It's quite ironic...
That in a time of huge technological advancement, artificial intelligence and cloud software...
There will always be a use for a good old spreadsheet.
And one of the many areas where spreadsheets are still frequently used within accounting firms, is in practice management.
Many firms still choose to use spreadsheets as the tool to manage their clients, workflows and work schedules.
And to be honest, I don't blame you.
When you first start out, a spreadsheet is the easiest place to keep track of everything that's going on. And even as you grow, there are definitely some pro's to using spreadsheets that are worth mentioning:
- It's bespoke - you can literally set it up to work in a way that is perfectly suited to you. With most practice management tools, there's normally some compromise in terms of how you would like them to work vs. how they actually work
- It's free - apart from the cost the particular product e.g. Excel, it's free to use and won't cost you more if you grow your team
- It's simple and effective - when set up correctly, there's no doubt that it can be an effective way to manage your clients and tasks. Is it the most effective and efficient? No. But it's more effective than nothing...
Whilst there are some pro's which we've outlined above, there are definitely some con's. In fact, I believe there are 6 key reasons why using spreadsheets to manage your clients and workflow can be detrimental as your small firm continues to grow.
Here we go...
1. It needs to be updated manually
Nobody wants to spend time manually updating spreadsheets to track what's been done and what hasn't been done.
The time you spend doing this is time that you're not spending:
- Building relationships with clients and helping them with additional challenges
- Business development
- Improving your systems and operations
The list can go on.
It's not just the time it takes to update manually, but also the cost. I can almost guarantee that the cost in admin hours will be far greater than the cost of using a practice management app that eliminates the need for manual updates.
2. It's prone to human error
We're only human...
And no human is perfect. We all have bad days, or forget to do things, or accidentally click on things we're not meant to.
But when it comes to managing your clients and workflow in a spreadsheet, one wrong click, or accidentally deleting or overwriting something could have a potentially detrimental impact.
Granted, you can just click undo - but often when working in spreadsheets with lots of data, you don't realise you've made a mistake until it's too late.
3. It gives you no visibility over other client details
Spreadsheets are limited in the information they can give you about your clients and workflows.
At best, you might have one sheet where all of your client details are stored, and then another where all of the workfows and work in progress is stored.
But what about other important client details that will help you to complete your work?
- Emails that you've sent and received to them
- Files that you've sent and received from them
- Additional contact details for other people involved with that client
Without this info in one place, you can spend you day chopping and changing between apps trying to piece together everything that you need to complete the job.
4. It lacks automation
Einstein is famously misquoted as saying that the "definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".
Well, you can quote me as saying that the definition of insanity is doing manual, repetitive tasks over and over again when they can be easily automated.
Here are some examples of the things that can be automated in a practice management app:
- Automatically updating client records with emails and files that are sent/received
- Automatically creating jobs and workflows on specific dates
- Automatically assigning tasks to team members
- Automatically sending emails to clients to request files or remind them about things
- Automatically pulling in dates and client details from Companies House into the client's record
By automating all of these things you not only save hours of time, you also put your practice on autopilot.
5. It's not collaborative
Successful practice management is all about collaboration...
That means easily being able to see what's on your team members' plates, or having visibility over what emails other people have sent to clients, or easily being able to delegate and reassign tasks to other people.
In spreadsheets, collaboration is very limited. Which often means that you and your team can end up working in silos, instead of working as a cohesive unit.
6. It has poor UI
This is something that isn't discussed enough...
User Interface (UI) focuses on how something looks and how users interact with it. It impacts what is shown on the screen, the buttons, and other visual elements that impact how it get's used.
And when it comes to practice management (and apps in general) UI is extremely critical.
Your practice management app is something that will be used daily by you and your team, so if you don't love it, or your team don't love it - then guess what? It won't get used properly (or even at all).
And let's face it, it's hard to love the UI of a spreadsheet.
Making the switch to a practice management system
Making the switch to a purpose built practice management system can feel like a daunting task.
You've managed so far with a spreadsheet, is switching really worth it?
Well based on the 6 reasons that we've talked through above, the answer is most likely yes.
By implementing accounting practice management software, you'll find that you can start working more efficiently and more productively, and improve your client experience as a result.
Many of the things that we've discussed above, such as: auto-updating client records, having emails and files saved in one place, automatically creating jobs and sending emails, and much more can be done inside Pixie.
And the best part? Getting started is incredibly easy.
"Having tried most of the main players in the market, we’d been using a few non-industry specific apps until we found Pixie. We love the simplicity, the core features, the ease of use & ease of implementation. It’s the best tool we’ve seen in years in practice management." - Kieran Phelan, Cloud 360 Accountants