How Your Accounting Firm Can Boost Efficiency in 2020

October 20, 2020  |  Practice Management, Technology, Accounting, OfficeTools

We’ve all heard the events of 2020 described as “unprecedented” more times than we can count, but we know accountants and tax preparers are masters at guiding clients through the unknown.

Whether it’s economic uncertainties, regulatory changes or other unfamiliar circumstances, accounting professionals provide value by helping clients navigate change. This year, though, the global coronavirus pandemic and its ongoing aftereffects are compelling accounting firms to become more agile and adaptable than ever before.

The impact of Covid-19 on accounting firms

The economic downturn caused by the pandemic is unusual among financial crises and recessions in several ways, but it has had a major effect on accounting firms. According to a recent survey conducted by Inovatus Consulting, 73% expect to see a significant negative impact on their total net revenues for the current fiscal year.

The firms that are proving most resilient are those reshaping their businesses to generate as much value as possible despite the current challenges. For accounting firms, these changes can include implementing new technologies, creating new offerings or altering business processes and organizational structures to promote efficiency. In actuality, all three types of transformation are interconnected.

It’s impossible, for instance, for you to take full advantage of advancements in technology without also changing how your team gets work done. Nor can you offer a new service without the tools to support it.

Technological transformation demands new ways of working

The rise of cloud-based software solutions for collaboration, practice management and client communication has made it possible for accounting firms to be more productive, efficient and responsive than they were in the past. To do so, however, you must adapt your business processes and workflows to best leverage the new technology.

In addition, firms that have enabled most or all employees to work from home need to ensure their teams have the tools they need to collaborate successfully, not just get by. They must also have real-time access to client information and relevant data, and keep track of projects centrally. Plus, firms have to make sure their employees are maximizing the value of these tools.

5 key steps towards improved efficiency

Let’s take a look at five important ways your accounting firm can empower your employees to work smarter in today’s cloud-based remote work environments. Here are critical questions to ask yourself:

  1. Has your team’s ability to communicate been strengthened? Over the past six months, the popularity of online conferencing and collaboration tools has skyrocketed; there’s a good reason for this. Employees need to converse about the status of projects, discuss day-to-day operations and review documents together.But they also need to connect with their colleagues more casually to build a sense of shared purpose and camaraderie. Ensure that your employees have access to online communication tools and encourage them to participate in virtual happy hours or other informal group activities, as well as frequent work-related check-ins.
  1. Does your firm maintain a single source of truth for project tracking and workflows? Particularly when employees are working from remote locations, it’s possible to create redundancies or inaccuracies in scheduling or data entry if no single application is used to manage the practice centrally. Look for an accounting practice management solution that will enable you to keep everything you need to run your practice, including contacts, project tracking, tax workflows, activity lists and billing information, in one place.
  1. How well do your tools support the seamless sharing of client data? Today’s cloud-based technologies make it possible for professionals to access data in real time from any browser, anywhere. This enables you to answer inquiries quickly and serve clients with confidence, knowing that information is accurate and you’re dealing with the latest version. It also streamlines information flow and enables accountants to make better-informed business decisions.

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  1. Do all employees have everything they need to optimize productivity? If your firm has accountants and staff who are working remotely for the first time, you’ll want to check that their home internet service has adequate speed and bandwidth to support tasks they’ll need to perform. You’ll also want to ensure that remote workers have company-provided laptop computers or other devices, and that they understand how to connect to company resources securely. Seek out a cloud-based solution that includes automatic backups, rapid recovery capabilities, and enhanced security features like encryption.
  1. Can clients contact you, access documents and pay invoices effortlessly? Having a secure client portal that’s fully integrated with your cloud-based practice management software enables instant secure document transfer, eSignature collection, bill payment, information exchange and messaging. If you’re able to connect with clients online and respond to their questions quickly, you’ll see improved client satisfaction, stronger loyalty and more repeat business.

Discover more ways accounting firms can streamline workflows and empower remote teams by downloading our recent white paper: 5 Ways to Achieve Efficiency in a Remote Environment.

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