Process silos are common in many accounting firms, leading to inefficiencies and communication breakdowns. To break down these process silos, you'll need to implement strategies that will encourage collaboration and communication between departments and team members.
Why process silos are a productivity killer
In firms with process silos, there are barriers to sharing information, communicating and handing off work to other departments.
Some of the productivity killers that process silos can bring about include the following:
Creating redundancies and duplicate work across departments
Limiting sharing of resources and information, leading to wasted time and effort
Hindering communication and collaboration, preventing teams from working together effectively to find creative solutions
How to break down process silos
So, what can you do to break down process silos in your firm? Try implementing some of the following strategies:
Use common or compatible collaboration tools
Firms can benefit greatly by using common or compatible tools and systems. When team members can share resources and information easily, it breaks down process silos and leads to more efficient workflows.
Common collaboration tools can include the firm's document management system, project or workflow management software, communication tools (such as Slack or Microsoft Teams), and more.
These tools allow people to collaborate on projects more effectively, hand off work and tap into each other's expertise, which leads to faster turnaround times and fewer communication breakdowns.
Educate and train employees together
While different departments have their own learning and development needs, there can be many opportunities to train and educate employees together. Bringing people together helps break down process silos and encourages collaboration between departments.
When team members come together to learn new information, they are more likely to communicate and collaborate with one another to find creative solutions to problems.
In addition, training together allows team members to get to know each other better, leading to stronger relationships and improved communication.
Take a firm-wide approach to process improvement
Process improvement is a critical part of any accounting firm, but it can be challenging to achieve success when different departments are working in silos. To break down these process silos and improve overall productivity, it's essential to take a firm-wide approach to process improvement.
When every department is involved in the process improvement process, it becomes easier to share resources and information. For example, you can avoid making improvements in the audit department that break something in the tax department or duplicate how the firm uses technology.
In addition, taking a firm-wide approach to process improvement allows firms to track progress more effectively. By having a centralized process improvement initiative, firms can measure the impact that changes have made across the organization. This helps firms identify areas where further improvements are needed and allows them to track the progress of their overall process improvement efforts.
One way we see firms take a firm-wide approach to process improvement is by having these initiatives led by Operations rather than individual departments. Operations, by its nature, has more of a bird's eye view of the firm.
Emphasize the importance of feedback and problem solving
Process silos often form when team members don't feel they can provide feedback or voice concerns about technology or process changes that don't directly impact their department or role. This can be due to a hierarchical structure, a lack of communication, or an overall lack of transparency in the firm.
Providing an environment where employees feel safe giving feedback is critical for breaking down process silos. By emphasizing the importance of feedback and problem-solving, firms create an environment where team members are more likely to communicate openly and resolve issues before they become bigger problems.
It's easy to get stuck in outdated workflows, but as the accounting profession continues to evolve, departments within the firm must work as one and streamline their work. Position your firm for growth and success by increasing collaboration and transparency between departments. This will increase their ability to make more informed, strategic process improvement decisions.
Could you benefit from structure and accountability as you strive to push your firm forward?
The Boomer Process Circle is a peer group of top Process and Lean Six Sigma leaders in the accounting profession who share tools and resources for pushing change within their firms. Apply now to tap into the experience and expertise you need to lead the charge for continuous improvement.
Jim Boomer, CEO of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is an expert on managing technology within an accounting firm. He serves as the director of the Boomer Technology Circles, The Advisor Circle and the CIO Circle. He also acts as a strategic planning and technology consultant and firm adviser to CPA firms across the country. Accounting Today called him a “thought leader who can help accountants create next-generation firms.” Jim is a prolific writer with a monthly column in The CPA Practice Advisor and has been published in a number of industry publications including Accounting Today, Accounting Web, the International Group of Accounting Firms and several state society publications.