Firm workflow has been greatly redefined over the past year and a half, and in many ways, it has been for the better. In theory, firms and clients are much more digital – and nimble – which has resulted in more streamlined processes. But in practice, many firms are still trying to refine these new workflows to achieve the greater productivity they know is just around the corner.
Your firm’s cloud technologies are obviously a major part of realizing this breakthrough, but so are your staff members and the managerial practices everyone follows. The key is developing processes that make the most out of the technologies you have implemented. With many firms continuing to allow for greater flexibility in working remotely or offering hybrid models where staff only come into the office on certain days of the week, it is critical to develop and refine your workflows across all areas of your practice.
So, where to start?
How about at the beginning…
Prospects and Client Onboarding
When discussing your services with prospective clients, let them know that in addition to their expectations of your firm, you have expectations of them too. A competitive practice requires efficiencies that simply cannot be bogged down with frequent phone calls, endless paper trails and in-person meetings. As such, you will need to mandate which cloud systems they use, and how client communications will occur, including remote technologies.
Almost all client documents are now available digitally, and should stay in that format. In instances when paper documents are received, a standard process should be implemented for scanning them, and then either destroying them or returning them to the client. A centralized digital document management system will prove to be extremely valuable, and provide much greater opportunity for searching, AI and data analysis.
Likewise, digitize all documents and client deliverables like financial statements, reports and tax returns by using portals and other secure file sharing systems. Secure portal systems are also convenient for inter-office materials.
Also, be sure to reinforce the message that clients, nor your firm, should ever send files via email.
If your firm will have in-person and remote staff, or flex working options, you must have consistent HR and management policies in place, as well as employee and project management systems that enable senior staff and managers to monitor productivity and project status, assign work, and track available resources.
Time tracking is also an important element, as it allows greater analysis of individual, team and project profitability. And last, but not least, your firm should be using a cloud-based practice management system that includes scheduling functions that integrate with related tools, such as Outlook.
Actual firm work product needs to be frequently tracked using the tools in the firm’s practice management system, so that management can identify bottlenecks or other impediments to workflow. With a partially remote workforce, this is more critical than ever. Furthermore, automated alerts and reminders, with supervisor management, can help staff stay on top of important tasks and deadlines.
Ideally, your firm is already using a value pricing model and subscription-based billing. This levels your revenue throughout the year, and also provides clients with a steady expense that spans 12 months.
With automated debit payments, you can largely eliminate time-consuming billing processes. In other instances, automated billing tools in systems like BQE CORE simplify how you create invoices and manage AR. Just keep in mind that whatever billing system you use should also integrate with other related systems, including project management and accounting.
Analytics and Reporting
Automated report generation and delivery, along with customization options for reporting, allow for greater oversight by firm management. And systems with advanced AI and machine learning capabilities can dig deep into firm data to provide analysis and forecasting models that will lead to better business decisions. This gives firm management the ability to be more proactive in their approach, and helps them to identify factors before they affect productivity.
A comprehensive customer relationship management system, like BQE CORE CRM, is fully integrated with practice management components, and provides features for tracking client interactions from the prospect stage through support, daily interactions, billing, emails, and other activities. This gives management a more complete overview of all client engagement from a single location, while also tying in KPIs related to productivity and profitability.