It seems that everyone wants immediate satisfaction these days. We consistently procrastinate and avoid doing the activities that do not provide instant gratification. This is a major reason that many firms fail to standardize and document their processes.
Doing so creates a cost today that does not have a corresponding payoff until sometime further down the road. However, doing so also helps create the infrastructure necessary for the long-term success of the firm.
A process is an organized group of related activities that together create value to clients. However, clients don’t really care about your processes. So why invest the time and effort to document the firm processes? Because when you standardize, document and communicate processes, you eliminate inconsistency and redundancy throughout the firm. This leads to results – what clients really care about! The fact of the matter is clients, results and processes cannot be separated.
We all have "our” work that we do on a consistent basis. It has become so routine that we assume that everyone else in the organization knows how to do it. Further, we assume that they know how to do it correctly and/or consistent with the way that we do it. It is the role of the managers and partners in the firm to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. They must study the entire process to ensure completeness and efficiency. In order to get an accurate view the process must be documented.
Steps to Process Improvement
The first step in documenting a process is identifying the organized group of related activities that together create value to clients.
- Document the process as it currently stands today.
- Assemble the team that is involved in the process and tear it apart. Make sure that you have participation at all levels to ensure that you consider all perspectives. Ask why things are done the way they are today.
- Document the new process based on improvements identified in the previous step.
- Communicate, train and rollout the new-and-improved process.
Potential Results of Process Improvement
There are a number of potential results from process improvement. Some of the more prevalent are listed below.
- Dig out wasted time and money
- Discover hidden dollars
- Improved moral & job satisfaction
- Increased consistency of how work gets done within your organization
- Decreased "ramp-up” time for new hires or existing employees transitioning to a new role
- Provide a guide to creating new processes or selecting a new technology to use within your organization.
Where Do I Start?
Obviously, with hundreds of processes in the firm, you simply don’t have the time to document all of them at the same time. However, you can slowly chip away using a phased approach. The key is to start by focusing on the most critical processes which will also provide the biggest payoff. The three processes that will have the largest impact in most firms are:
- Tax Preparation
- Financial Statement Preparation
- Billing & Collection
Case Study – It Really Works
A single office firm with 55 employees, 6 partners and $8-9 million in revenue brought in Boomer Consulting, Inc. to facilitate a review of its tax department processes. The processes were documented prior to the review, torn apart and reconstructed based on feedback from multiple levels within the firm. The results, as reported by the firm’s managing partner, were as follows.
- Increased efficiency & consistency
- Reduced workload due to "One Way Workflow”
- Improved feeling of cooperation & empowerment
- Red flag of pro-bono work
- Uncovered $500k to $1.5 million in potential bottom-line savings
The P3M Summit
While most people in management understand administration and logistics, few have had any formal training in actually managing other people. In order to foster a healthy and productive working environment, firms must support managers in acquiring these requisite skills.
The P3M Summit is a 2½ day event that offers
- Curriculum and content derived from specific issues related to managers working in the accounting industry.
- Training to amplify a manager’s productivity and skills regardless of the economic climate.
- Peer networking that offers value for the firm and its managers long after face to face interaction ends.
Learn more about The P3M Summit.