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In today’s episode of ‘From the eLearning Trenches,’ we asked one of our learners, an administrator in public practice, to identify reasonable turnaround time targets for the most common workflows in their firm. Are these targets in place? Are they achieved consistently?

Learner Reflection

As our workflow is set up by Months, it is typically mentioned to the clients that their jobs will be completed within that month. Our most common workflow target for the firm is that we try to adhere to two weeks in and out time frame. We attempt to adhere this for every job that comes in.

These targets are definitely in place but are not always adhered to. We always try to do clients jobs within a reasonable timeframe but internal and external things pop up which do affect our workflow and delays these time frames.

I would say there is also a lack of communication in regards to these time frames, and I do believe one cause is due to not as many entry meetings being conducted by the Partners anymore, or follow ups not being done consistently, as we constantly have clients that call or email and ask where their work is up to.

We have clients that will ask where their job is up to, but all we can find is that the accountant attempted contact, didn’t hear from the client and it was just left behind.

The majority of the time, these delays are either lack of staff or waiting on information to be provided to us by the client. At this point in time, we will not reach our target for January. This is due to staff still being on leave, and with sickness going around the office. We have accountants and bookkeepers that have not returned to the office yet for being unwell which has cause major delays for many client jobs. A lot of them will be pushed out to February to be completed.

I have been told our main focus of this year will be to work on our customer relations, meaning we call and inform for any delays that happen straight away (being internal or external) to avoid calls from clients chasing work, have teams meetings every morning and run through our tasks for the day, and query meetings held after lunch every day. This gives staff the opportunity to bring up any issues they may face completing that task so it can be followed up if necessary, with the client or the Partner. As a team we are working towards prioritising our tasks and trying to minimise any distractions that happen throughout the day that are out of our control.

In a simple way of putting it, we have targets within the Firm, but they don’t seem to be strictly adhered to, so this will be something to work on in the new year.

Feedback from our experts

Getting jobs in and out quickly is one of the most effective ways to manage work in progress and minimise write-offs. However, for most firms, turnaround targets are not really communicated in a formal sense and are not really measured objectively.

Managers and partners keep an eye on progress of work and will follow up bottlenecks and others issue as required. It’s the accountant doing the work who needs to be aware of the real time taken to complete work, so that they can minimise pick up and put down. Remember, it’s not just the time cost of the work in progress that’s important to monitor, it’s also the actual time between starting and finishing work.

It’s not just internal processes that may slow down the completion of work. A client may be slow in providing information required to complete a job, this should also be considered in measuring turnaround time.

Here’s a 5-point action plan to help achieve turnaround targets:

  1. Streamline Client Information Gathering:

(a) Establish a standardised checklist of required client information for each type of job or service offered by the firm.

(b) Educate clients about the importance of providing complete information upfront and set clear expectations about information submission deadlines.

(c) Implement automated reminders and follow-up emails to ensure clients submit all necessary documents and data before the job begins.

  1. Minimise Interruptions and Context Switching:

(a) Encourage accountants to batch similar tasks and allocate dedicated blocks of time for focused work.

(b) Implement a task management system that prioritises and schedules work to minimise interruptions.

(c) Promote the use of tools or software that allow accountants to save their progress easily, facilitating quick context switching without losing valuable time.

  1. Efficient Job Review Process:

(a) Implement a peer review system to ensure that accountants review each other’s work promptly.

(b) Develop clear review guidelines and checklists to facilitate efficient and consistent job reviews.

(c) Encourage accountants to self-check their work for accuracy and completeness before submission.

  1. Proactive Client Communication:

(a) Establish a client communication protocol that includes regular progress updates and reminders for missing information.

(b) Train client-facing staff to politely and consistently follow up with clients for any outstanding data or documents.

(c) Use technology, such as automated email templates and tracking systems, to streamline client communication and follow-up.

  1. Real-Time Measurement and Continuous Improvement:

(a) Implement time-tracking software to measure the time taken to start and complete each job, including delays caused by clients.

(b) Analyse real-time data to identify bottlenecks and areas for improvement.

(c) Conduct regular team meetings to discuss performance metrics, share best practices, and collaboratively brainstorm solutions to common challenges.

Additionally, consider creating a culture of continuous improvement within the accounting firm. Encourage employees to provide feedback and suggestions for process enhancements, and reward initiatives that lead to increased efficiency and throughput. Regularly review and update your action plan to adapt to changing client needs and technological advancements in the field of accounting.

Key takeaway: The only way to reduce turnaround time is to objectively monitor the actual time taken to complete jobs, including all internal and external delays. The key is to streamline the inflow of information as work is commented.

This assessment task and response is taken from the Client Service Administration eLearning course. Click here to explore this course

Also, take a look at the Client Concierge eLearning Course.

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