- Source Documents In House
- Return Awaiting Additional Information
- Return in Preparation
- Return in Review
- Return in for Processing
- Return Processing Review
- Return in for Signature
- Return Delivered
In the accounting and auditing process, (for a compilation) at a minimum you would identify:
- Engagement Information Received
- Workpapers in Preparation
- Report in Preparation
- Engagement in for Review
- Report in for Processing
- Processing Being Reviewed
- Awaiting Release Approval
- Report Delivered
- Engagement Closed Down
The common theme above, regardless of tax or accounting, is that the tracking process does not go too deep. In other words, it’s not necessary to identify specific workpaper types of workpapers. Such requirement for identification would simply serve to increase time on the engagement and bring down realization.
When going through the process of scoping out the steps to be identified, be sure to get all interested parties to buy-into the identified steps. Form a task force made up of all interested parties.
Best Practice - Get decision makers for each area to be part of the task force. From an accounting and auditing perspective, get those that live in this space within your firm to participate in the process. From a tax perspective, do the same. If the decision on the identifiable steps comes out of the task force, you'll increase the likelihood of success versus having steps identified by those not 100% involved in that specific area.
Re-Evaluate the Process
Give the workflow tool time to find its place within the firm. After a period of deployment, usually six months, re-group with the task force and evaluate what is working and what is not.
Best Practice - Don’t be afraid to change the steps (adding more or less) that are necessary to be identified within the workflow product. Also keep in mind that the deployment of other technology within the firm could also impact the identifiable steps. For example, the deployment of a tax scan and populate technology may add an additional step or two to identify where the workproduct may stand as it goes through this process.
Look for Integration
As workflow products continue to mature, those that integrate with other applications, such as document management and portals will help to create greater efficiencies within your firm.
Best Practice - Continue to examine and evaluate enhancements and changes that vendors may make in their workflow solutions and be open to considering the advantages to integration into other firm applications and offerings.
The above mentioned steps are no way all-inclusive, however they would definitely be considered some best practices in the automated workflow process. When considering deployment of a workflow solution, also keep in mind that although most tax & accounting firms offer similar services, many go about the production process differently. There is no one "canned" application that will meet all of the needs of your practice. Shop around for a vendor willing to listen to your process and one that has an offering robust enough to meet a majority of your concerns.
Jim Bourke is a Partner at WithumSmith+Brown (www.withum.com) where he is Director of Firm Technology. He is a past president of the New Jersey Society of CPA’s and currently serves on the AICPA Board of Directors and the Past-Chair of the AICPA CITP Credential Committee. He has been named by “Accounting Today” as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the Profession and by "CPA Practice Advisor" as one of the Top 25 Thought Leaders in Public Accounting Technology. Jim can be reached at email@example.com.