It’s All About The Workflow
Column: My Perspective
Aug. 01, 2009
From the Aug. 2009 Issue
Everyone knows the old adage, “Location, Location, Location.” These
are the three most important words in real estate. In the tax and accounting
profession, I believe the adage should be, “Workflow, Workflow, Workflow.”
Just last month, Randy Johnston and I completed a two-hour workflow webcast
for more than 600 attendees (“What Does Workflow Automation Mean to Your
One of our polling questions asked whether firms had a written workflow plan
for each of their services. Less than 18 percent of the attendees answered “Yes”
to having a plan in place.
It is my belief that there are few things firms can do more important than
developing and documenting a workflow plan. Such a plan should include a list
of each of the services provided, a detailed description of each service and
the workflow process the firm plans to implement to support each service. Take
note that I state, “plans to implement.” Many firms think they have
processes in place, but a process isn’t a process until it is documented
and communicated to all staff.
As you start to document processes, it is important to investigate available
technologies that can help your firm implement the most efficient workflow procedures.
I have had many firms ask me over the years how I acquired a vast knowledge
of the many solutions available in the marketplace. The answer is simple, and
yet it requires a great deal of effort.
Over my many years in practice, I have consistently read The CPA Technology
Advisor, attended multiple conferences around the country, and talked to
numerous practitioners to progressively build a sound understanding of available
technologies and how to leverage them in my practice. Each year, I commit to
developing a plan to implement one, two, even three new technologies to improve
the overall efficiency of my firm.
A critical component to an efficient workflow is to be flexible in your thinking
and design, while being rigid in your delivery. What I mean by this is that
you must be open-minded to change while thinking through the design of your
workflow. Then, once you are ready to implement, your delivery method must be
structured and followed through to the letter.
Another key component to workflow efficiency is to annually revisit your existing
workflow processes to ensure they are still relevant. Remember, any given process,
no matter how advanced, is only one technology cycle away from becoming irrelevant.
As such, firm leaders need to consistently research new technologies and ask
the following questions: Should I implement this new technology? Will this new
technology improve my existing processes? If the answer to either question is
“Yes,” then the time has come for a workflow upgrade.
If you wish to increase profits and maintain a better work/life balance, it
is imperative that you take the time to review and improve your workflow processes.
This requires an ample level of dedication and effort, but ultimately the result
is an enormous return on investment. I continue to spend a lot of time working
on my firm’s workflow. In fact, I recently spent three days working on
an improved workflow plan for RootWorks, the consulting arm of my firm that
is focused on increasing profitability and enhancing work/life balance for tax
and accounting firms.
The bottom line is that if I expect to achieve an acceptable balance between
my personal life and work, I must refine my firm’s workflow on an ongoing
basis. I’ve heard it said that a firm (or a team) is only as strong as
its weakest link. I believe that a firm is only as strong as the workflow processes
that support it.
See inside August 2009 issue
2009 Review of Sales & Use Tax Systems
With States Hungry for More Revenue, Now is the Time to Ensure Sales & Use Tax Compliance
Virtualization for Your Firm
If you haven’t heard by now, consider this article your notice that virtualization is coming your way. I strongly believe that all firms from smallest to largest will be running virtualization in some form within five years. It is the cheapest, easiest and most reliable way to run applications. We expect firms of all sizes to run virtualization because some of you will use virtualization on your servers, some will use it on your desktops, and some of you will use the new Windows XP virtualization feature in Windows 7.