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How Accounting Firms Document Their Processes

Posted by Joshua Feinberg on Mar 11, 2020 7:45:00 AM
Joshua Feinberg
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You've heard it before. Process documentation is key to an efficient business. But why do some accounting firms document their processes and others don't?

In our recent webinar, 5 Ways to Crush Your Time Wasters, we met up with Debra Defer, Managing Director of Business Services and Outsourcing at BDO USA, LLP, and explored the importance of process documentation.

How Accounting Firms Document Their Processes

Our polling results

Our webinar revealed some critical (but not so surprising) results. Only a small number of webinar participants document their processes.

Which workflow tool(s) do you utilize?

For those that do document their processes, what approach do they use? 

By far, it's email and "other." 

Accountants are busy and documentation often falls to the bottom of the list. We're not here to judge but to help you understand how process documentation can help save you time in the long run.

Undocumented processes are a productivity killer

During the webinar, we examined why people don't delegate to improve their productivity. One of the common answers was that it took too much time to train people. And it's just easier for the person to do it themselves, a proven time waster.

Similarly, not documenting your processes will kill your personal and business productivity. There's the risk of losing tribal knowledge, having unstandardized routines, and not being able to identify existing inefficiencies.

Besides being a productivity killer, there's also a legal risk of non-compliance. Process documentation will help you stay compliant and identify opportunities for improvement.

How to develop an efficient documentation process

Debra has a wealth of experience when she shared her perspective on a task that many want to avoid. 

At its core, process documentation shows how you carry out a business process. It's spelled out in writing and may include checklists, policies, and screenshots. If you're ready to tackle this time-saving effort, Debra recommends the following seven-step method for process documentation:

  1. Identify processes
  2. Assign process owners
  3. Identify inputs and outputs
  4. Identify players
  5. Document process steps
  6. Get feedback
  7. Finalize and establish review procedures

Sound hard? It doesn't have to be. 

You don't have to do it yourself, but you can practice another time-saving approach to complete it: delegation

Find someone in your organization who enjoys processes, procedures, flowcharts, and diagrams. Then put them to work. You'll have the project done and be compliant in record time.

Many workflow tools can help you document your processes and make the effort efficient. 

Debra advises you to

  • Keep it simple
  • Remember your audience
  • Securely store your documents
  • Use job titles instead of names, and 
  • Provide screenshots and examples

This approach will help your documentation be complete and achieve goals of knowledge transfer and being compliant, to name a few.

Key takeaway: invest in yourself

Saving time means taking time to change your time-wasting habits. It will require an investment in yourself and your practice, but will eventually pay off in increased efficiency, productivity, and even profits.

Our webinar, 5 Ways to Crush Your Time Wasters, provided key insights to be more efficient for you and your practice. Whether it's delegating tasks, offering proactive advice, leveraging technology for analytics and insights, making the most of your internal operations, or process documentation, you'll need to invest in your practice to become more efficient.

Debra Defer shared her wealth of experience in helping teams achieve more. And her enthusiasm is contagious. If you've taken steps to invest in yourself to crush your time wasters, please share your insights below so we can share them with our community.


About Deborah Defer

Deborah has more than 30 years of accounting experience, both in industry and accounting firms. As Managing Director for BDO USA, LLP's Business Services & Outsourcing, her team is focused on consulting and training of clients regarding their accounting system analysis, recommendations, and implementation. She also serves as the firm's Technology Leader for all solutions utilizing the QuickBooks Online platform. Deborah has been selected to the Intuit Influencers, Top Business Process Outsourcing ProAdvisor of 2015 by Insightful Accountant, and Top 100 ProAdvisor for six consecutive years.

Deborah is also very active on social media. You can connect with Deborah Defer on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter @DeborahDefer (Dr. QuickBooks).


Watch the full webinar recording on-demand now: 5 Ways to Crush Your Time Wasters


Watch the webinar recording: 5 Ways to Crush Your Time Wasters


Topics: Accounting

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