Managing an accounting business that consistently delivers results on time is key to growth. Your clients, regardless of their needs, expect you to be at your best. If you aren’t using project management to hit all your targets, you aren’t functioning at your best yet.
Starting out, I struggled with meeting objectives from various clients. Even after a few years, managing a team and ensuring everyone was on track still posed a daily challenge. As an accountant, you know that juggling tasks, deadlines, reports, and meetings can be daunting.
Thanks to proper project management, I’m finally at a place where my firm proactively meets all our client’s needs. In this piece, I’ll show you how to streamline your accounting practice through project management. You’ll learn to be more productive, get stress-free results, and gain a competitive advantage over other firms.
Why It is Crucial To Master Project Management as An Accountant
A recent KPMG study showed that 40% of all companies planned to outsource their accounting. About 60% of small business leaders have no idea about accounting and finance.
Those are all potential clients to grow your business. But to acquire them, you have to be an expert at managing your current workflow without letting anything fall through the cracks. That is where project and resource management is important.
Project management ensures you have a well-defined plan of action that reduces uncertainty during the execution of your current and future projects. Once you identify potential bottlenecks, you can reduce chaos proactively. A big part of reducing chaos is assigning the right tasks to the right people, and breaking those tasks down into small bits.
Throughout the project, all your team members should communicate and focus should be kept on project objectives. However, this doesn’t always happen naturally, and tasks often get muddled up between personnel, causing delays and project failures.
With project management, you can view all your work in one place, keep track of progress, identify pitfalls and successes, and course-correct in real-time if need be.
Imagine resuming work on a Monday without the anxiety of having to catch up or dealing with failing projects. All your work is done to the highest standards without incurring extra costs due to any form of error, human or otherwise.
You can finally rest easy and focus on scaling your business. All that is what project management gets you as an accountant. Little wonder the AICPA recommends it as a key competency for accountants.
Common Challenges That Accountants Face When It Comes to Project Management
Accountants are often faced with many challenges when it comes to managing their work. They have a lot of responsibility on their hands, and they need to be able to stay organized, keep track of what’s going on in the company, and make sure everything is running smoothly.
Most accountants didn't choose this profession because they want to be involved with project management, but unfortunately, they become responsible for these tasks. The following areas of project management can be especially difficult for the average CPA.
Timesheets have been used to track billable hours for ages now, but it is a reactive and chaotic tool. Tracking time alone neglects the effort required and can set you up for failure.
For instance, you can plan 50 hours for a project, and after 40 hours, the project could be almost completed or far from it. This means that timesheets are not very helpful when it comes to project management.
Team and Client Communication
Another challenge for accountants managing multiple projects is communication. Like timesheets, most accountants have relied only on email for nearly three decades now. Email is a great way to archive conversations between a relatively small group of people. However, it becomes difficult to organize and share information.
Team members must send another email for status updates, making sure to respond to the correct email and include all members. The time spent searching and responding to emails can add many hours to any project.
10 Tips to Help Accountants Master Project Management
Many people get certifications to become professional project managers. But if you’re already managing a large workload, it can be nearly impossible to fulfill the requirements.
The truth is, I became a successful project manager without one, and so can you. If you want to improve how you manage your projects, here are ten tips to help you master project management:
1. Meet With All Account Managers and Team Members
Meeting with account managers tasked with handling a project is essential. You can discuss the best project accounting methods to employees, project costs, cost estimates, how the workflows would be and its integrations among account managers.
This helps with having a thorough project scope and project management plan. Your team members are also given an opportunity to contribute to the project scope and their roles in achieving desired milestones.
2. Create A Defined Project Plan
Using a project management account software won't be helpful if you don't have a defined project plan. Unnecessary changes midway into the project might make it difficult to meet project milestones.
Instead, ensure all account managers contribute to the planning of the project to avoid further change. An easy way to create a defined project plan is to set KPIs with your planned project goals and ensure all activities are in line with them.
3. Get a Project Management Software
Nowadays, project management software is a must-have for accountants. It allows you to track hundreds of work projects simultaneously and give you an idea of how well you’re doing per project and as a business. A project management tool developed for accountants will make work much easier.
The best project management software for accountants will easily integrate with all the major accounting tools, including Quickbooks, Xero, and Microsoft Office. This makes adoption quick and affordable. Personally, switching to a project management software helped grow my firm’s capacity as I spent less time managing and more time being productive.
A fellow accountant, Monica Hodgson-Daniels, CPA, the owner and CEO of Garnett and Gold Financial Corporation, uses Jetpack Workflow to manage her practice. After implementation, she was no longer missing deadlines and has gained a bird’s eye view of what her team is working on.
4. Make Communication Easy
A critical tip in effectively mastering project management as an accountant is making communication easy between team members. Regular check-ins help to ensure that the project is being carried out smoothly and as planned.
Create an open communication flow that allows your team members to talk about issues they may be encountering during the project. This makes it easier to find solutions to project problems sooner.
5. Have A Backup Plan
To ensure your project management plan is going well, it is essential to have a Plan B. Stay ahead of your situation and be able to be in control even in times of project crises.
Even though my project is going successfully, I always like to ask myself, "are there really no problems I'd encounter with this project?" Be ready for anything. In cases where your team members encounter a problem, find a quick solution to that problem rather than making a big deal, throwing the whole project plans into chaos.
6. Track And Review All Project Tasks Daily
Tracking and reviewing all project tasks daily is one step towards mastering efficient project management. As an accountant, dealing with financial projects isn't something to be taken lightly.
Tracking and reviewing all tasks allows you to monitor the progress being made, as well as to notice and correct all errors that might have been made. With a good project management solution, generating those reports should be quite easy.
7. Document Everything
From the process of creating a project management plan to assigning and monitoring project tasks, you need to document everything that's been done. This is great for record-keeping and helps you review all that has been done after the project has been completed.
It also makes it easy to create a template that can be used for future project management plans. I enjoy reviewing both bottlenecks that cause delays and investigating why certain projects took less time than estimated.
8. Regularly Ask For Client's Input
The goal of mastering accounting project management is basically to satisfy the client and hit project milestones and timelines. After being given a project to handle, you still need to ask for the client's input on how they'd specifically want the project to be to avoid differences in delivery style.
This is especially important to note when you are dealing with an indecisive or quite difficult client. It makes it easier to align project management activities with their demands.
9. Focus On Achieving Client's Objectives
Base your goals around your clients. Ensure your team members who are assigned accounting goals are aware and work to emphasize and implement the client's objectives. Creating a client-centric culture increases the likelihood of having successful projects that meet clients’ objectives.
10. Evaluate Team Performance
One quality of a good leader is evaluating the efforts and performances of his team members. As an accountant, assessing and appraising the performance of your team members during and after an accounting project has been submitted is essential.
Once the accounting project has been completed, evaluate your team's performance by noting project plans that weren't achieved and work with your team members to ensure that future projects are delivered according to procedures. This makes your team members more aware of what to do and become successful project managers themselves.
It also gives them the needed boost and motivation to do better and work in line with project plans and budgets for future project transactions.