|This article was co-authored by Drew West of Deltek and Ken McCall of Boomer Consulting, Inc.|
|Executive Summary: Is Your Firm Taking Advantage...or Falling Behind?|
Risks. Failure to effectively integrate mobile work & workers into the firm’s operations leads to lower profits and less revenue. Rewards. Firms that effectively use mobile to record, review, and respond to information see greater efficiency, higher profits, and accelerated cash flow. Keys. Integrate mobile capability into your practice-management with tools that are simple yet comprehensive. Consider. Look into 4 ways to evaluate your firm’s mobile capability– and what you might need to get ahead.
A Mobile Advantage?
Look in a room of accountants, and you’ll probably see at least two-thirds working on a tablet.1 Ever wonder if all that "remote” access could actually help your firm drive down costs? Accelerate cash flow?
While our previous article2 studied the implications of value pricing, we now focus on achieving expected margin– which regardless of pricing model still means managing work and the time involved. With that time now increasingly spent outside the office, we expect to be productive at home, at a client site, or even on-the-go. Mobility introduces some special challenges– and also some advantages. Can your firm accelerate cash flow and improve profitability by taking advantage of an increasingly mobile workforce? Or, does your competitors’ advantage put your firm at risk?
Risks of Delay
Many accountants on-the-go are tempted to wait until day’s end before finding a reliable internet connection to fire up the trusty laptop, enter time, review jobs, and even prepare a bill. But the several hours of delayed access to your practice management system also introduces several risks:
Addressing Risks with Mobile Solutions
Lost Time. Most accountants who wait until day’s end– or even several days– before entering time will honestly admit it’s difficult to accurately recall the right mix of hours, work codes, and expenses. Losing (not properly recording) hours, or using the incorrect mix of billing codes, jeopardizes potential revenue and leads to inaccurate job costing.
Lost Efficiency. Those responsible for managing jobs must constantly monitor progress– yet inability to access current, accurate status leads to unnecessary delays. Think of the wasted time for supervisors who have no way to know when staff members with completed work are now available for new assignments. What about the frustrated staff member who’s waiting to start the next phase of a project– but doesn’t get the message in a timely fashion? Workflow interruptions like these inject unnecessary delays.
Lost Revenue. Consider a project with progress billing against certain milestones of job completion. When responsible decision-makers aren’t aware a milestone has been reached, the resulting bill delay postpones collection and impedes cash flow.
Firms using practice-management tools adapted to a world of smart phones and tablets can transform these mobility risks into competitive advantages. Mobile practice-management offers 3 ways to drive your firm to better results:
More Capability, More Advantage
Record. To address the risk of lost time,
look for phone and tablet applications which enable direct and immediate entry
of time and expenses– without delay or synchronization. Information is then immediately available in
the practice-management system. Think of
what this means for faster billing and improved cash flow!
Review. Supervisors and managers also need to review the staff’s input– at any convenient place and time. While deep job analysis is still best accomplished on a workstation, mobile devices can be ideal for approving time or reviewing projected schedules. Constant progress monitoring also helps supervisors keep multiple jobs on track. Easy-to-review mobile dashboards reveal real-time job status and available resources. Informed firm leaders at all levels can drive workflow, reducing inefficiency and avoiding the risk of delay.
Respond. Timely notification of milestones or pending actions is key to efficient workflow. A triggered message to a mobile device, generated by the practice management system, alerts decision makers of necessary action. Consider a prompt for time-approval, particularly important for a job with progress billing.
If you’re seeking to get a leg up by extending your practice-management into a mobile environment, here are some capabilities to keep in mind.
Simple. "Mobility” and "streamlined” go hand-in-hand. Mobile practice-management tools must bring the simplicity users expect on a mobile device– without sacrificing ability to record, review, and respond in ways that help the firm drive efficiency, reduce expense, and accelerate cash flow.
Connected. Stand-alone won’t work: Make sure mobile practice-management tools are a transparent window into your firm’s operations. Information recorded on a mobile device must be immediately synchronized into the practice-management workflow and available across the firm the moment it’s entered. Likewise, information reviewed on a mobile device must be accurate and fully current.
Versatile. Boomer Consulting’s recent mobile device
survey3 indicates a mix of firm-provided, firm-paid, and
employee-paid mobile plans– diverse mobile strategies which leads to a mix of
devices, from iPads and iPhones to Android or Blackberry. Good practice-management tools extend across
platforms, aligned with technology you have today and well-positioned for
you’ve thought about the advantages of mobility and some key capabilities,
where does your firm stand? A few
considerations to keep in mind:
- Evaluating Your Environment. Evaluate your firm’s mobile environment and
mobile use. Is a single type of device
(i.e. iPhone) prevalent among your mobile staff? Are any applications on these devices integrated
with your practice management system?
- Recording Information. Is time and expense entry quick and
easy? Are remote workers motivated to
post information as soon as it’s available?
Is recorded data posted and available to management in real time?
- Reviewing Progress. How broad and comprehensive is the available
practice-management information? Can
remote workers retrieve information about in-progress or planned engagements? Staff availability? Is engagement workflow and current progress
- Responding to Events. Consider how mobile practice-management
application facilitates workflow. Do
completed jobs trigger messages to appropriate mobile devices? Can a Partner or Senior Manager review
current status of the firm?
The mobile workforce creates
challenges for firms of all types and sizes, but firms which extend their
practice-management tools to the increasingly remote accountant have an
opportunity to stand apart. Consider how
more effective use of mobile tools and technology can help your firm drive
efficient workflow, reduce the cost of lost time, and accelerate cash flow.
1. 2012 Mobile Device Survey conducted by Boomer
Consulting, Inc. Results available at
3. Op. Cit.