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How accounting firms can ease the biggest pain points of collaborating with clients

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How accounting firms can ease the biggest pain points of collaborating with clients

Businesses are increasingly looking to the expertise of professional services providers. In Australia, the professional services industry has grown by 30 per cent since 2010, and is now the fourth largest industry group in the country, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Insights Fintan Lalor, Wrike 09 August 2019
— 3 minute read

Professional services leaders will undoubtedly embrace this growth, but considerations about capacity challenges always naturally arise when new clients come on board. Delivering excellence in client services requires process, structure and agility, and the balance between these three is rarely captured. Using the right tools to provide positive experiences for clients will become crucial in the race to impress in a crowded space.

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A recent report revealed that those in professional services, including accountants, are struggling with delivering projects on time, managing multiple client portfolios simultaneously and keeping projects on budget.

Once those in leadership crack the daily challenges experienced by accountants, it becomes easier to quantify what impact these challenges have on the type of work delivered to clients. Inefficient processes run the risk of causing delays and errors, and when looked at cumulatively or at scale, represent a real threat to an organisation’s bottom line. 

The struggles to keep on top of the day-to-day were also cited in the report as the leading causes of churn and frustration from the client’s perspective.

For an accountant, missing a deadline with one client can have a spillover impact, as the resources allocated to others suddenly become affected. Delays are inevitable in scenarios where accountants have to spend too much time on manual processes for resource management. Even email has long been relegated to the old-school way of thinking when it comes to efficiently and effectively communicate with teams or delegating tasks in the best way. 

There are several processes many accountants still spend time on that require an overhaul if firms wish to remain competitive into the future.

Meeting deadlines shouldn’t always be a struggle

Keeping projects on track and hitting deadlines are complex undertakings for accountants, as they juggle multiple accounts and contend with ever-shifting goalposts. A lack of alignment is frequently the root cause of missed deadlines and losing track of projects, as it’s a clear sign that teams have conflicting priorities, or not enough time to accomplish tasks by the deadline.

Without defined and transparent workflow processes, it can be almost impossible for teams to be organised, plan accurately or manage resources correctly. This will result not only in declining in client satisfaction but employee burnout as well. Effective communication and project planning at the outset won’t solve all deadline issues overnight, but it does mitigate the chances of changes taking place that surprise or severely put out teams.

The solution isn’t always obvious. Our research also showed more than half of accountants surveyed use two or three tools to manage projects and communicate with teams and clients, such as email, spreadsheets and chat apps. 

But there’s a danger to using too many tools, as this can hinder the benefit of collaboration. Details can easily be lost across different platforms, causing miscommunication, delays and more manual work with version control problems.

Communication can break down at any moment in an accountant’s day. Rather than place pressure on yourself to perfect plans and avoid all mistakes, the best thing to do is to have processes in place that are easy to follow and make execution a more well-rounded practice. 

Getting serious about centralised planning

With disparate tools hindering streamlined communications, the first step is to consolidate systems into a single tool for sharing plans, allocating resources and collaborating with your team.

Having a single source of truth across the organisation is a sure-fire way to eliminate misunderstandings, as it keeps all communications and plans organised and in context. It makes manual consolidation a thing of the past, as it becomes flexible enough to manage a range of accountancy needs, including resource planning and client portfolios.

There are five simple steps to implement best practice work management into any project workflow:

  1. Templates and checklists are your new best friend. Templates help organise all elements of the project, especially those that should be considered before you even get started.
  2. Project kick-off meetings are a must. If you take the time upfront to align on expectations with your client, you’ll be set up for smoother communication in the long term.
  3. Effort-centric resource allocation makes things clearer. You can achieve this by always allocating specific tasks to particular people with time frames attached.
  4. Break projects down into small components. Large tasks are often less overwhelming when approached in parts, and giving people tasks and subtasks within projects helps keep people focused on short-term achievements.
  5. Track projects in a timeline. This way, you can have visibility into what tasks are coming down the pipeline when prioritising, assigning and scheduling tasks.

As the professional services industry continues to grow, it will become increasingly important to maintain standards of excellence to differentiate from your competitors and ensure profitability. By improving your processes for work management and execution, you can keep your clients, and your team, satisfied and coming back for more.

Fintan Lalor, managing director ANZ, Wrike

How accounting firms can ease the biggest pain points of collaborating with clients
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