These indicators should be updated in real time, and no more than 20 indicators in four or five areas should be monitored by any one person. If you are a tax and accounting professional in public practice, you could collaborate with your client to understand and improve performance in each area monitored.
When performance is satisfactory in an area, you could suggest shifting focus to the next area that has the greatest return. For example, you may start with helping clients understand, monitor and manage collection days, and then turn their focus to inventory turns. In our own practice, we have indicators that measure items like the amount of time before a service request is scheduled and resolved.
With portals that have collaboration tools and dashboards, you can proactively help clients manage their businesses. If you apply the technology to your own practice, you can see key indicators in your practice, monitor them for compliance and take corrective action more quickly when the business is not performing as expected. If dashboards and KPIs are used correctly, proactive action can be taken at the time that issues occur instead of addressing them long after the problem has occurred.
For many long-term managers, they know that a few key numbers will indicate the health of an operation. Relatively few numbers can convey the information needed if presented in an understandable dashboard where the supporting detail can also be viewed. For example, if the sales, inventory and receivable numbers are in line, the chances are good that the expected profitability will be maintained.
As another example, assume the tax partner monitors the number of returns delivered to the firm. If the quantity of returns in house is about the same this year as the number delivered in the past at about the same time in the season, a reasonable conclusion can be made that the firm will be able to complete the work in roughly the same timeframe as the prior year, with roughly the same profitability. If there are far more returns waiting to be processed than in the past, this may indicate the need for more people to process the returns, greater profitability and/or the need to work longer hours.
You don’t have to do everything on your website and portal at once. You do need a vision and a plan. And you need to get started. You can build a few components at a time, adding the most valuable capability first. You will be better served by adding small components one at a time (understanding each one as they are added), rather than doing a very large project waiting for “everything” to be done.
Your chances of having success, getting the portal right and producing something more useful is far greater if you build the components needed a few at a time. Continue to reflect on the most important information, prioritize what should be built next, and teach those around you how to understand the information. You’ll discover that the capabilities that you have built will improve your own practice, contribute to profitability and help you manage your work more easily. You have the same opportunity with clients.