How To Create A Bulletproof Accounting Workflow Checklist

The step by step guide for building accounting workflow checklists to streamline and scale your accounting firm

How To Create A Bulletproof Accounting Workflow Checklist

Before we even dive into accounting workflow checklists, we can agree that accounting workflows are now standard in public accounting firms. Nearly all of them are running some form of accounting workflow – with up to 94% of accounting managers even trying to leverage cloud solutions to do it. 

Here’s the thing, though. As it turns out, many of these firms are struggling to optimize their workflows because they’ve been built on a weak foundation. You can’t hope to dynamically streamline your accounting workflows without laying the proper groundwork. 

Now, that’s precisely where an accounting workflow checklist comes in. It’s the one thing that provides a framework on which to create, manage, and optimize your accounting workflows. 

How, you ask? And most importantly, how exactly do you set up a solid accounting workflow checklist in your organization? 

Well, this is where we invite you to tag along as we explain:

  • What an accounting workflow checklist entails.
  • How it impacts accounting operations
  • How to build an effective one. 
  • How to digitalize it
  • How to leverage it with your team. 
  • How to progressively improve it over time. 

What Is An Accounting Workflow Checklist? 

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Let’s face it. While the often draining arithmetics and filing might make accounting a complicated profession, the fact of the matter is, all we do is repeat things over and over again. 

Think about it. What you’ve been doing this year is more or less the same stuff you did in all the preceding years. Each accounting service in your firm has been following a consistent set of operations. 

Well, the technical term for that is “Accounting Workflow”. 

While a “Workflow” could be described as a predetermined chain of tasks meant to process specific data or information, “Accounting Workflow” refers to a distinctly defined series of tasks that are repeated in your accounting organization during standard service delivery. 

Take, for instance, the yearly process of filing business taxes for your clients. The fact that the tasks are preplanned to follow the same specific order year after year essentially makes this process an “Accounting Workflow”. 

Now, to maintain consistency across the entire organization, you’ll need to document the entire process using what is known as an “Accounting Workflow Checklist”. 

You can think of it as a log that systematically breaks down a repetitive accounting process into its predetermined tasks. Everything is basically laid out in chronological order and then shared with the team to maintain uniformity. 

What’s the point of mapping out basic accounting procedures for professional accountants? Why spend time and resources in redefining services that should be obvious to every professional? 

Ok, that’s an understandable concern. But, here’s the thing about an accounting workflow checklist – it doesn’t restrict itself to the standard professional practices. Rather, it dives much deeper than that to specify even the smallest details that are unique to your accounting firm. 

Whenever you’re hiring, for instance, you can expect that although certified accountants come already trained about all the essentials of bookkeeping and tax management, your new hires will be in the dark about how the services are structured in your organization. 

As such, it’s up to the Accounting Workflow Checklist to help them figure out exactly: 

  • How various team members collaborate to complete the tasks. 
  • How you prefer to handle and manage the tasks. 
  • How to engage different types of clients. 
  • The time duration allocated to each task. 
  • How to organize and file all the data. 

…and so forth. 

The more the variables you address in the Accounting Workflow Checklist, the better your team will be able to adapt and maintain a constant experience for your clients. 

On the flip side, however, it introduces a different problem altogether. If you progressively build up your collection of Accounting Workflow Checklists and their corresponding variables, you’ll ultimately find yourself with one heck of an extensive library. One that could potentially overwhelm even your most seasoned accountants. 

Unless, of course, you have the backing of an accounting workflow management system.

How An Accounting Workflow Management System Fits Into The Equation

Also known as a Workflow Tool, a Workflow Management System is essentially a specialized platform that digitizes the whole process of setting up, managing, and tracking workflows. 

Instead of struggling with paper-based checklists, you get to create, save, share, automate, and track Accounting Workflow Checklists in digital form. Meanwhile, your accountants, on the other hand, will be able to keep tabs on their assigned tasks, access all the checklists from a centralized database, as well as collaborate holistically with other team members. 

Fortunately for you, you don’t have to search far and wide. Financial Cents was solely built to serve as Practice Management Software for accounting firms. 

We are known for specializing in:

  • Accounting Workflow Management.
  • Time Tracking and Invoicing. 
  • Capacity Management.
  • Automated client requests. 
  • Email Integration. 
  • Client Relationship Management. 

You don’t even have to create your Accounting Workflow Checklists from scratch. Our platform gives you a much-needed headstart in the form of customizable pre-built accounting workflow templates so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel

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Don’t take my word for it, though. Financial Cents offers you a Free full-featured 14-day trial. So, go on and give it a try today to experience the workflow management magic for yourself. 

Why Is It Important To Create Accounting Workflow Checklists? 

Now that we’ve explained the whole idea behind an Accounting Workflow Checklist, you should have already started to figure out the principal benefits that come with it. 

By defining the workflows and procedures that should be followed across all your different types of accounting work, it:

  • Improves work quality.
  • Boosts productivity. 
  • Accelerates the onboarding and training of new employees. 

For the sake of clarity, let’s explore them one by one…

Benefit #1: Improves Work Quality

Accounting Workflow Checklists give you the opportunity to create a clear process on how to complete all types of client work, which will seamlessly guide all your employees through the most effective process. 

Such levels of clarity help everyone understand their expected output quality, which in turn minimizes the risk of human error. What’s more, you’ll be able to reduce the chances of inconsistencies by standardizing the procedures across your organization. 

That means you won’t be worrying about employees coming up with their own mechanisms, or guessing their roles. They’ll, instead, maintain the optimal service delivery standards as laid out in the checklists. This will guarantee work quality and deliverables for all your clients no matter who on your team does the work.

Benefit #2: Boosts Productivity

The activities in a growing accounting firm can, admittedly, get very hectic from time to time. 

Think of all the times you’ve been swamped with work at the height of the tax filing or auditing season. This is when accountants get exceedingly overwhelmed, and they end up spending their workdays desperately juggling between mountains of piled-up assignments, chasing deadlines, and following up on client messages. 

Such unfortunate incidents are caused by bad time management, poor organization, and administrative inefficiencies. And, as you’d expect, they always lead to mistakes and poor work quality.

But, it can all be resolved. Accounting Workflow Checklists tend to address such inadequacies by streamlining task handling and project management. 

Your accountants get to learn what they should do and when to do it, how to prioritize their activities, the common mistakes to avoid, as well as the best practices they ought to follow. 

And that’s not all. You’ll also notice that checklists are great at forming collaborative environments. Team members can use them for guidelines on how to manage and distribute tasks between themselves. 

The end result is, of course, increased productivity and improved work quality. 

A related study was, in fact, conducted by the American Economic Journal back in 2015. By acting as a memory aid and means to track task completion, a simple checklist managed to boost productivity and increase the revenue of a firm by 20%. 

Benefit #3: Accelerates The Onboarding And Training Of New Employees

When it comes to hiring new employees, Accounting Workflow Checklists will help you onboard new employees more seamlessly. 

The checklists present new hires with the same old parameters that have been running all along – consequently giving incoming employees the chance to quickly understand and learn the firm’s standard processes. This also prevents the new hires from asking you or other team members countless questions on how to complete work as they will have all the answers they need in an easy-to-follow checklist.

You could, in essence, equate it to joining a table of poker mid-game, and then somehow getting a sneak peek of all the hands that you’ll be betting against. 

In a similar fashion, Accounting Workflow Checklists offer new employees deep insights into the inner workings of your accounting services. Hence, they manage to learn the ropes fairly quickly, after which they proceed to execute their tasks with ease. 

This is one way to save on the time that you’d have otherwise spent on training and onboarding your new employees.

How To Build A Bulletproof Accounting Workflow Checklist

The whole procedure of creating and implementing an accounting workflow checklist is pretty simple and straightforward. 

You just need to follow these three basic steps:

  • Outline all the steps involved in the accounting process. 
  • Digitalize the checklists to make them easy to update and share with your accounting team. 
  • Proceed to monitor your Accounting Workflow Checklists while making improvement tweaks every now and then. 

There’s nothing complicated here. So, follow along as we review each step in detail…

Step #1: Outline All The Steps In Your Accounting Process

The checklist-building journey begins with documenting all the critical steps and tasks in the selected accounting process. 

An “Accounting Process” is any type of work your accounting firm does (payroll, tax, bookkeeping, you name it.)

For every service you offer, it’s expected that by now, you already have a standard set of steps that you or your employees follow to complete the work. This is what you’ll be mapping out at this initial stage. 

Don’t rush into it, though. We strongly suggest that you first bring in all core stakeholders involved. 

Yes, that’s right – we’re talking about your employees.  

Invite your team members to participate

If we’re being honest, it’s your employees who handle most of the tasks day in, day out. They’re the engine and wheels of the firm. As such, it’s only right to invite them to participate in the formulation of the workflow guidelines. 

Remember that as the primary practitioners, your employees have a first-hand perspective of everything, which might be very different from yours. So, their contribution will be unique and valuable when creating your Accounting Workflow Checklist. 

List the primary activities

Speaking of the checklist, you can now get on with the list of the core activities and tasks. 

But, don’t just jot it down. Rather, you should approach it strategically while taking into account all the laid-out objectives and goals. The point is to map out all the details in chronological order. 

If you were asked to develop a logical list of tasks for managing the Monthly Bookkeeping process, you’d probably come up with something like this:

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So far so good. But, we’re not done yet. There’s still one more thing that you have to do to convert the list of activities into an actual accounting workflow…

Sketch a workflow diagram

Don’t mistake the list of activities with an accounting workflow depiction. What you have at this point is just an outline of the core tasks. 

To transform all that into a workflow, you’ll have to refine the steps further and establish a logical path through everything. In other words, the team has to go into the granular details of each activity, and then prepare a workflow diagram that shows how various elements relate to each other. 

For instance, you might want to specify all the client options at various stages of the process. And while you’re at it, try to write out even the response emails and scripts that’ll accompany each option taken along the client service path. 

Consider, for example, the conditional statements. 

It’s expected that a small business will be handled differently compared to a medium-sized business, as the latter is exclusively reserved for senior accountants. 

What’s more, the jobs will not be assigned randomly. A staff member has to have the capacity and relevant industry experience to take up a client. 

All these options and paths can be represented visually on a workflow diagram. And, in particular, a flowchart would be ideal, as it can logically illustrate the entire workflow layout from the start through to all the possible outcomes. 

Additionally, you get to demonstrate even the task dependencies, job handlers, as well as both the internal and external procedures across every step. 

Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call an accounting workflow. 

But, don’t get ahead of yourself. While the hard part is over, you still don’t have a bulletproof Accounting Workflow Checklist.

Here’s the step that’ll get you there…

Step #2:  Digitalize & Share It With The Team

Digitalizing your accounting workflow checklist will allow you to create a centralized database of all your checklists for your team to easily access. Not only will digitalizing the checklists make it easy for your team to access them as needed in one place, but it will ensure that everyone has the most current checklists as you make improvements to them in the future.

To achieve that, you’ll need a Workflow Management System. 

Here’s a word of caution, though. While you’re bound to find all sorts of options on the web, don’t just settle for any random Workflow Management System. You can’t afford to take such a huge risk with your accounting firm. 

When it comes to digitizing and managing Accounting Workflow Checklists, it’s always advisable to work with a solution built specifically for accountants.. 

We like to recommend Financial Cents as it is very easy to use and built specifically for accounting firms. Feel free to check out the customer review platforms for yourself. 

You can easily test it out for yourself with a free 14-day trial – just hit the Free Trial button to quickly get started! 

A workflow management system will turn the technical process of building Accounting Workflow Checklists into a simple, fast, and inexpensive process. 

For example, if you choose to start a free trial with Financial Cents you will have a host of free pre-built accounting workflow templates to save you the heavy lifting. 

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Share the new checklist with your team

As the core principals and enablers of your firm’s operations, the members of your staff need access to your new Accounting Workflow Checklists. The sooner you get them involved, the quicker you’ll be able to implement the checklist. 

Now, the good thing about Financial Cents is, it doesn’t hold back on sharing and accessibility. You can easily share all the Accounting Workflow Checklists with your team to get everyone up to speed with the best practices. 

The admin dashboard itself comes with an “Invite Team” tab embedded on the left navigation bar. This is what you click on to add your staff members to the primary company account. 

Each of them will get an invitational email, through which they can proceed to open a team account. You, on the other hand, get to control what their accounts can see, do, and access. So, you might want to take the time to set the appropriate user permissions for everyone. 

Then when all your staff members ultimately come on board, you can go ahead freely delegate the workflow tasks as you deem fit. Your team will pick up from there and proceed to follow through with the Accounting Workflow Checklist. 

In essence, this new system of working will not only grant them front row seats to the best accounting practices but also facilitate multi-level collaboration. What’s more, team members should be able to track their work status, as well as check on workflow updates in real-time. 

Now, that’s the power of a well-built Accounting Workflow Checklist. It won’t take long before you start picking up a drastic improvement in work quality, along with increased consistency in fulfilling deliverables. 

Step #3: Make Gradual Improvements Over Time

As you pop champagne to enjoy your newly created Accounting Workflow Checklist, remember not to get too carried away. 

The business environment is never static. Seasoned accountants will tell you that goalposts tend to shift every now and then, as the industry adapts to changing technologies, trends, needs, and legislation. 

As such, what appears as a bulletproof Accounting Workflow Checklist today might not hold forever. Even basic changes within your firm’s ranks can potentially shift the status quo. 

So, quit seeing workflow building as a one-time engagement. This is a continuous process that requires system reconfiguration from time to time, in response to the changing dynamics. 

Over To You

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The most comprehensive guide on creating an effective Accounting Workflow Checklist. 

You can now count yourself among the few elite accountants who know the ultimate shortcut for transforming client experiences

And let’s be honest. This is not the type of stuff you’ll find in your regular, everyday accounting firm. Only the most strategic one-percenters have the resilience to see it all through. 

They tend to combine well-developed accounting workflow checklists with functionalities like CRMs, automated data collection, capacity management, plus client work tracking. 

And the results, so far, have been astronomical – particularly on lead conversations, client retention, referrals, client satisfaction, employee productivity, and profitability. 

Thankfully, it’s not too late to catch up.

Financial Cents gives you a rare opportunity to try out its all-inclusive Practice Management Software for accounting firms. There are no risks as you can get started for free!

To put it in layman’s terms, you potentially have everything to gain, and nothing to lose by trying. So sign up for the free trial today to take your accounting firm to the next level.

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