Welcome to the modern financial professional’s guide to project management for accountants. In this article, we’ll go in-depth into the benefits of using project management methods for every aspect of project-based accounting. We’ll also teach you what the challenges are and how to choose the best tool for your team.
Why is project management for accountants important?
In accounting, the goal is always to serve the client or group to the best of your ability. And if you’re not already using project management to do so, you aren’t reaching the full potential of your services.
Project management is key for managing resources such as time and budgeting. It’s also an effective way to ensure on-time delivery of paperwork, processing, and payments.
For large accounting firms, the balancing act of managing many different accounts and personnel all at the same time is quite complex. But with project management, accounting teams are empowered to be proactive rather than reactive in their methods.
In everyday life, this translates to establishing a consistent process for tracking, approving, and updating all active files. Everything from timesheets to taxes can be streamlined with the right project management tool. Not only does this produce better results for your clients, but it also gives you a competitive advantage over firms that rely on outdated methods.
How does project management benefit accounting firms?
Project management for accounting firms goes beyond simply organizing files (although that is a benefit too). It’s a way to transition from the hourly model to a more customer-centric one. Instead of limiting your assistance to budgeted hours, your team can deliver clients better results without exceeding scope or creating extra work.
It’s also handy for setting expectations, even during times of crisis. With the right project management tool, accounting firms can plot out project phases, assign tasks, and create a visual timeline of events. This all accurately reflects when work will be completed when put together.
Project management for accounting firms helps with operations too. Managers can create reusable templates for common forms and task types. Team leads can manage and approve important materials. And the rest of the team can efficiently communicate with one another within individual tasks on your chosen project management software.
What are the challenges of project management for accountants?
One of the biggest challenges of project management for accountants is letting go of timesheets. Timesheets are a measure of billable hours, but they’re not an effective measure of effort and duration. Project management, however, does take these two factors into account.
When creating tasks in a project management tool like Wrike, managers can easily add an estimated level of effort to each one so that assignees have an idea of how to schedule their time. As for duration, project managers have a bird’s eye view of all active projects and individual personnel schedules, making it easy to provide accurate turnaround estimates.
Accounting firms then use this information to create a fixed and change order pricing model based on a more accurate representation of the project’s value. There’s an opportunity for growth and development with this method you simply cannot get from the timesheet system.
For example, if the estimated effort for a task is wrong, managers can do a lot to improve productivity on both an individual level and for the organization as a whole. That includes coaching an individual on how to complete a task more efficiently, resolving workflow issues so that they don’t come up again, and adjusting effort expectations on similar tasks in the future.
Put simply, overcoming old habits like timesheets is the biggest challenge, but there are many micro and macro rewards for doing so.
How to implement project management in accounting
First, take stock of your resources. Consider employee availability, project operations costs, and other related materials. You’ll have a chance to organize and prioritize these in detail later within your project management tool.
Then, choose a data tracking system that includes time. In project management, time is a resource, not a product, so it must be used wisely. Managers can use historical time-tracking records to determine how long a task will realistically take and then schedule it accordingly.
Next, decide how you’ll manage customer change requests and the ever-changing rules, regulations, and tax codes all accountants must deal with. Other productivity obstacles such as stakeholder requests, unforeseen roadblocks, and everyday inefficiencies get in the way of even the best-planned timelines.
To ensure promises are kept and customer expectations are exceeded, accountants should use a visual representation of their project timelines to come up with flexible solutions. Ideally, this will happen before issues arise. Either way, having a project management plan will make teams agile enough to handle common accounting issues without derailing their entire assignment.
Finally, choose a project management system for accountants that fits your needs. A specialized tool is helpful for dealing with unique issues that only financial teams face.
What features are essential for project management accounting software?
Like any profession that deals with professional services management, accounting teams need a project management accounting software that can achieve big picture goals. With the right project management accounting software, firms and individuals can easily maximize milestone billing, streamline processes, and impress clients.
Here are some features to look out for:
- Custom template options
- Visibility into all active projects
- Time and resource management
- Communication tools
- Data tracking and forecasting
- Easy to use dashboards and visual charts
As you can probably already tell, the best project management accounting software is a comprehensive one. It should serve as the foundation for all of your work. Teams will use it to plan, manage, and finalize deliverables. You’ll also use it for invoicing and other services you provide to clients.
In a nutshell: Look for a tool that can act like a Swiss Army knife for your entire accounting business.
How to choose project management software for your accounting firm
So you’ve found a few great platforms with similar features. Now how do you choose which project management software is best for your unique business? The answer is simple: consider your goals.
For most accounting firms, the point of adopting a project management software is to increase productivity. Consider whether or not the solution you’re interested in will expedite everyday deliverables. Can you really see your team using this tool to communicate with one another and stay on schedule?
What about external clients? If you’re like most accounting services, your work is dependent on forms and information you receive from outside sources. The right project management software will give collaborators easy access to files while also protecting the privacy of other, unrelated projects.
And if you’re getting closer to crunch time, it’s important to consider how your project management software will work side by side with your other tools. Make sure you check out what app integrations are available for each tool you consider. Doing so now will help your team smoothly transition while keeping up with current workloads.
Last but not least is privacy. No matter what your goals may be, data privacy is a big concern for every accounting firm. Project management software is yet another outlet that needs to be as secure as possible. So if you have a number of solutions to choose from, make sure you prioritize the ones that make privacy a key feature.
Why Wrike is the perfect task management software for accountants
Accounting firms are busy all year round, not just at tax time. Wrike offers accountants support for ongoing projects, one-off requests, and heavy workload seasons all in one platform. How? By empowering teams to manage their internal processes as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Here are some of the unique features Wrike includes to solve problems for project management for accountants:
- Wrike Blueprints: If you offer a variety of different services and price points, Wrike Blueprints can help you outline tasks for each one, structure the projects, and track all plans across every service.
- Microsoft Integration: Combine tools you already know and use with Wrike to automate your team assignment process. Create automated triggers that respond to completed Microsoft forms by creating a new file, adding the new customer data to it, and more.
- Zendesk Integration: Add Zendesk to Wrike so that all customer tickets that are assigned as tasks are recorded and added to individual to-do lists if and when the chosen employee has availability.
- Wrike Spaces: Create custom hubs that serve as a communication and document sharing platform for individual clients right within Wrike. That way there is full transparency without compromising the privacy of your other clients and projects.
- Wrike Resource: Balance workloads realistically and effectively within Wrike. You can track the time it takes to complete certain tasks plus how much availability individuals and teams have to take on new work.
Ready to streamline operations and increase client satisfaction? Get started with Wrike’s professional services guide and a two-week free trial of our project management software.