, plan, and grow.
Running your own firm can sometimes feel like waiting tables during the dinner rush: Your team is constantly spending time asking questions about the work rather than doing the actual work and you’re fielding questions like a nonstop game of whack-a-mole. Utilizing the right technology in your business can help stop the madness so you can spend your work hours on sales pitches, writing proposals, and planning your next big move. In addition, your team can focus on what they do best: Providing excellent service to your clients and helping you work smarter.
Reason #2: Happy team, clients gleam.
Productivity has a direct impact on whether or not your team members are happy with their job. Happier team members mean happier clients, so it’s in your best interest to keep your team happy and productive. This means removing barriers to allow them to work their best. If they’re spending too much time shuffling between multiple tasks, tools, or applications, and not enough time on what they actually do for a living, they may be looking for a new job within months of starting at your company.
Reason #3: Gain better insight into your ideal client.
As you add tech to your process, you’ll find some clients no longer meet your own needs as a business owner. Learning how to implement a new tool and increase productivity for your team are valuable lessons that can translate to fine-tuning your ideal client for seamless work you love to do over and over again. With software tools for managing workflows, you can organize your work, create dashboards and reporting, and label your work to appear in multiple reports depending on your goals. Labels help you filter work by status, goal, and client-specific needs.
Reason #4: Stop being the bottleneck.
Running your own company is a lot of work. And it can be very easy to want to take on smaller tasks, knowing you’ll do them the best of anyone else on the team. However, things will always come up unexpectedly. (It’s just how it is.) By defining what tasks you will or won’t do upfront in a workflow software, then it becomes easier to manage your calendar and prepare for the inevitable last-minute question or new referral that lands in your inbox. We ensure you have everything you need at your fingertips from reporting, ready-made templates and resources to manage your time, and everything else before you absolutely need it.
Reason #5: Prepare for bigger and better opportunities for your firm.
The key to growing your business is to consistently offer new services to grow your relationships with your clients and develop a rapport with them. Once you master one service — like year-end financials — you can start helping your clients provide value to their own clients and on and on. By staying updated on technology and spending less time on manual work, you can help your clients do their own work better and add insights into managing a business from your own experience.
Workflow Management Made Easier with a Workflow Software
Implementing a new tool sounds intimidating, we know. And when you’re the boss, it can be difficult to make time to research and vet tools before you can even start to plan work. But there are areas in your business where technology can really help if you shop for the right fit for your team. Growing your firm at each step has been uncomfortable, so why should planning and optimizing your team’s work be any different?
Start a free 14-day trial today, and get a sneak peak at how much easier your life can be with a workflow tool as part of your team!