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Mastering Project Management to Increase Accounting Firm Productivity

Modern accounting firms and their clients often have multiple departments, revenue centers, hierarchies, and segmented client bases that usually work independently on large and small client services (even though they are all members of the same overall organization). For managers overseeing multiple teams, this poses a significant challenge. They need to keep track of multiple deadlines, time and billing, project milestones, and budgets on projects and sub-projects, while also managing the organization.

Project management systems like BQE Core can automate many of the routine but time-consuming tasks, enabling better control and oversight of team productivity across all areas of client services and firm management. Through a centralized hub, you can gain access to:

  • all project and client information,
  • staff time management,
  • time and billing data,
  • related communication,
  • documents,
  • reporting,
  • and employee HR functions.

This gives firm managers deeper insight into key data points that help them better understand the current state of their firm and their teams. It also gives them better resources with which to develop firm strategy going forward.

How can a Project Management System Optimize Productivity for Accounting Firms? 

1) Manageable Groups and Tasking

Project management systems allow the firm to better organize into groups, even if those groups exist only for occasional/specific projects. This allows managers to more easily drill down into specific tasking.

For instance, a firm may have a client, ABC Trucking, for which it provides ongoing bookkeeping/reconciliation services, financials preparation, income tax reporting, sales tax reporting, payroll services, and general business consulting. Using a project management system, each of these tax areas can be further broken down into sub-projects, allowing taxation to be divided into sections based on type of entity, state, federal, and other subunits. Firm managers can then better:

  • assess the status of tasking,
  • effectively delegate resources and staff,
  • monitor staff time and budget allocations,
  • track internal and client-delivered communications,
  • and handle client billing.

2) Better Staff Understanding

With clearly identifiable staff assignments and due dates on projects, as well as leader/manager roles, expectations become clear. This benefits the entire staff chain and is useful when onboarding new staff. Members from different teams or task groups also have simpler collaboration when their work products or activities occasionally overlap.

3) Stronger Reporting

By breaking down client service tasking into more granular levels, the project management system can offer greater insight into specific details. Customized reports can easily be set up to deliver managers the most crucial information or provide broader overviews by service type, staff groups, or revenue centers.

4) Better Client Communication

In addition to aiding internal communication and collaboration, project management software keeps related communication (email, phone, messaging) centralized. This allows disparate members to see, in detail, the latest communications with a client—who, what, and when. This can help reduce redundant or inconsistent client messaging.

Additionally, integrated client file-sharing functions can greatly streamline document delivery and collaboration with clients. And reminders or scheduling features can be easily set up.

5) Standardization

Keeping work processes consistent is key to productivity. Project management systems help promote consistent workflows, schedules, communication functions, and invoicing across all teams and tasking.

Additionally, with an increase in staff working from home, online project management systems provide a centralized work center for all staff, promoting consistency. Through collaboration tools and access to all of the same information and functions as they would have in an office, remote workers can not only work in tandem on the same projects, but they can work in real-time as real members of an integrated team. At the same time, managers can stay on top of productivity.

6) Greater Efficiency

Accounting firms that use project management software realize:

  • greater collaboration within and between teams,
  • more awareness of goals and deadlines,
  • and better oversight by firm managers who can be automatically alerted to workflow issues.

This helps firms streamline tasking and automate functions such as reporting, time management, and supervisor approvals. The result is that accounting firms achieve better work product with fewer staff-hours, which increases profitability and, often, client satisfaction.

Power of Core
The Author

Isaac O'Bannon

Isaac M. O’Bannon is the managing editor of CPA Practice Advisor and has been advising accounting and technology firms for 20 years.

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