As an advisor it is imperative you have a high functioning workflow in place to  work effectively with your clients. Have you checked in on the health of your workflow systems recently though?

In the 2019 Good Bad Ugly Benchmark Report, respondents were asked to share the biggest technology challenges they are currently facing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top two responses were

‘Fully utilising our existing systems’ and ‘Lack of integration between systems’.[1]

When was the last time you evaluated your bookkeeping practices’ client workflows? How integrated are your systems?

Why you need to reconsider your workflow systems

The system issues mentioned in the report may stem from an inability for employees to maximise their time with existing business and workflow solutions. There may also be a lack of education on how to best use the software. Or perhaps the systems themselves are outdated, lacking any sort of cross-system integration, which ultimately leads to wasted time for staff.

What we’re seeing in bookkeeping practices, especially due to the new roles that businesses are now taking on, is that cloud software is making their lives easier – but on its own the cloud isn’t enough.

For practices that are still using a variety of antiquated software and communication apps, they could be wasting time, money and manpower by failing to consolidate all their workflows into a single system.

Expectations for increased collaboration

With more diverse roles in the workplace and more complex tasks demanded by clients, bookkeepers can expect to see greater collaboration on the ground.

In their 2018 report – The New Physics of Financial Services – The World Economic Forum found that

“collaborative solutions built on shared datasets will radically increase the accuracy, timeliness, and performance of non-competitive functions, creating mutual efficiencies in operations and improving the safety of the financial system.”

This increased collaboration will come in many forms, such as different accounting roles working together to solve problems, bookkeepers and clients working together in a face-to-face capacity for issue resolution, and especially local and international practices collaborating due to a more globalised industry.

Modernising your workflow solutions

Ongoing cloud innovation in the bookkeeping industry necessitates that bookkeepers must use increasingly capable automatic workflow systems in order to efficiently manage data from varied sources. The bookkeepers who ignore this run the risk of redundancy.

While there are some businesses out there still using manual data entry, as we have seen with the changing nature of work and the changing nature of technology –  clients are rapidly and increasingly moving toward cloud software platforms like Reckon One QuickBooks, Sage and Xero with the help of their bookkeepers.

These automated systems allow bookkeepers to forgo their usual (billable) busywork to concentrate on the more intricate aspects of their clients’ business.

However, software doesn’t operate itself nor deduce meaning and serve clients. Bookkeepers are of course still an integral part of the process.

What needs to happen is greater efficiency in these processes of sending/receiving and processing client information through workflow tools.

Bookkeeping workflow solution key features

The key features that your workflow system should have:

  • The chosen system should provide a simple and secure method for your clients to send you data and information.
  • The chosen system should also make it simple for you to manage and review the client’s submitted data easily, and add it into the bookkeeping records.
  • It should deliver the documents and completed reports on time and conveniently.

No matter which system you eventually choose, the key is to remember that workflow as a management process is now vital if you want to make sure your business is future-proof.

The benefits of new workflows within a changing environment

The decision is clear: for bookkeeping practices to diversify their services and embrace the new workplace model, they must adopt appropriate solutions that automate repetitive tasks and enable greater collaboration.

But what are the actual benefits of investing in a new workflow solution? How can a single piece of technology help firms adapt to their changing environment?

The ability to cater to new client demands

With new customers, new ways of working and new cloud software changing client demands, new workflows and technology are required to keep pace. Perhaps you could check in on your clients and see what they now want from their bookkeeper? It could be illuminating.

After all, more than one-quarter of businesses (28%) say their accountants and bookkeepers have never sought any feedback.[2] These firms are missing opportunities to meet their clients’ broadening demands, with full-service bookkeeping now the expectation.

Driving better client outcomes

By automating workflows and providing modern tools to deal with cloud technologies,

practices can provide faster solutions to their clients with anywhere, anytime solutions accessible by any staff member.

And for the staff themselves, automated workflow software means they can monitor all current and upcoming tasks from a single interface, allowing them to understand where a particular project is up to at a glance.

Technology can improve overall efficiencies within the practice

A consolidated workflow tool acts as a one-stop-shop for the practice and client. Allowing job management to be centralised means staff no longer have to jump between applications, wasting time and energy that could be better spent attending to their clients’ needs.

This productivity is elevated by mobile-friendly software. With expectations of how and when we work constantly shifting, accounting professionals are able to act as ‘mobile bookkeepers’, servicing their clients while on the go. And when they return to their office, they can quickly jump from their mobile device to their desktop with a seamless transition.

Staying competitive in a changing market

Because finance is such a competitive game, bookkeeping practices need to get in on the ground floor with effective workflow management tools. Once integrated into the day-to-day, task creation and completion will become smoother. This allows accountants to turn around client work faster while also building an environment where people want to work.

This can subsequently boost the image of the company, which is hugely beneficial in a gig economy – especially considering large sectors of the labour pool (e.g. millennials) want to work for businesses that offer flexibility and embrace the idea of a distributed workforce.

Business leaders who ensure they are offering flexible work arrangements, up-to-date automation tools, and a workplace where staff are satisfied and productive, have access to a skilled labour force at the drop of a hat.

For clients, they can expect their needs to be met quickly and by high-performing tax practitioners.

Futureproofing the business

Finally, you want to know that any investment you make in your business will pay dividends

if and when it comes time to move on. Any potential buyer looking at your practice will inevitably review your in-house systems and automation software.

By using a modern workflow tool, you can add value to your firm. Automated functions will already be part of your day-to-day, and you will have a raft of clients who are retained because the workflow software streamlines tasks and eliminates time-consuming, repetitive jobs.

So whether you are growing your practice or consolidating your investment workflow, it’s crucial to prepare for future changes. And investing in digital transformation could boost your productivity through revenue growth while maximising your ROI.

Forbes reveals that:

“McKinsey found […] 49% of leading companies, in revenue growth, EBIT growth and digital investment, are investing in digital more than their counterparts do.”

Taking back control

In a hypercompetitive industry like bookkeeping and accounting, practices need to take control of their business’s future by futureproofing themselves against global trends and changes. Workflows allows you to do just that, in a user-friendly and navigable accountancy solution that solves all the problems that siloed software brings.

Isn’t it time you took control of your practice’s future?

[1] The Good, the Bad & the Ugly 2019: Insights Modern Technology – Business Fitness

[2] What do SMEs really think about their accountants? – NAB Professional Services