As an accounting firm, dates and deadlines are somewhat of a double-edged sword. It’s true that they can add stress in situations where many deadlines for different projects overlap. On the other hand, deadlines and due dates also add some structure to accounting firms. If we know our due dates and also know how long the projects take to complete, we can work backwards to reverse engineer the successful completion of all kinds of projects.
However, this process can be easier said than done – especially with all of the other concerns that accounting firm owners and managers need to juggle on a daily basis. If you’re looking for some tips on how to make due dates more of an ally than an enemy to your firm, we’ve outlined some of our favorite strategies below.
Make them visible to your team
Sure, you probably had an initial discussion with your firm employees about the kinds of projects and due dates they’d be working on, but how many times have you talked about it since they were hired? It’s important that all of your team members know every deadline relevant to their projects. The best way to do this is by making sure they can easily access deadlines and dates whenever they work. Put critical dates on team dashboards, in project briefings and on other internal communications.
Organize due dates logically
When was the last time you stopped to consider how your due dates were actually managed? If you’re like a lot of accounting firms – especially those that have been in business a while – your due dates and deadlines are on autopilot. Unless something goes wrong, you probably don’t even think about them.
The problem with this approach is you may be losing out on efficiency when it comes to due date management. Instead of assuming everyone knows the relevant due dates for their projects, make them accessible based on specific characteristics. For example, you might have one area with due dates for all the specific projects related to quarterly bookkeeping. On the other hand, you might have another place to keep due dates for work related to a specific client account or type of client – one set of due dates for software companies, one for medical companies, etc.
Still other firms may work in teams where one group handles all of one type of deadline, before passing it to the next team to handle the next type. The specific method you use to organize dates should depend on the way your firm works – the most important thing is to have some kind of system in place for coordinating deadlines across the business.
Automate whenever possible
Modern technology has given accounting firms many tools to help streamline their work. With automation, the mundane and monotonous tasks required for accounting work can be handled without human time and effort. This frees up your team’s time to work on higher level tasks that can’t be taken care of by automation. Things like template creation, data transfer, and project scheduling can all be done by a capable automation tool – typically included as part of a larger software package.
Use past due date records for internal insights
Much of the discussion on due date management is about handling future deadlines. It’s true that these are most important and will have a bigger impact on client satisfaction than what happened in the past, but that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore previous due dates.
In fact, assessing the consistency with which your firm hits (or misses) due dates is one of the best ways to get a general sense of your organizational performance and what needs to be changed. Missing deadlines is more of a symptom than a specific problem, but reviewing past deadline data helps you understand if it’s even an issue for your team.
If it does become a problem, you can move on to assessing other areas of the firm to see where it may stem from. Maybe your team is too overwhelmed during a certain part of the year, or maybe they weren’t fully up to speed on due dates in the first place (as we addressed above). Whatever the case may be, solving these problems can prevent a small due date issue from ballooning into a more serious concern that threatens the business.
Last word on due date management for accounting firms
Accounting practice management software can help alleviate many of the major problems related to due date management – if you’re able to select the right software. By making your due dates visible to everyone on your team who needs to manage project schedules, organizing them the right way, and analyzing previous data to help the firm stay on track, you can be sure your team is nailing all relevant deadlines. This will increase client satisfaction and ultimately make your firm more resilient for the long haul.
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