Boosting your accounting firm’s productivity and efficiency in 2024 by Karbon image

Boosting your accounting firm’s productivity and efficiency in 2024 by Karbon

What's standing in the way of peak productivity at your firm?

Posted byKarbon
onTuesday, 9 January 2024

For modern accounting firms, it can feel like change is the only constant.

The relentless influx of new technologies. The uncharted impact of hybrid work. The ever-mounting pressure to fine-tune every process with less time and fewer resources.

These are just a few of the obstacles that make it challenging to hit peak productivity.

And your ability to reach that productivity is directly related to your profitability. When your efficiency is up, there’s more room for billable work. When your team is performing well, clients are happy. When utilization rates are up, so is revenue.

To succeed and thrive in this dynamic landscape, an efficient and productive accounting process can’t be just a goal; it needs to be a strategic imperative.

The Practice Excellence Report found that firms with above-average revenue per employee use productivity and technology tools 61% more than firms that are less competitive.

Here are six key ways to increase your accounting firm's productivity, and how the right practice management tool can help you unlock a more collaborative and profitable practice.

6 ways to increase your accounting firm’s productivity

1. Automate your firm’s processes

The purpose of automation is clear: cut down on wasted time and reduce manual effort. So if you’re looking to boost productivity, it’s the first place to start.

Automation represents a fundamental, positive shift in the way financial data is processed, analyzed, and reported, as well as the way CPAs, accountants and bookkeepers get work done. Studies show that 77% of all general accounting operations can now be fully automated with the right tech stack.

Here are some of the key processes accounting automation can handle to help improve efficiency at your firm:

  • Data entry

  • Invoice processing

  • Payroll

  • Client reminders

  • Document management

  • Email and communication

  • Tax compliance

  • Cash flow forecasting

  • Financial reporting

One of the best ways to start building automated accounting processes is using no-code tools like BubbleAirtable, or Zapier. These tools allow you to automate time-consuming processes and quickly build new ideas without having to learn how to code.

But remember, just because you can automate a task, doesn’t mean you should

Tasks that are one-off, low-effort, have little to no ROI, or are heavily client-facing are likely not the best fit for automation.

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2. Leverage artificial intelligence (AI) solutions

The accounting industry is not exempt from the revolutionary changes brought about by artificial intelligence in recent years. In fact, 71% of accounting professionals expect that AI will bring substantial change to the profession.

AI tools are emerging as one of the best ways to boost efficiency, minimize the risk of human error, and enhance overall productivity.

More specifically, generative AI in accounting is handling aspects of many time-consuming tasks including:

  • Forecasting

  • Scheduling

  • Managing cash flow

  • Email writing and inbox management

  • Invoice processing and expense management

  • Data analysis

  • Business communication

  • Project management

As you look for ways to embed AI into your workflow, remember that artificial intelligence tools by themselves (think ChatGPT, Google Bard, and others) are most useful when they are integrated into the tools that you already work with.

Look for practice management tools that place AI into the context of your pre-existing processes and historical data, and watch your productivity soar.

Karbon AI is here. Learn more about using the power of AI in Kabon’s all-in-one accounting practice management platform and try it out yourself.

3. Standardize and templatize your workflows

Efficient workflow management is essential for a truly productive accounting firm. 

By standardizing procedures and implementing workflow automation, you can reduce bottlenecks, enhance collaboration, and ensure tasks are completed on time. 

This not only boosts productivity but also improves the overall client experience.

UK firm, Full Stop, have built workflow templates to ensure their processes are standardized and consistent. To give an idea of the detail involved in Full Stop’s basic package for their clients, there are 12 over-arching processes, with those processes comprising over 2,000 tasks in Karbon.

The Karbon Template Library has over 300 accounting and bookkeeping workflow templates to help you standardize your firm’s workflows. Every template is downloadable as an Excel file, or if you’re a Karbon customer, you can add them directly to your account with one click.

4. Recruit, train, and review the right staff

At the end of the day, your accounting firm's most valuable asset is its people. 

You can’t reach peak productivity if you're hiring people who don’t align with your firm’s values and goals. So develop a strategic hiring process to identify candidates who do align.

Ensure you hire the right candidates by using strategies like:

  • Defining your firm’s values and goals. What are your firm’s core values? What are your short-term and long-term goals? How would you like those reflected in new hires?

  • Create targeted job postings. Highlight not only the technical skills you want out of a hire, but the intrapersonal skills, too. Use language that reflects that.

  • Involve key team members. Work with existing team members to ensure that new hires are people they feel they can productively collaborate with.

  • Offer competitive compensation. Your team will only be efficient if they feel properly appreciated—both financially and psychologically.

  • Invest in training and onboarding. Keep your team up-to-date with accounting industry trends and emerging accounting technologies and trends.

  • Give 360-degree feedback. Implement a 360-degree feedback system where employees receive input not only from their managers but also from peers, subordinates, and clients. Comprehensive feedback provides a holistic view of performance and efficiency gaps.

  • Recognize and reward excellence. Nothing keeps productivity increasing like recognition of a job well done. It fosters a positive work environment and motivates employees to excel.

Recommended reading: Productivity tips the team at Karbon actually use

5. Ensure communication is concise and transparent

How productive can your team be if they’re constantly miscommunicating with each other and clients? Time spent chasing clarification and producing incorrect work is time wasted.

Clear and transparent communication internally and externally will save your team time, every time. Not only that, but it’ll build trust.

And one of the best ways to do this, especially in today’s world of remote accounting teams and outsourcing staff members, is to invest in the right communication and collaboration tools that offer:

  1. Integrated emails

  2. Internal collaboration features, like comments and @mentions

  3. A client portal with document sharing

  4. Project management and tracking

  5. Client management and visibility 

  6. Connected calendars

6. Use software to manage leads, clients, and employees

Without a unified way to manage leads, clients and employees, you’ll find you and your team double-handling information and performing tasks inconsistently.

A robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is a no-brainer when it comes to client and lead management. You need a system to track prospects, unite information, streamline communication, and convert them into clients.

Even better, find accounting CRM software that will allow you to manage current clients, prospects and employee communication—all in one place.

When Officeheads transitioned to a remote work model, they came to this realization, too. With a focus on tech stack consolidation, they implemented Karbon so they could use fewer systems that perform multiple functions well, rather than a myriad of different tools.

“All communications being documented and associated with organizations, contacts and work items in Karbon is phenomenal,” says CEO, Rebecca Berneck.

Rebecca and her team found themselves in a new reality of increased visibility into client management, a consolidated tech stack, and improved employee efficiency and autonomy.

Identify your firm’s productivity potholes

Your accounting firm is one-of-a-kind with its own unique set of strengths—and weaknesses. 

The first step towards increased productivity is identifying the specific areas where your firm is lagging.

Some common productivity pitfalls include:

  • Lack of communication within the team. Ineffective communication can hinder collaboration, and cause project overlaps and delays. 

  • Unnecessary meetings. Unnecessary meetings can be a significant drain on productivity. Evaluate the necessity and effectiveness of each meeting to ensure they are adding value.

  • De-centralized document storage. When documents are scattered across various platforms or locations, it can lead to inefficiencies in accessing and sharing critical information.

  • Lack of clearly defined team structure and cross-training. Without a well-defined team structure and cross-training initiatives, your firm may struggle to adapt to changing demands.

These are all areas that, if left unaddressed, will tank overall productivity and negatively affect your gross margins.

So how do you know where to start?

Assess your firm's strengths and opportunities

A valuable resource for assessing your firm’s performance is the Karbon Practice Excellence assessment.

This 20-minute survey will assess your firm across four key areas of business that are pivotal to running a successful accounting firm: 

  • Strategy

  • Management

  • Efficiency

  • Growth

Each of these are broken down into business competencies:

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The Practice Excellence key areas and business competencies

A firm excelling in these areas and competencies has a high Practice Excellence score.

After completing the survey, your data is then aggregated to determine your firm’s strengths and areas for improvement.

By leveraging this in-depth analysis, you can pinpoint your unique problem areas that require attention and improvement. You will also receive a tailored list of recommended resources to help you grow in the areas that need the most work.

By addressing these common productivity issues and implementing solutions, you can pave the way for improved efficiency and productivity.

Take the Practice Excellence Assessment.

Practice management software to increase accounting firm productivity

At the end of the day, your firm is only going to be as productive as your team. And your team is going to be as productive as the accounting software at their disposal.

One of the best ways to heighten productivity is choosing and implementing a comprehensive accounting practice management software that handles everything from client management to team collaboration.

The best accounting practice management software solutions will offer these must-have productivity features:

1. Client management

With client management features, like activity timelines, shared contacts, contact types, and a client portal, your practice management tool should help you deliver a transparent and higher-quality service to your clients—in less time.

2. Onboarding tools

Onboarding new clients is a critical process for your accounting firm. Any practice management software worth its salt will help you automate this task and streamline the amount of time it takes to turn a prospect into a paying client.

Canadian bookkeeping firm, Tabworks, has decreased their client onboarding time by 80%. Their client onboarding process means it only takes them five days to turn a website inquiry into a paying client.

Templated workflows are key to results like this.

Client onboarding checklist template

This client onboarding template checklist will help to ensure that every step of your client onboarding is covered consistently and efficiently.

👉 Download it for free

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The client onboarding checklist template saves accounting professionals hours

3. Workflow automation

All of the little manual tasks hidden in your workflows can be one of the biggest threats to productivity. Look for a practice management software that offers workflow automation to streamline your workflows by:

  • Automating real-time client data collection and file storage

  • Templatizing common processes to standardize recurring work

  • Automatically updating statuses, due dates, and task assignees

  • Organizing your work, tasks and email into a manageable action plan

4. Artificial intelligence

AI isn’t just a phase. It’s fundamentally revolutionizing how people work. And accountants and bookkeepers aren’t exempt from that.

Firms that ignore new technology like AI risk being eclipsed by firms that don’t. 54% of accounting professionals believe the value of a firm drops if it doesn’t use AI.

AI won't replace accountants. Accountants trained in AI will replace other accountants.

Partner/Director/Owner, 4-10 staff accounting firm, United States

A great place to ensure you’re benefiting from AI is using a practice management tool that securely integrates with it.

With Karbon AI, for example, you can work faster (and more securely) with artificial intelligence that works in the context of your firm’s communications.

It gives you bite-sized summaries of long email conversations, helps you compose a new message straight from a task, and adjusts your writing tone to fit any situation.

And Karbon AI is just getting started. More functionality is coming soon to help your accounting firm automate more tasks, save more time, and add more value to your clients.

It’s important to remember that not all AI solutions within practice management tools are created equal. Look for one that puts data security at the forefront and is constantly innovating to improve your experience and the value you derive from AI. 

5. Integrations

The practice management tools that can significantly boost your productivity are those that offer seamless integration with your most frequently used business and accounting apps.

Calendar integrationsCRM syncs, and other commonly used tools like QuickBooks, XPM, Ignition and Microsoft Office, are non-negotiable when it comes to integrations you need to move the efficiency needle.

6. Analytics

Your practice management tool should give you deep insights into how your firm is performing, including:

  • Purpose-built reports that detail your team's critical output, efficiency and client behavior metrics

  • The insight needed to identify bottlenecks before they become blockers

  • Visibility over which clients consume the most time and clients you need to focus more on

  • Time and budget estimates for every job

Karbon’s answer to deep practice insights is Karbon Practice Intelligence (KPI). Steffen Hoyemsvoll from Ecommerce Accountants is excited by what KPI can do for his firm: 

“We’ve already eliminated manual data-entry tasks, automated core reports, and have full visibility of all our data in a way that’s actually usable.”

Learn more about KPI.

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