Workflow tends to be a problem area for many tax professionals. Although firms can pivot quickly, and navigate snags and hiccups that may arise due to inefficiencies with relative ease, there is always room for improvement. Perfecting the processes your team uses is absolutely essential to maintaining healthy growth. Here are three ways to do that.
Workflow is often developed by default. It becomes passive. We don’t actively think about it; we just do it. The first thing you can do to combat this is to practice mindfulness. It may sound cheesy, but the truth is that taking that extra few minutes to pay very close attention to what you’re doing, why you’re doing it that way and how you could be more efficient will save so much time in the long run. That is why we take the opportunity each year to sit down together and revisit our tax time processes. We use Trello to create project templates with checklists that guide us all through every part of our process, from start to finish. Now we can sit down as a team to look at this checklist, and identify pain points and problems that can be solved for the coming year.
You’re probably doing way too much. We didn’t think so until we wrote it all down and took a long hard look. Take a look at your tools and start with those processes. List the steps you tend to automatically run through as you use a specific program or tool. For example, we have a tax project template in Trello, and the very first checklist details how to create the tax return in Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Online and send the Intuit Link invitation requesting documents. This sets up each project for our tax preparers to just dive in and get to work! We managed to trim our processes down to bare bones, and made it as clear and concise as we could so any one of us can take on any part of the tax season process.
You may have your processes trimmed down and solidified, but why not make them better? We used applications like Trello’s automated cards, as well as Slack reminders and channels to set up notifications for our team. We also use a free web application called IFTTT (If This Then That). It allows you to automate parts of your workflow by activating “recipes” that connect your apps to perform functions and send notices for you. We’re taking it a step further now to create an in-office support bot with Alexa that will perform some of the tasks on our checklists for us.
Get creative and spend the time it takes to research applications and tools that will remove some of the burden from you and your team! The return on the time invested will be worth it.