Before making any move, it’s important to purge an out-of-date perception. Time and billing is NOT practice management. Long gone are the days of thinking a time and billing application can be applied to broad firm management. Time and billing is still very important within firms, but it is better thought of as a function within a full-scale practice management solution.
With a new way of thinking on the table, let’s take a look at what we should expect from today’s practice management systems. As already mentioned, time and billing is a single function, so a true practice management application should also support full management of projects. But what does project management mean these days? If we look at everything we do in our firm as a project (including 1040s, write-up work and audits) and then break each project into a series of steps (or tasks), it means sequencing each task in an orderly process. A linear process enables staff to work from a logically organized task list, so everyone knows where they are in the process at all times. This not only supports a highly efficient internal workflow, but also provides a system to quickly update clients on the status of their engagements.
Today’s practice management applications should also support a single database. For example, in my firm, we apply all demographic changes within our practice management software. Because we operate within a single-database environment, changes are seamlessly updated in the client’s tax return, financial statements, W-2s and at every other applicable data point. And with today’s society of smartphone users, practice management systems should allow immediate access to information via mobile devices. This is not a problem in my firm because our database automatically synchronizes with Microsoft Outlook. Can you see the incredible advantages of the single-database environment?
Now, let’s talk about dashboards. The real power of more advanced practice management applications lies in dashboard technology. Dashboards provide an at-a-glance view of all data within logically organized “windows.” Yes, ALL data … you read that right. You can view time and billing, client projects, staff availability, demographic information, accounts receivable, specific client notes, and so much more. On an individual level, dashboards allow me to record my time, see the tasks assigned to me, and monitor overall firm financials at any time, and all within a single screen. At the firm level, the technology allows everyone to be much more efficient with daily work, track time in real time, and bill on a daily basis instead of monthly, which increases cash flow.
As you read the various articles and reviews in this issue related to time and billing, practice management and firm technology, think carefully about your needs and the needs of your firm. I hope this information helps you gain a better understanding of the options available in today’s solutions and relates how these systems can help you better manage your firm and the volumes of data that flow through it each day. n
See inside August 2010
Projecturf Offers Collaboration & Project Management Software for SMBs
2524 characters www.projecturf.com Developed as a web-based application, Projecturf 2.0 is a new breed of project management software for small and medium-sized businesses as well as freelancers. Projecturf offers an easy-to-use and customizable interface with unlimited data storage. This one-of-a-kind software provides an intuitive interface with project management and collaboration features that help streamline tasks […]
TrustFile, an Avalara Company — TrustFile Sales & Use Tax
5351 characters 877-222-0187 www.TrustFile.com The TrustFile system from Avalara is an installed program for businesses with sales tax compliance requirements for up to a few states. The program has been on the market for more than 20 years, and is designed for electronic filing and payment of collected tax revenues, but also offers print output […]