As a professional accountant, are project management tools necessary? You have the skills, and know how to deliver the service, so why add the layer of technology?
But the reality is, project management is freeing up accountants to do what they do best. In navigating the vast landscape of client services, the tasks pile on, so you end up spending more time organizing your thoughts than delivering value.
Think about it: not only are you growing a business with dozens (or even hundreds) of clients, but many of those clients run businesses of their own. And if you’re like many other accounting firms, you do more than simply offer bookkeeping and tax filing. Maybe you offer business planning sessions, payroll, and/or even fractional CFO services, too.
With multiple CPAs to manage, a growing list of clients to serve, and a range of services — there are a lot of projects! This is exactly why project management tools are an accountant's best friend.
Why Project Management Tools are Important
Without a documented process, things fall through the cracks. And even great processes allow for human error. A project management tool allows you to create a hub for how your accounting practice operates.
It’s more than a checklist or list of steps, but a system to:
- Create processes for every aspect of your business (from onboarding new clients to handling their quarterly reports)
- Assign, automate, and remind the team of key dates and deliverables
- See a full dashboard of every assignment, process, and project for a snapshot of how your firm is performing
- Use that data to better train your team and hold them accountable
Bottomline? A well-implemented project management tool allows you to better organize your business, while gaining the perspective of a 10,000 foot view at any given moment. And that leaves you more time to focus on high value actions — without becoming overwhelmed.
Starting to see the benefits? Great. Now it’s time to choose a tool with the features your firm needs.
Key Project Management Tool Features
There’s no avoiding tech in the modern accounting world. And most of the time, it’s a smattering of tools you’ve acquired over time. Maybe a “to-do” app here and a Google Drive there. A calendar by one company and messaging app from another.
A project management tool brings all of this together, either through native features or via integrations. To use the word again, it’s a “hub” for all business functions to flow.
Planning and Checklists
Each new client requires a plan. All of the tasks for those customers need to be delegated and scheduled. In accounting, you often have the same series of steps, depending on the type of service.
For example, new client intake involves getting access to accounts, connecting everything into your financial software, and a somewhat standard process of cleaning up their books. (Once a year tax filing clients follow a similar process.)
Now imagine each step of all your processes and services well-documented into one database!
Key takeaway: Look for a project management tool that allows you to create multiple templates. So, when a new client signs up you can quickly assign accountants the proper checklists and make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Jetpack Workflow has over 70 templates, specific to accounting firms, that you can set up lightning fast.
Scheduling and Workflow
Automated scheduling and workflow features build nicely on top of process templates. Once you know “what” to do, it’s important to add the “when.” Are you, or your CPAs, forgetting to follow up on key dates?
At best, you’re missing out on great opportunities to sell more services to clients, get referrals from them, or just build the relationship. At worst, you’re not providing the service level to your clients and possibly stressing out the team (and yourself) by having to catch up after missing deadlines.
Project management tools often allow you to set recurring dates for those tasks that need regular attention.
- Set a reminder to run key payroll/tax reports each month/quarter
- A daily reminder to check in on new clients to see if they’ve provided everything you need to get started on their account
- Quarterly reminder to check in on clients to continue the conversation
- Annual tasks to email past tax clients to begin the process of getting their filing started
- The list could literally be as long as every process, task, and service you offer
Key takeaway: Remember, the right PM tool is more than a glorified to-do list. The right solution for your firm should include automated reminders to create a workflow among your team and mitigate the risk of missing things.
Visualization and Reporting
Taking a step back from the nuts and bolts of your operation is necessary to see setbacks and opportunities in your business. You know what else helps with that? Visual reporting.
It sounds fancy, but it’s an easy-to-see and understand way to look at:
- Specific items on your plate
- How “booked” the team is for the day/week/month
- Progress and completion rate of all projects handled within your firm
Key takeaway: When’s the last time you asked a question like, “How is the Smith account coming along?” The right PM tool means you’ll know the answer without asking. You and your management team can see the exact progress on specific tasks and entire jobs.
Integrations and... More Integrations
There isn’t an “all-in-one” solution for every aspect of your business. However, many of the common tools you’re already using work together. These are called integrations and are a critical part in creating your business management hub — especially for an accounting firm.
One of the best tools for getting your project management system working with other key tools is Zapier. It’s like a software’s best friend who knows all the other apps and likes to get them together.
With Jetpack Workflow and Zapier, there are over 2000 connections you can make (our tool to the other tools you use).
A few relevant examples:
- Connect your form or service agreement tool to Jetpack Workflow. Once the agreement is good to go, your new client process begins automatically.
- Create a new client in Quickbooks Online automatically whenever a new client is added to Jetpack Workflow (or vice versa).
- Or you could send a form for new clients to fill out (that includes everything you need from them). Once they submit the form, it creates a new job in Jetpack Workflow and your CPA knows to get started.
Pro Tip: Enroll in our free Zapier Course to learn step-by-step how to connect Jetpack Workflow to your favorite apps!
How to Implement Project Management Tools in Your Firm
Choosing a project management tool that caters to accounting firms is a big step in the right direction. After you’ve made that momentous decision, the journey towards process begins. Next on the list? Implementing your new tool while getting buy-in from the team.
Here are five steps to help.
1. Discover the Usefulness for Yourself (First)
It’s time for you to really learn the tool (or choose a manager as an “ambassador” to head things up). Most PM tools have a trial period, giving you time to set up templates and get a feel for your workflow. Use it, get excited, and then begin to bring in the team.
2. Know Why It’s Best for Them
Ok, so this isn’t a “brass tacks” step, but it is important. Any new system should improve the performance of both the team and the firm. This means, your new product management tool will improve the work life of those who get on board quickly. Key things to address would be the automation and knowing where they are on projects. It’s also a great way to show they’ll have more time to do the things CPAs love, like improving the performance of their clients through advisory services and reporting.
3. Schedule Time to Learn
Of course, everyone will need time to learn how things work. When you’re using the tool for yourself (or your ambassador), take note of the tutorials you read/watch that were helpful. Put together a quick sheet, with links, to ensure everyone has the right information to get started. Then, give them the time to get acquainted.
4. Choose a Starting Point
New tech implementation isn’t as easy as turning on a light. This is especially true for a tool that you hope to be the process hub for your business. Figure out what you’re comfortable with and start there.
Example: Begin with new client onboarding. Set up all of the templates, tasks, jobs, and integrations needed to successfully launch a new customer. Then, each new client comes in via the new project management tool.
From there, you can add your main service (e.g. bookkeeping or tax filing). Finally, as quickly as you're comfortable with, add everything else.
5. Adjust and Improve
Once you’re up and running, the job isn’t done. Evaluate how well things are working, invite feedback from the team, and iterate changes that improve the overall function of your firm. A big part about growing your business are the small pivots. And those small changes in your processes often compound into improved culture in your business and better work/life balance for you.
Accounting Life Made Easier with Project Management Software
As the owner of an accounting firm, you’re already managing projects and using technology to perform business processes. Doesn’t it make sense to bring it all into one place for you and the team?
You can try Jetpack Workflow free for 14 days. See how our templates and automation can bring you out of the day-to-day grind to better run your business. Before you know it, you’ll be prioritizing work tasks effectively, leaving more time to grow your firm and even do the fun things that aren’t work-related.