4 min read

How to quickly find weak points in your workflow

October 25, 2023


As accounting firms seek to differentiate their services and attract more business, client experience has become a key area of improvement for organizations of every size – 82% of firms feel clients are now more demanding and 87% of firms agree that clients now expect increased flexibility and service levels from accounting firms without an increase in service rates.  


One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is by streamlining service delivery through technology. This means creating efficient workflows that facilitate faster, smoother interactions and services, both internally and externally with clients and third parties. Research shows inefficient workflows can penalize firms by costing them up to 30% of their revenue.  


In this article, we’ll talk about how you can find opportunities to streamline, with an emphasis on the three most obvious places: repeatable processes, common pain points, and long lead times.  



Areas of improvement are all around you 


Consider how many steps go into the preparation of a financial statement. There might be a kick-off with the client followed by gathering various types of financial data. Once data is collected, transactions need to be classified in order to prepare the financial statement, and then the statement is ready for review before it can be finalized. And each of these steps can be further broken down into more minute tasks.  


A few minutes here or there can add up to a significant amount of time when you multiply that by the total number of steps in a workflow... and the total number of employees taking those steps.  


So, what’s the most effective way to evaluate your firm’s workflows? Start with three key areas: repeatable processes, pain points, and long lead times.  


While these areas are often the most common issues, it’s important to remember that this is not about identifying what’s wrong with how your firm operates. It’s about finding time-consuming tasks or areas of “friction” that can be streamlined to delight customers in a new way. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at each.  



Repeatable Processes 


Repeatable processes are central to workflows. They save us from creating a net new workflow every time we deliver a service.  


But some repeatable processes can be low-value or time-consuming tasks that must get done to move the project forward. Things like preparing forms and documents or sending a document for signature.  


Automation is the ability to use technology to complete these activities without requiring a human to oversee them. Repeatable tasks can be perfect candidates for workflow automation because they have clear steps with few exceptions. In fact, 45% of surveyed firms said they plan to automate repetitive accounting tasks to help save time.  


Automating low-value tasks helps free up manpower to focus on high-value tasks. And, it reduces human error and creates more productive workflows.  


Take client onboarding. Instead of having an admin manage the same onboarding steps for every client or project your firm takes on, automating part or all of the process frees administrative staff to focus their time on activities that contribute more value.  



Pain points 


Pain points are areas in your workflow where obstacles occur. These can be internal or external obstacles caused by poor communication, weak processes, or client confusion.  


Manually filling out forms, or having to re-send document links. These are pain points many service providers are familiar with. Or waiting on clients to complete key tasks (such as sign a service agreement to kick the project off or provide key information to get the project started). It can also be points in the engagement where internal employees aren’t sure of who did what work.  


The types of pain points clearly vary, but they are all great opportunities for improvements. To determine which pain points should be addressed first, consider plotting all of them on a four-quadrant grid where the Y axis measures impact (from low to high) and the X axis measures urgency (also from low to high).  



Long lead times 


Lead time measures how long it takes, from beginning to end, to complete a service. Extended lead times make it difficult to keep a service engagement moving smoothly. They can delay project completion, increase budget, even shake a client’s confidence in your firm.  


Your firm likely has a lead time calculation that works best for your industry. After you calculate which processes have the longest lead times, think about why. The causes of a slowdown can vary, but can include labor shortages, lack of proper equipment, or human errors.  


Often, long lead times can be solved with technology. Forgotten tasks can be fixed with more collaboration and internal and external reminder notifications. Confusion can often be simplified by centralizing information in one easily accessible place.   



How cloud software can help 


By providing more visibility into the workflow (both internally and client-facing), facilitating smoother document collaboration, increasing security for confidential information sharing, and even automating task updates and reminders, you can ease service bottlenecks. And 58% of firms said updating their technology increased productivity and efficiency while giving them time to consider offering new services. 



15-minute workflow evaluation 


The reality is that nearly 75% of accounting tasks can be supported by technology. And in the competitive accounting market, there’s no time to waste to begin differentiating your firm and the services it provides.  


With secure client collaboration solutions like ShareFile for Accounting, your firm can automate those low-value and often labor-intensive workflows to accelerate service delivery and enhance the experience for both clients and staff.  


In fact, a quick 15-minute brainstorm can be all you need to begin. Get started today by downloading our free worksheet






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  • Fortinet 2023 Global Ransomware Report 


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