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billing process

Lean Billing Lessons Firms Can Learn


One of the most crucial processes for any successful business is monthly billing. If your firm has inefficient billing processes, it takes longer to get invoices out the door and it's more difficult to collect the cash you need when you need it.

Jan 27th 2021
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We learned a lot through recent a Lean billing process improvement project. Today, I'm sharing an overview of what we hoped to achieve with this project, how we approached it, the challenges we faced and where we plan to take it in the future.

1. Opportunities

We knew there were several improvements we could make to our billing processes, but what would it really mean for the company? We identified several key areas of impact.

  • Move toward more digital payments
  • Improve internal messaging and communication
  • Improve A/R turnover
  • Establish guidelines for when to send invoices and when to follow-up on outstanding invoices
  • Create a plan to streamline or automate annual recurring invoices, such as those for community renewals, instead of creating and sending them out one-by-one
  • Better utilize our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software as our one-source-of-truth

2. Approach

To kick off the project, we set up a cross-function team of people from different departments impacted by the project. Our team held three meetings over one week. In these meetings, we laid out our current processes and then worked through the areas of improvement.

Following these initial project management meetings, we continued to hold bi-weekly meetings to check on the progress. Each member of the team had action items to work on between meetings with specific deadlines to hit.

During the process, we discovered other linked areas that could be improved outside of billing. For example, we discovered that our expense reporting process and capturing and reporting revenue could be improved simply by updating who receives notifications on invoice questions and payments. When we identified those opportunities, even though they weren't strictly part of billing, we seized on them.

3. Challenges

The first challenge I faced in this process is that I was new to the position I am in. In some ways, that was also an opportunity since we were updating our processes before I had a chance to get really entrenched in the existing processes. However, that also meant I wasn't as familiar with the existing processes and didn't have much experience with our existing processes that could inform areas that needed improvement.

Another challenge in a firm's process improvement project can relate to: time. It wasn't easy to find a time that worked for every team member to join each meeting and work on action items for the project while keeping up with their day-to-day work.

Of course, many of those action items depended heavily on getting prior tasks completed. If anyone dropped the ball on one task, we would be unable to move on to the next steps. Having a "quarterback" to stay on top of the project and keep everything moving along was essential.

4, Continuous Improvement

One of the keys to a Lean process improvement project is that it's a mindset and a practice, not an event. Although our initial push made several enhancements to our billing processes and improved the desired metrics, there are always new opportunities.

One area we plan to continue focusing on is automation. Eliminating redundant tasks to focus on more strategic work will be a main focus area for me in 2021 and we've incorporated this into my quarterly goals.

To achieve this, I need to set aside time to think through more areas of our processes that can be tweaked to benefit the company internally and our clients. After all, it's easy to fall into the routine of focusing on daily tasks and forget to question why we do things a certain way and how it could be improved.

While improvements in your firm's billing processes can speed up receivables and improve cash flow, it can also lead to a better relationship with clients. When clients can rely on the accuracy and timeliness of billing practices, it improves the client experience. Don't underestimate how much of a factor that can be in their decision to engage you for additional work.

The original article was published on the Boomer Consulting website.