We recently caught up with Amy McLaughry to discuss productivity, focus, and how Amy uses Pixie to save 5-10 hours per week.
How to Scale Your Accounting Team: The Major Benefits of Automation and Practice Management Tools
Discover the advantages of automation and practice management tools for scaling your accounting team. Streamline workflows and boost productivity.
Want help to scale your accounting team? This article provides five essential steps along with tips for leveraging technology to do it.
As your accounting firm grows, your practice team has to grow with you – at least, that’s always been the received wisdom in the industry. But does a scaling firm's need for higher staff numbers still ring true in the digital, automated 21st century?
We’ve highlighted five essential steps for scaling your accounting team, with practical advice on how technology can lend a helping hand.
1. Understand what business model works for the firm
To scale your accounting team to the optimum size, it’s essential to know what business model the firm is focused on.
Is the main aim of the accounting team to offer bookkeeping and compliance, assistance with financial management or a full-blown business advisory service? In other words, is your focus on volume or value [link to Volume or Value post] when it comes to the services your team will offer?
Understanding if your team is handling a manageable workload but servicing many clients, or the opposite, is essential for adequately allocating resources for your projects and achieving optimal utilisation.
The size of the accounting team can vary depending on the services being offered:
- Bookkeeping and compliance – automating essential tasks means you’ll need fewer staff. Team members can be less experienced and more process-driven, with the fundamental goal being delivering a high volume of jobs.
- Financial management – the team will be larger, and staff will need experience in cashflow management, financial forecasting and driving enhanced financial performance. The aim will be to generate stable finances for each client.
- Business advisory – advisory services will require a large, multi-disciplinary team to cover the full range of services. This means having strategic planning, funding, tax planning and board-level reporting experts. Your team focuses on delivering the ultimate engagement value as key advisers to the business.
2. Review the workload and resourcing for an average engagement
You now have a good overview of the services your team will offer. The next stage is to look at the tasks involved in each engagement and how an average job must be staffed and resourced continuously.
- How many tasks and processes are involved in the job?
- How time-intensive are these processes, and how can responsibilities be split?
- How long will it take to complete the job and file the relevant submissions?
- How many team members are needed to deliver the job on time?
3. Look for opportunities to streamline and automate the workload
Technology and automation are transforming the way the accounting industry functions. Cloud-based tools have made sharing financial information and collaborating with clients easier. Automation is taking on much of the low-level accounting tasks. Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping to analyse client data sets to develop patterns, trends and key insights.
The impact of this evolution of accounting tech is that more can be done with fewer resources but also that your skilled human team will have more time available to dive into value-added tasks and client-facing advisory services. By embracing these benefits, it may be possible to scale the firm while keeping headcount at the same level.
Technology can help in multiple areas of the firm:
- Bookkeeping and compliance – Software automation can streamline the central bookkeeping, record-keeping, tax compliance and client notification tasks. This reduces the workload, cuts the need for a large team and helps you drive higher client volumes.
- Financial management – Software reporting and smart business intelligence analytics help the team track financial performance and pull out. Workflow automation also keeps the job streamlined and reduces team numbers.
- Business advisory – Such services will require a large, multi-discipline team to cover the full range of services. This means having experts in strategic planning, funding, tax planning and board-level reporting. The software can deliver quality reports and management information to help support insights, decision-making and adding engagement value for the client.
4. Identify the key roles in your accounting team
Having been through steps 3 and 4, you know more about the workload for an average job and how technology can ease that workload through automation, AI and streamlining manual tasks. With this knowledge in the bag, you can reevaluate your staffing and how many roles will be needed for your team to provide critical services to clients.
To get your staff spot on:
- Achieve the right mix of staff – based on your analysis of an average engagement and the impact of time-saving tech, think about which roles are most needed in the team. Consider how many juniors, seniors, managers, senior managers, directors and partners you need on the engagement team – and how this will impact delivery and costs.
- Make sure you have the best skills in the team – you’ll likely need a mix of bookkeepers, audit staff, tax experts, client relationship managers, etc., to deliver your full-service range. Think about the team's diversity and how they’ll get the work done across all areas of your service offering.
- Balance staff utilisation against your fees and margins – there’s no point in having a highly skilled and experienced team if their charge-out fees wipe out your profit margin on the job. Work carefully to include the right roles while ensuring that the firm meets client expectations and makes a meaningful profit.
5. Hire the right talent and balance the workload between manual and automated tasks
Is it possible to grow your accounting firm without scaling your accounting team? The answer is that it’s very much down to the kind of work the firm focuses on and the amount you’re willing to embrace the benefits of tech and workflow automation.
With your firm processes systemised and your critical tasks automated, you can scale your firm services without adding a significant extra headcount. By reaping the benefits of software-driven reporting, analytics and management information, your advisory staff can do more in less time by cutting out the manual, time-intensive tasks.
The way to build an accounting that’s optimised for your practice growth is to:
- Hire the right talent and retain the staff who add specific technical and relational skills
- Balance the workload with manual human tasks and streamlined automated tasks
- Review the needs of the team regularly to tweak and refine this balance
How a practice management solution helps you scale
Managing your staff, reviewing job utilisation and meeting client deadlines is far easier with a modern practice management system running the show.
A practice solution like Pixie offers task automation, workflow management, client collaboration tools, team management, and reporting. Instead of getting dragged down by the low-level admin tasks, your accounting team can thrive and develop, helping you meet your deadlines and satisfy your clients without increasing payroll costs.
Where to from here?
To dive further into the world of optimising practice management for your firm, check out our popular resource: