Lessons to Learn Post-Tax Seasonby
With tax season firmly behind you, it might be tempting to put it in the back of your mind and enjoy the lull in intensity. But with everything still fresh in your memory, now is the perfect time to review how it went for your firm and identify what can be improved before the next busy period.
Your main focus should be efficiency - finding ways to help your team achieve more in less time. The key to running a more efficient accounting firm is process improvement. You need to explore options to speed up the way every task that is performed during tax season is executed.
Standardize and Improve Every Process
Aim for improvement in every step, no matter how minor that gain might initially seem. High frequency tasks with minor improvements will have dramatic increases. Think about the number of times each step was repeated over the past few months and each time the process it is part of was implemented across all your clients. Even small improvements, such as a few seconds eliminated from actioning each email, can add up to huge gains in overall efficiency.
“We are never satisfied to keep the same process in place if there is a better way to do something. We routinely ask our team members to tell us three things that they see that we can do in a better way.”
Donna Bordeaux — Bordeaux & Bordeaux CPAs
You can’t improve a process if work is being performed inconsistently across your team. To uncover where your processes are broken and what steps need to be optimized, standardization is an essential first step. Therefore you need to take the time to document and standardize your tax processes.
When you have identified the sequence of tasks for each process, you can compare and uncover where staff have innovated to make a particular job run smoother. Perhaps a particular innovation can improve the process not only for that client, but for all similar jobs across the practice.
"Make sure the discussion is around today’s process and not what was written down three years ago or what the manager thinks the process is. Discuss what the doer actually does. The discussion has to be real if you want to improve." Jody Padar, New Vision CPA Group
When you have documented the ideal process, look at technology options that may provide additional improvements. Take advantage of the quieter period you are in now to explore all your options. Even if it takes two to three months for staff to get comfortable with a new system or app, your focus should be on what you can do now to make next tax season better for everyone. Will the initial investment be quickly repaid by significant gains in efficiency down the track?
"Technology is changing our practice faster than we could ever have imagined. The best tool three years ago, or even six months ago, may not be the best one now. We are constantly on the lookout for better ways to solve problems and alleviate pain points." Megan Genest Tarnow, The Mobius Group
Automation Will Unlock Further Opportunities
Data entry and other aspects of compliance delivery can now be automated almost entirely. You will start to see the really exciting gains in efficiency when you find ways to automate processes or tasks that were previously manual.
These improvements will give your team more time to serve more client and enable them to produce higher-quality work with less late nights and weekends playing catch-up.
Explore industry-specific solutions that:
- Automate non-value adding processes such as data entry of suppliers’ invoices, debtor follow-up and raising invoices
- Automatically assign tasks to clients, and send them gentle reminders if they forget
- Automate aspects of your onboarding process such as preparing proposals, generating engagement letters and creating work
- Automatically collect data from client bank feeds
- Provide visibility throughout your team to avoid double-handling tasks and to ensure everyone knows who is working on what
- Assist you in standardizing your firm’s processes
Before next tax season arrives, identify time targets for each standardized process. Let your team know how long you expect them to spend on each process and empower them to find ways to perform tasks faster. This also helps you to understand the volume you can absorb based on the staff and resources you have.
Every tax season will produce surprises that you cannot plan for. But by taking the time now to identify and implement ways to make your processes more efficient, you will ensure that next time is more painless than the last. A determination for constant improvement is something that the most successful accounting firms all have in common.
Ian Vacin is vice president of product marketing at Karbon. He has 15 years of leadership experience in the accounting industry at Karbon, Xero, and Intuit, and is passionate about helping accounting professionals be as successful as possible.