There’s always such a focus on apps and automation…
And not enough focus on the processes that underpin them.
Ryan Lazanis’s Future Firm newsletter talks about this, where he wrote very succinctly:
“Automation doesn’t mean jack sh*t unless you have the basics down pat first:
- An actual, real business model
- Mapped out processes for everything that you do
- A defined customer base with standardized service delivery
Technology and automation is not the secret sauce.
The secret sauce is how you design your business model to allow it to scale.
Technology and automation are just there to amplify it once you have the core ingredients in place.”
The part that jumps out to me most there is the second bullet point – mapped out processes for everything that you do.
By having your processes clearly mapped out, you not only prepare yourself better to use automation, you take strides towards increasing your efficiency, consistency and scalability.
What are Standard Operating Processes (SOP’s)?
Put simply, SOP’s are a set of step-by-step instructions to help you and your team members carry out operations.
It’s the system that currently lives in your head, mapped out in a workflow process for people to follow when completing tasks.
The only question is, where should they live?
Do you map them out on Miro boards and save them in Google docs?
Do you create an internal intranet to store them?
Do you use tools like Notion or Attlassian to create a library of them?
Whilst all of the above can and do work, we’re going to argue that there’s a much better place for them…
And that place is inside your practice management system.
“When I was at PJCO we moved the standard operating processes that we had for jobs into our practice management system.
Because PJCO is a firm with a focus on providing training and development opportunities to ACCA students, having systems in place that help trainees to self-learn was really important in reducing the time client managers had to train staff, and making sure that the same training was not duplicated.
Having the processes in the same place that work was completed made complete sense because they were ‘live processes’ and could be updated whenever was appropriate, at a firm-wide or client specific level.” – Rowan Van Tromp
Now you can start to see why keeping your SOP’s in your practice management system makes sense, let’s unpack it further.
Here are 6 key reasons why storing your standard operating processes in your practice management system is a smart choice…
1. Greater visibility for a hybrid/remote working team
One of the challenges with a hybrid, flexible or remote working team is visibility. You and your team members need 24/7 visibility over emails, files, workflow progress and also training. Without being in an open plan office where your team members can ask questions, it’s not as easy for them to find answers when stuck. By having your processes and training inside your practice management system, it’s there for them wherever they choose to work.
2. Simplifies task delegation
As a practice owner, it’s likely that you want to be able to delegate tasks to your team members to free up your time to focus on other things. And one of the biggest keys to effective delegation, is having a system or process you can delegate. That way, there is no uncertainty about how to complete the task, it’s all there in the practice management system with the training resources they need.
3. Prepares you for scaling up
The key to unlocking the ability to scale up your accounting firm is having clear, mapped out processes that you and your team can follow. Once in place, you can apply automation and bring in new team members to help scale the processes up to more clients. By having your processes and training inside your practice management system, bringing on new team members when increasing your capacity becomes a much more straightforward process.
4. Ensures consistency
One of the challenges faced by firms as they grow from just the owner, to the first few team members and beyond, is consistency. How do you maintain consistency and quality in all of the work and services that you provide? The answer? Clearly defined processes and training. With this housed inside your practice management system, there’s no ambiguity about what best practice looks like.
5. Ensures that it’s ‘live’ and easy to update
The last thing that you want to do is invest time and energy into creating your processes and training manuals, only for them to be forgotten about and left to gather cyber-dust on somebody’s computer. By having them live inside your practice management system, it ensures they are continuously used, iterated and updated.
6. Increases productivity when working
When you’re working on a task, the last thing you want to do is have to leave one system to log into another to try and find out how to do something or where to look for something. By using a practice management system that allows you to embed your processes and training, you can keep productivity high whilst minimising the amount of applications that are needed (even better if the emails and files you need are also in the same place…)
What functionality do you need for this to be effective?
So there we have 6 very clear and compelling reasons why using your practice management app to house your processes and training manuals is a good idea, so the next question is, what functionality does your practice management system need for this to be effective?
It’s likely that your SOP’s will be mapped out in a workflow. For example, your SOP for bookkeeping will consist of multiple steps such as checking ReceiptBank, reconciling transactions in Xero, and preparing management accounts. Your practice management system needs to allow you to quickly and easily build these workflows for your various SOPs.
Don’t overlook the simplicity of a checklist. By breaking a task down into a number of tick box items, you ensure that your team members are clear on the steps involved and don’t accidentally miss things out. Even when you’ve done tasks hundreds of times, it can be easy to miss-steps when you’re busy and trying to get things done.
Embed training videos
Video is one of the best ways to train your team members on processes and tasks. By using tools like Loom, you’re able to record your screen and show them exactly where to click, or what to do. Having the ability to then embed these training videos directly into tasks in your practice management system is priceless.
Attach files and guides
As well as videos, sometimes it’s good to have handouts or other files that might help your team members to complete their work effectively. Being able to attach these files directly to the tasks themselves is again a huge time saver.
Sometimes the training and information that your team needs might be permanently housed in another location, that’s ok. But to minimise the time spent going from one to the other, having the ability to embed links to different pages can save a lot of time. A great example of this feature in action is having embedded links to different apps e.g. Receipt Bank, or AutoEntry, at different stages of a bookkeeping workflow.
Understandably, this might sound like a huge and daunting project. There’s no denying that it will take time and effort to pull together the training and processes for this to properly work.
Here are some tips that can help you to get started:
- Create a project plan for this and add the relevant milestones and time frames
- Choose a dedicated person or people that can help you
- Start with the processes that are used the most and will have the biggest impact (e.g. bookkeeping if you do this internally)
Once you have these processes and training manuals in place for your firm, you’ll find that you and your team can work more efficiently, the standard of work will be more consistent, and you’ll find it much easier to bring in additional team members and scale up your operation.
How can Pixie help?
In Pixie you have the ability to do all of the things mentioned above: create checklists, embed training videos and links, attach files, as well as much more. With email integration and our own document portal, Pixie can become the place you go to do work, without needing to switch between multiple apps.
Start your FREE TRIAL of Pixie today.