Can Accounting Firms Use Smartsheet for Project Management?
Every once in a while, you get the nagging feeling that you could be doing things more efficiently. You think to yourself, there has to be a better way to manage staff, clients, and time.
After doing a little research, you’ll find that there is no shortage of project management software on the market. In fact, you’ll find that there is an overwhelming number of options.
One of the products that will pop up in your results is Smartsheet. Spend a little time researching the product and it might draw you in with its sleek interface and large marketing budget. But is Smartsheet the best fit for an accounting firm? The answer is that it depends.
What is Smartsheet?
“The dynamic workspace that moves your business forward.” Their slogan is a bit of a catchall since it’s meant to meet the demands of all businesses.
Smartsheet bills itself as a solution for every business that will help with project management, increase team efficiency, and seamlessly integrate itself into your existing workflows. Smartsheet contains various modules that assist you with project management including project planning, marketing campaign management, and improved financial management.
Smartsheet accomplishes this by integrating various software systems into a single, dynamic dashboard where you can manage your business and your team. The program can be set up for your business without any coding knowledge, and the program runs in a cloud-based environment so you can access it wherever you and your team are located.
So far so good.
Advantages of Smartsheet
Smartsheet is best known for being a collaboration tool for team members to monitor projects and get regular status updates. It allows management to track projects without nagging team members, and provides a customizable dashboard for each project.
Regular alerts and notifications can be set up to alert team members when projects reach key milestones or deadlines are approaching.
Smartsheet includes communication tools such as a built-in request for updates option, Web-forms to receive information from stakeholders outside your firm, and the ability to publish your sheet publicly.
The program includes a time management tool which allows you to track which team members may be overloaded and which may have additional time available for tasks.
If you work within a larger organization and accounting is just one aspect of the operation, Smartsheet allows for collaboration between various departments – including those without an accounting focus.
Disadvantages of Smartsheet
Smartsheet is meant to meet the needs of any business, which means that it also fails to be customized to your business. While you can customize certain workflows to meet the needs of an accounting firm, none of the customizations are preloaded in the software.
The ability to publish your sheets publicly is listed under advantages, however it might also be considered a disadvantage. With the wrong click of a button, you could publish your proprietary information and make it accessible to people who shouldn’t have access to it.
The management of the team dashboards is the responsibility of the manager which puts a lot of the burden on a single person or a small portion of your team. Other workflow systems allow a more collaborative approach to project management.
There are some reports of the interface lagging when the number of rows in the dashboard becomes very large, which may happen often in an accounting firm with a large number of clients or small projects.
Smartsheet includes recurring tasks – an automation that accountants are well familiar with, but the recurring options are not ideal for accounting workflows. In accounting, there are many jobs that need to be done a few times a year and Smartsheet does not include options for bi-annual reviews or semi-annual tax payments. To create these tasks, you would need to set up workarounds.
While Smartsheet is flexible enough to work for various industries, it lacks the built-in features that accountants need to manage their practice and create efficient processes. For a lot of businesses, projects are the focus. In an accounting firm, the focus is on the client. A client may have several small projects (perhaps even running concurrently) whereas other industries have large projects with multiple stages for a client.
For an accounting firm to be successful, it must have a solid client management system along with a workflow management tool.
Smartsheet was also built with large, enterprise-level firms in mind. The majority of accounting firms employ less than 25 employees while having the same needs as larger enterprises that are organized into several departments.
Is Smartsheet the Best Choice for Your Firm?
Though Smartsheet might meet some of the needs of an accounting firm, it’s probably not the best choice for an accounting practice.
While you could create your own spreadsheet system that is fully customized for your firm, you will hit some limitations inherent in spreadsheets and create work for yourself. However, there are accounting project management systems that already exist and account for the needs of an accounting firm. Though spreadsheets can be a very budget-friendly option, you need to consider the value of your time.
Project management tools such as Jetpack Workflow have been built with accountants in mind. The software was built from the ground up to meet the needs of accounting practice and addresses specific topics such as recurring tasks, accounting software integration, and client management.
Accounting workflow management tools such as Jetpack Workflow come with customized accounting workflow templates. The templates include the workflows for various types of firms including bookkeeping firms, accounting firms, tax firms, and audit firms. The system includes custom workflows for each of these types of engagements and allows you to further customize the workflows based on your specific project needs.
Jetpack Workflow acts as a collaboration and work management tool where you can monitor your project progress, track your team members’ time, and allocate your resources. Additionally, it’s easy to export your clients from several popular tax and accounting systems such as QuickBooks Online or Lacerte and upload your clients into the Jetpack Workflow system. So with very little effort, you’ll have all of the information in the Jetpack Workflow system and be able to set up projects for each of your clients.
With an accounting workflow management system, you’ll know that the steps in the accounting process, regardless of the type of engagement have been considered and are included in the accounting workflow. From weekly payroll processing to monthly bookkeeping assignments to quarterly sales tax returns to annual tax returns, each of these projects has several customized workflows already in the Jetpack Workflow system.
If you’re running a practice and have been using either paper-based or spreadsheet-based client and project management systems, you may feel that your current system is adequate for your practice.
But regularly reevaluating systems can lead to increases in productivity. And in the business of accounting, like every industry, time really is money. While there might be some initial time invested in changing habits, you’ll find that the increase in productivity over the long run will make the initial investment well worth it and ultimately deliver better business outcomes for you and your clients.