Date posted: 21/05/2019 5 min read

Workflow management basics for a modern practice

A technology-based workflow will help your practice deliver more services efficiently. We highlight five workflow management basics that can allow your practice to hum.

In Brief

  • An implementation plan will help you modernise your workflow faster
  • Embrace changes in the workflow in manageable chunks, recognising the different app categories can assist with this
  • You will have more time to expand your client base, develop new services, and work on your business by adopting workflow efficiencies

Article written by: Heather Smith CA

1. Automate what clients don't value and focus on areas they do

Look at repetitive procedures in your practice and replace them with automated technology where possible.

Welcoming new clients can take time and effort going back and forth emailing engagement agreements. Workflow technology makes this process a breeze by collecting new client information through online forms, storing their engagement solutions and automating their invoicing.

Your client work can also benefit from automation. Solutions can pull client financial data into tax work papers for review, then push it into a tax office portal. They can also pull information into a business intelligence solution for analysis without the need for rekeying.

2. Understand the app stack categories

There are various categories of solutions that contribute to a comprehensive online accounting practice 'app stack', which describes connected technology solutions used in a business.

Recognising different categories makes the process of reviewing your practice workflow less overwhelming. Rather than tackle a complete workflow overhaul, you may choose to review your workflow one category at a time. Understanding the categories also helps to navigate accounting platform websites, which usually use the same terminology. Here are the typical categories of an app stack:

  • Practice management: manages the back-office or day-to-day operation of your practice. It assists in standardising processes, deploying tasks and has visibility over workflow.
  • Accounting and tax compliance: manages and prepares tax.
  • Onboarding: collects client information, such as contact details and credit card information, digitally storing contracts, invoicing and automatically collecting payments.
  • Communication: these solutions are for internal and external communication and collaboration.
  • Human resources and payroll: assist with all aspects of employment, from timesheets, rostering, engaging new staff, maintaining compliance records even through to employee rewards programs.
  • Receipt and expense management: scans bills and receipts and extracts relevant data to push it into the accounting platform.
  • Superannuation compliance: maintains records of a self-managed super fund. They may include features such as feeds from banks, shares and other financial investments held.
  • Corporate secretarial: streamlines and integrates the relationship with ASIC, such as the setting up of companies.
  • Document management: maintains all your documentation online in an ordered format. They typically feature optical character recognition for easy searches.
  • Document signing: enables electronic signing of digital documents.
  • Work papers: these support documentation for tax preparation.
  • Business intelligence and management reporting: assist with extracting, manipulating, analysing and reporting client data.
  • Cloud security and password management: incorporates the management of multiple passwords that safeguards against data theft and cybercrime.
Your practice doesn’t need to modernise its workflow overnight, but an implementation plan will help you get there faster.

3. Take the right steps to implement technology into your practice

Your practice doesn't need to modernise its workflow overnight, but an implementation plan will help you get there faster. You can also engage the services of cloud integrators that specialise in implementing technology into practices. A good approach is to:

  1. identify a specific area to automate
  2. review your current processes
  3. plan the implementation (decide on a solution, identify capacity and resources to support the implementation)
  4. implement the solution (train your staff and refine the set up and workflows to suit your practices needs)
  5. review the implementation.

The process of building modern workflow tools involves in-depth analysis of many practice workflows. Implementing new tools and efficiencies may result in processes that are different to your usual ways of operating, but trust in the solutions and be prepared to change.

Take the time to understand the products and learn all of their features. You may not use them all, but the workflow can be optimised if you understand all of the features.

Make sure your staff are comfortable and embedded with the processes of the new solution before looking to another solution and repeat the process.

4. Weigh up the benefits and risks of using a single accounting platform

Some accounting practices take it a step further and choose to specialise in a single accounting platform and only work with clients who are on that platform.

For example, the engagement letter requires clients to use a specific accounting platform, receipt and expense management tool. They must meet certain requirements, such as provide digital copies of supplier bills attached to all transactions, reconcile the accounts and deliver the accounts in a tidy reconciled state.

This enhances efficiencies and helps the business stay focused. But the lack of diversity has its own issues as the practice does not control the strategic business direction, or technology status of the platform.

5. Identify opportunities to add more value

By adopting workflow efficiencies, you'll have extra time to spend on tasks that increase your income streams.

Practices that do this well find ways to add more value, such as providing app advisory services to clients to help them streamline their own workflows, business intelligence and management reporting, or even refining marketing activities to attract and retain the ideal clients.

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