The term “accounting workflow” may sound like a term that a business consultant would use, but the truth is, every business needs effective workflows in their day-to-day.
Accounting is an especially important place to have a good workflow to ensure transparency and precision. If you’ve never implemented a workflow before, your bookkeeping and accounting departments are both great places to start.
In this article, we’ll look at what a workflow is, why having one is important, and how to leverage it to make your life easier.
What is a workflow in accounting?
An accounting workflow is a way to keep an eye on your tasks. It helps understand which stage a task is in, who’s responsible for it, and what the deadlines are.
Think of a workflow as an organization tool. It’s a list of all the regular tasks that have to be completed, in the order in which they have to be done. It also acts as a map, with basic directions for how to complete each task. A workflow creates a straightforward process (whether it’s collecting client info or onboarding a new team member) that any employee can follow.
Bookkeepers rely on accounting workflows to standardize their monthly processes. From making journal entries throughout the month, to closing and reconciling these entries, a bookkeeping workflow creates an organized process to follow. It could also be broken down into daily, weekly or monthly tasks, with special sections reserved for payroll and invoicing.
Tax professionals can also benefit from accounting workflows. A tax preparation workflow might include updating sections on personal or business data collection, collecting documents on income and losses, and worksheets on deductions and credits, and invoicing clients for the prepared returns.
Why should I use a workflow?
To standardize your processes
Workflows create standard procedures to make sure everyone on the team does things a certain way. Standardizing a process decreases the possibility of human error and sets the expectations by making it more transparent for both your employees and your clients.
To increase efficiency
An accounting department can be more efficient if it works cohesively. Knowing who is responsible for what, automatically assigning tasks and moving the process along can remove blockers in your process.
Juggling assignments is a job within itself – and one you can standardize and automate. The right workflow for your firm should include information on who is responsible for which account or for what aspect of the work.
Workflows can incorporate your standard operating procedures (SOPs) so that every team member knows exactly how to proceed – regardless of whether they are a newly onboarded seasonal worker or an employee with seniority.
How accounting templates streamline your workflow
If you are new to creating workflows, starting from scratch can seem too big an ask. That’s why accounting software often comes with pre-made templates you can use. On top of giving you an idea of what a workflow looks like, they have the added benefit of saving your time on creating one.
One of the platforms that comes with a number of templates already built-in is TaxDome. You can simply copy a workflow from TaxDome’s library (whether you need one for bookkeeping or tax return preparation) and fine-tune the details later.
Here are just some of the ways TaxDome’s workflows do the work for you.
Automate communication with clients
Keeping your clients in the loop eases their mind and demonstrates the work you put in. You can configure TaxDome’s workflows to send a message at any point, acknowledging that the document has been received, a payment came through, ask for an e-signature, or simply update on your progress.
Automove jobs to the next stage
Once a certain job is complete (e.g. the contract was sent and signed by your client), you can set up the job to automatically move to the next stage, such as collecting documents. You can choose who’s responsible at which stage and which actions trigger the job to automove to the next one.
Schedule recurring jobs
Do you do repeat work for clients and feel like you have to set the wheels in motion manually every time? With TaxDome you won’t have to. Mark a certain job as recurring by setting a period when it starts and ends (each week, each month, etc.) and then select the client accounts this would apply to. When the next start date rolls around, the job will be created automatically.
Send reminders on auto-pilot
No need to pester your clients who missed a payment or forgot to email you important documents. When fine-tuning your workflow, you can toggle on automatic reminders for many actions (such as signing a document or sending you a filled-in questionnaire). You can then determine how many reminders to send and at which frequency.
7 examples of accounting workflows
How can you apply accounting workflows to your business? We’ve rounded up 7 specific areas to demonstrate.
1. Client onboarding
A workflow for client onboarding helps you tirelessly provide the best possible experience for each new customer. From a memorable welcome email to assigning the client to the right team member, a good onboarding is one of the best first impressions you can give.
A proper onboarding workflow reduces risk of missing info and clarifies the relationship between the firm and the client. Your clients’ satisfaction is in direct correlation with the level of service you provide — which, in turn, hinges on getting clients into your system quickly and painlessly.
Not sure how to create the perfect onboarding workflow? Try TaxDome’s vast library of templates to choose one that best fits your clientele. Also, long-time clients will be happy to tell you what you can improve — and your employees who have recently onboarded new customers might have fresh input as well.
2. Sales and marketing
Having a clearly defined marketing strategy means it’s easier to see what needs to be done, and delegate it — or do it yourself. A marketing workflow can consist of creating your buyer persona, honing your lead generation techniques, setting up a social media schedule to raise engagement, and drafting a script for client discovery calls for your sales team.
3. Recurring client task management
Bookkeeping, financial statement preparation, audits, taxes – each one has a time frame and a specific order that has to be followed. Recurring tasks are the common denominator in a multitude of accounting firm workflow processes.
A central to-do hub for all team members is key to ensuring that everything gets done. A workflow management software or project management dashboard can help everyone see what they and their teammates need to do — and at which points.
4. Service delivery
A good service delivery workflow should ensure all quality checks are conducted on time, and client feedback channels are open. Service delivery should focus on three things: being completed on time, communicating at each step of the process, and meeting (or exceeding) client expectations.
5. Client invoicing
Good practice management software will offer you flexible invoicing options – from billable hourly rates that vary with each service to package prices, so that you can choose what works best for you and your clients. With software such as TaxDome, you can streamline your entire payment process. For recurring payments, if your clients also have a payment method for auto-billing switched on, it’ll both improve their experience (they won’t need to remember to pay) and reduce late payments (which will make your cash flow predictable and stable).
6. Using the slow season to set up processes
If there’s downtime in your work, consider using it to set up automatic processes that can help you during your busy season. For example, if you already set up TaxDome for your tax preparation purposes, the slow season may be a good time to learn how to use it for payroll.
7. Customer satisfaction
No business owner is happy when problems arise, but sometimes your level of service may fall short of a customer’s expectation. Aim to have a system in place to resolve their issues swiftly and professionally. Determine which situations employees can resolve on their own and how they can do it.
Workflows are helpful tools that don’t depend on your specific industry: by implementing them, you can simplify client onboarding, raise customer satisfaction levels, improve invoicing and service delivery and, finally, manage recurring tasks and streamline your communications.
Workflows can be sequential (when tasks need to be completed in a strict order) or state (when tasks aren’t dependent on one another and can be chipped away at simultaneously). When crafting a workflow, keep in mind what needs to be done, by which point in time, and who’s responsible at each juncture.
Workflows help increase overall efficiency, standardize processes and unburden firm owners by allowing them a big-picture view of the firm activities with delegated responsibilities.
When you’re not sure where to begin, consider relying on a practice management platform. TaxDome, a powerful platform for accountants, bookkeepers and tax professionals, helps you set up and automate your processes so that you can focus on billable work.
It even comes with general workflow templates for different types of services you provide (such as monthly bookkeeping or 1040 return) and more specific templates – for messages or tasks, for example. In addition to customizing the software to suit the needs of your practice, you can set up TaxDome to send reminders or recurring invoices to clients, reassign jobs when certain steps have been completed (such as e-signatures) and automatically move the jobs through predetermined stages.
Chances are, you’re already implementing workflows in your business. The next step would be to write down everything that you do and see exactly what parts are repetitive and can be automated, and then choose the most suitable software that can take away the admin work and allow you to focus on your business goals.
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