Even if you’re a boutique firm that prides itself on working with a limited number of clients, project management setbacks can still throw a wrench into your operations. Whether you’re transitioning to a new kind of software, bringing new team members on board, or working with a special kind of client, project management standards have to be maintained so that expectations are met on both sides.
Read on to learn four great ways that you can leverage automation through software and web tools that can help take the practice management load off your team members.
Integrate emails with task management
Like workers in many other industries, lots of accounting professionals spend a significant chunk of their workday dealing with emails. And while taming your inbox can be a tough process, you can also use the centric nature of email to your advantage.
Setting up reminders and task change notifications is a great way to ensure your entire team can stay focused on what needs to get done and get everything finished on time. It also creates a concrete trail of project timelines and milestones, which can help in diagnosing any issues that come up throughout the life of the project.
Remember to select a tool that allows you granular control over which events trigger automated notifications. You don’t want to overdo it and overload members of your internal team with email notifications about task updates that aren’t pertinent to their work.
Use a visual project dashboard
Accounting professionals spend so much of their workday immersed in details that it’s sometimes hard to consider the bigger picture. This is especially true for individual contributors who are only responsible for a few select clients at the firm.
Senior project management employees and executives at the firm need to have a broader view of how all projects are moving along. This is where a project dashboard can provide immense value to your firm. A visual project dashboard typically includes different rows, columns, colors, and icons to represent the status of all the different projects being worked on across the business. These dashboards can also be set to only show a particular kind of client or project. For example, you might have a dashboard view that only displays expense accounting projects or only shows projects working with small businesses. With a few simple setting changes, you can use automation to get sorted information about client projects.
Automate project tagging and categorization
We see lots of accounting firms throwing all of their data and past performance into the same pile and trying to use it to glean key data about their firm’s performance. There are certainly things that can be learned from handling metrics this way, but an even better approach is to automate the way all relevant data from a project is tagged and categorized.
By doing this, your firm has the option of looking at its broader performance across all accounts but also of checking performance and metrics for just one particular category. This kind of siloed tracking allows you to recognize when specific areas of accounting firm performance are lagging behind. Many project tools and platforms can incorporate automation by detecting specific phrases or individual words and then assigning one or more project tags based on their appearance.
Reduce manual customer service effort with chatbots
You’ve probably heard all about how artificial intelligence is the next big frontier in technology. Some are even worried about AI replacing human jobs. While this may be an issue one day, for the moment, it’s more pertinent to be concerned about how your firm can use AI to supplement human effort, not replace it. We are still quite far away from a time when AI can completely replace the human elements of the accounting business – communication, trust, and customer service.
However, when calibrated appropriately and managed by the right parties, artificial intelligence and similar language learning models can be valuable in one kind of communication: customer service. For example, a chatbot loaded with preset responses about questions that include key phrases can provide service to accounting firm clients outside of normal business hours. With the right AI platform, you can even train a customer service bot to understand more complex issues and recognize when something is beyond its own capabilities.
Final words on automation in accounting project management
People, in general, have a broad range of views on automation in accounting project management. Some may feel it removes a human element from the traditional operating methods, while others might be worried about their personal ability to adapt to change.
But remember – you don’t need to dive headfirst into the deep end of automation. By incorporating just one or two of the concepts mentioned above, you can get acquainted with tools designed to make project management easier for your team and ultimately more satisfying for your clients.