We uncover insights into how accounting firms used workflow automation in 2023 while answering two important questions — Is workflow automation worth it and at what stage of a firm’s life cycle? Hear directly from your peers who shared their insights with us.

Table of contents


The 2024 State of Workflow Automation Report highlights the experiences of 367 accounting, bookkeeping, and tax firm owners primarily in North America. Our respondents include firm owners and admins who have insights into the daily workings of managing an accounting firm.

We share insights into:

  • The biggest challenges firms faced in 2023
  • Why workflow was one of the biggest challenges firms struggled with
  • What managing a firm without workflow automation looks like
  • Areas of a firm that can and should be automated
  • The immediate and future benefits of workflow automation
  • How you’ll know it’s time to get automated — through real life experiences of firm owners like you
  • The most important features your workflow automation software should have
  • How to know if workflow automation is working for you

We started the State of Workflow Automation Report in 2023 because we wanted to share insights from actual firm owners on the impact of workflow automation on their firms and how it affects their ability to get work done.

In this year’s report, 41.6% of respondents have 2 to 5 employees, 29% are solo, 15.1% have 6-10 employees, 7.1% have 11 to 20 employees and 7.1% have 20+ employees. Apart from firm size, 49.3% are fully remote firms, 36.7% are hybrid, and 14% are onsite.

This report is brought to you by Financial Cents.


Welcome to the second edition of Financial Cents State of Accounting Workflow Automation Report. We learned a lot from gathering and analyzing this data but the insights below stood out the most to us:

  • Workflow was the biggest challenge firms faced in 2023, making up 63% of the overall general challenges they came up against
  • Getting documents and information from client was the biggest workflow issue firms faced in 2023 compared to spending time on manual tasks in 2022
  • All the workflow issues they faced impacted firm owners in one major way — a poor work life balance where they took work home, constantly thought about work during social outings, and just generally felt a lot of stress and anxiety. Read more here.
  • 21.6% spent an average of 1-5 on manually setting up and assigning tasks but that quickly reduced to 0-1 hour post-automation for 34.8% of respondents.
  • Many firms are still on spreadsheets. Even though they want to make the shift to automation, they wonder if their firm size is ripe for it and are overwhelmed by the number of apps available.
  • 59.2% say their initial attempts at solving their workflow issues worked. Their attempts included setting up systems and processes (68.2%), buying workflow software (55.2%), training their staff (29.2%).
  • Many firm owners realized they needed to automate their workflow when they started adding staff to their firms, forgetting important information, taking on more clients and realizing they didn’t have the bandwidth for the job, and sometimes losing clients.
  • 66.1% consider recurring tasks as the biggest feature in a workflow software, probably because it significantly cuts down time spent recreating repetitive tasks for hundreds of clients.
  • 66.8% assess the effectiveness of a workflow automation software by how smoothly their systems and processes run, similar to last year’s results.

Read on to get the full insights along with ideas, tips, and advice to get your workflow up and running in no time.

Who weighed in?

*Respondents were allowed to select more than one firm type since most firms offer multiple service offerings.

Other firm types indicated in the responses were audit, payroll, compliance, legal billing, cash flow and consulting.

Our survey responses show that remote work is still a big deal in the accounting industry as 49.3% identified themselves as fully remote firms. Our research shows that mid-sized, multi-location firms tend to prefer the hybrid approach for various reasons, including hyper focusing on serving the communities they have branches in. On-site work will not stop anytime soon since some firm owners still like to have physical offices to help them separate work from home even while working 100% remotely. On the other hand, some other firms have mandated RTO since the impact of COVID 19 pandemic began to wane and life went back to (almost) normal.

An overwhelming majority of survey respondents are small firm owners with 2-5 team members, an important stage in a firm’s lifecycle when workflow begins to play a more significant role.

Their Biggest challenges in 2023

63% of firms faced challenges with their workflows in 2023

Running an accounting firm takes grit and the ability to wear multiple hats throughout the day as no two days are ever the same. In 2023, firms faced several challenges, including managing clients (😩think client responsiveness and getting paid); managing firm capacity to ensure no staff was overburdened while ensuring deadlines were met; marketing the firm and getting new clients so 💸could keep flowing; recruiting and retaining talent; and, most importantly, workflow.

According to 63% of respondents, workflow was the major issue they struggled with in 2023, similar to 66.7% of respondents in 2022.


Dealing with the IRS | Getting started | Billing for services | Not forgetting things | Dramatic life changes | Communication – SMS, Emails, WhatsApp, Calls | Meeting Deadlines

Getting docs and info from clients (on time) became a task in addition to several other tasks

Since workflow is such a wide net, we dug deeper to understand what aspects of their workflows they had the biggest challenges in. Getting info and documents from clients carried the crown according to 65.2% of respondents. This is an all too familiar scenario as 53.8% of last year’s respondents indicated the same issue. From clients simply forgetting to send these items on time, to complicated client portals that make a simple process become cumbersome for both clients and firms, one can only begin to imagine why this has remained a persistent problem.


Finding the time to implement | Time and billing | Keeping track of work status and due dates | Organizing client information & data so it can be easily looked up | Teaching workflow to new employees while maintaining confidentiality | Bottleneck at the top of the chain slowed everything down

Beyond lost revenue and missed deadlines, workflow issues caused a poor work-life balance across 55.9% of firms

As a firm begins to grow from being a solo business to having more than 2 staff, workflow starts to play a more central and critical role. Any firm who gets workflow right from the start will enjoy the immediate and long-term benefits. But firms who struggle to set the right systems and workflows in place will also feel the immediate pain, including delayed filings/missed deadlines, lots of errors on client work, and most importantly, a poor work-life balance for both owners, managers and staff. A poor work-life balance includes scenarios in which people are taking work home, working more than 50 hours a week, constantly thinking about work even during social and family gatherings, stress and anxiety, etc.


Reduced efficiency | Delayed filings, billing, and collection | Disrupted scheduling | Stress and anxiety about missing/dropping information that isn’t consistently captured and visible

Workflow automation temperature check

47.9% of firms automate tracking and updating work status

Tracking and updating work status does a lot of things for a firm — from bringing everyone to the same page about the most important tasks to tackle and goals to prioritize, to ensuring deadlines are met so clients are happy  — it’s easy to see why this is a major area of workflow management that 47.9% of firms automate.


Recurring invoices for ACH billing

Many firms are still on spreadsheets

firms are still using spreadsheets

Of the 28.4% of all survey respondents who responded to this question, 44.2% are still primarily on spreadsheets or making the transition from spreadsheets to workflow software. About 27.9% are using accounting workflow software to manage their workflows, while only about 8.7% use generic project management software.

58.7% say managing work with spreadsheets did not improve their workflow

How managing workflow on spreadsheets is going

It’s been pretty good to me, but always open to new methods

Good| It works but is cumbersome | Difficult since there are so many. It gets very confusing | Decent to okay | Tiring | Messy | It has worked ok. Not ideal though | Ok with minimal clients but will need to automate as increase number of clients – hope the spreadsheets will help provide insight into best areas to automate| Ok, at best | It seems to be going good. We just have to remember to add new clients so don’t miss them | It’s fine for now for a few clients | Time consuming to manage | Very hard to be transparent with staff and clients on status of work or reasons for delays | Constant fear of missing something or forgetting | Too many worksheets for each client in different file locations| OK could be better | OK for some but not most of the work |

This is an outdated process and does not work well if employees do not enter information in a timely manner | Not well but moving to Financial Cents next week | Time consuming, not consistent | Fantastic | So,so | Inconsistent, it doesn’t remind |

Not very effective | Inconsistency with workload and team accountability | Meh, at best | Decent | Poor | It works but it is not ideal, it would be much better to have a system and build upon that for existing and new clients | Too many steps and time devoted to this process | My spreadsheet was fine when I was smaller but I’ve grown considerably since last tax season | Crappy | Terrible | 70% satisfied | Bulky, cumbersome, just switched to Financial Cents to get a better solution | Poor visibility into entire team | Not accurate | A lot of repetitive work and issues with multiple versions of files | Not good | Horrendous

Insight: Spreadsheets are great when it’s just one or two of you with a few clients. However, as your team and client base grows, you may find yourself spending more time on manual admin tasks rather than on the actual work that brings in revenue, visibility may become much more difficult, and hitting deadlines may become a hit or miss.

Before automation

Automation helps achieve synergy because it removes manual data entry and the potential for mistakes. If we have a client fill out a form we don't want to accidentally change any of that data by having to manually input it somewhere. And usually that data lives in multiple places, so having automations setup ensures that the data gets where it needs to get to quickly and usually without error."

Nayo Carter Gray, CEO, 1st Step Accounting

45.8% spent an average of 1-5 hours scheduling and assigning work

45.5% spent an average of 1-5 hours reviewing and updating work status

The general consensus is that the less you automate, the more of your valuable time you spend on repetitive, manual tasks.

51.4% had clunky onboarding processes

Successful onboarding — whether of clients or staff — requires certain things to be in place. When those things are not in place, the process becomes clunky and inefficient.

53% felt their firms were somewhat collaborative

Staff collaboration is at the heart of any business and in a world of remote and hybrid firms, collaboration has never been more important. Without automation, 18.5% of firms report a team that’s not able to collaborate at all. Imagine staff not being on the same page on client updates, notes, files, and tasks. Team members have to look at multiple places to access the information they need to collaborate and get work done.

52.4% got documents from clients after several days, making it a slow process

Clients forget, period. And to increase the chances of clients sending the correct information and document on time, while having enough time to get the work done, firms may need to automate some or all of the process like automatic requests and follow up.

Finding what sticks

68% attempted to solve their workflow issues by setting up processes and 55.2% bought workflow automation software


  • Follow up emails mostly
  • Just dealt with it but have now added late penalties if more than one month late
  • Hired operations manager
  • Started using Financial Cents
  • Looking at practice management software options

59.2% say their initial attempts worked slightly while 27% are confident that their initial attempts worked

34% say their initial attempts did not work because their team slipped back into old habits

In seeking a solution to workflow issues, focusing on just one thing will often not work. For example, for newly set up processes to work, you most likely have to train your staff and implement workflow software. You may also need to run regular follow up training sessions to ensure your team continues to operate according to your newly set systems and processes.

Why initial attempts worked

  • Because it’s automating our firm
  • It helped me become more organized and on a schedule.
  • Set boundaries in the beginning
  • Because I focused on the plan of action
  • Standardized processes and facilitated easy document collection.
  • We were very thorough in our processes.
  • It put pressure on clients to be more involved in the onboarding process.
  • It was easy to use and I made the commitment
  • Automation made things happen smoother
  • It was an actual solution
  • Had buy in from staff.
  • More streamlined and easier to process
  • I had employees
  • Workflow processes are important, however, the users need to follow up on the handoff. That has been the challenge. It worked because I actively managed and watched it like a hawk. I need it to get to a point where my team relies on the software. If it is in there and it says do it, it’s all them!
  • Consistency! The entire team was on board with the setup, so it was easy to communicate it to the clients as well and get them to follow the rules!
  • Because we put the processes in place to handle the work.
  • Once properly thought out and set up, it flowed better
  • The software could regularly message our clients for us so we didn’t constantly need to check in.
  • Putting automation makes things smooth for clients. Them receiving task reminders to upload documents and employees getting task reminders as well for work to be completed.
  • Because I purchased Financial Cents and it is awesome!
  • Ability to mark work completed.
  • The implementation of workflow processes made the process faster and much easier to manage and track tasks. In addition, tracking time spent on work allowed us to maximize productivity.
  • Workflow made our processes more transparent and smooth.
  • We are implementing Financial Cents along with our already established SmartVault and Outlook. Gradually getting it up to speed.
  • Informing employees and communicating clearly with clients
  • I was very disorganized, so attempting workflow processes enhanced my work.
  • Workflow software has allowed me to move tasks from my brain to an electronic, repeatable, remindable task
  • Easier to track where the work was at.
  • Staff responded to training.
  • Got everything out of my brain!
  • We were able to remove a lot of the human error in the workflow because of tag automation. As we continue to train staff on the processes and procedures, the workflow seems to be moving in the right direction.
  • Getting good processes in place always works if you follow them
  • Forcing compliance for my staff via follow-ups and setting clear expectations
  • We have very good communication and were all keen to change
  • Because it was Financial Cents. (Not my initial solution but it was my only solution after I found it) 🙂
  • It wasn’t our initial – Financial Cents was a smart move.
  • Because it was better than a excel sheet
  • Utilizing Financial Cents App for Workflow Management, Client, and Employee
  • My processes were written down and democratized to my team. My team had a process to follow.
  • I know where everything is and when it is due
  • Better communication between staff and visibility to the project status.
  • Getting a single system in place to centralize client onboarding, communication, and task management.

I was able to track all of my clients in Financial Cents and also set up standard onboarding procedures (from initial sales call to kick off call). It makes everything work a lot more smoothly."

Anonymous survey respondent

Book a demo with our team to explore Financial Cents.

The Moment of realization 🤯

Identifying bottlenecks (including if it is you) and getting organized are the keys to mastering workflow management. In building your workflow management, pinpointing what is holding back your productivity while strategically organizing your processes, tasks, and assignments into manageable systems and leveraging technology will lead to greater workflow success."

Kellie Parks, CPB, Calmwaters Cloud Accounting
  1. Working too many hours based on the number of clients I have
  2. Having to revisit the same tasks/issues multiple times
  3. Turnover of staff
  4. Increased workloads from clients to keep track of everything.
  5. When work kept piling up
  6. When I started delaying work distribution
  7. When I met the Financial Cents Team at QB Connect
  8. Hearing from other CPA’s that have done it and the difference it made!
  9. Spending too much time trying to motivate clients for information and too much time spent trying to figure out what needed done put me over the edge!
  10. Losing a handle on where in the process each client is
  11. When client is not following through on getting stuff in
  12. There was more work than I could manage in my head.
  13. When I realized how stressed and burnt out I was because of poor work life balance.
  14. I kept forgetting to follow up with clients.
  15. Missed client deadlines
  16. Errors
  17. WorkflowCon 2023
  18. When they sent documents through text message
  19. When I was a client and my auditors did everything by email and on excel worksheets as checklists – HORRIBLE organization, and I wasn’t going to put my clients through that
  20. When I fell way behind on my work
  21. Once I hired someone, I needed the processes and workflows in place
  22. When we didn’t have enough staff to review client files before we prepared their tax returns two seasons ago.
  23. Wanting to work smarter not harder
  24. Spending too much time on admin work and not productive work
  25. Missed a key component of a tax plan.
  26. “No real defining moment other than OMG I’m overwhelmed and cannot be in the business – I need to Run the business. With workflows, I can run the business and still be in the business where I am needed and when it makes sense.”
  27. When I realized that everything could no longer be housed in my brain and I needed to know that others could replicate my processes without needing me to tell them what to do.
  28. As the firm grew, we knew we needed to automate our firm’s contact lists and jobs we do for clients
  29. I realized we are calling our revenue if we don’t get this running more efficiently.
  30. Daily stress
  31. When our spreadsheets got out of hand during COVID.
  32. Having more than a few clients
  33. When we lost client revenue which resulted in less employee compensation.
  34. When I kept getting asked where everything stood and where in the process everyone was
  35. To get to the next level, automation was a must.
  36. When our work flow process was not getting better after implementing a new process several, different times.
  37. I hated tracking my time in a google sheet!
  38. Planning a big vacation and needed to delegate my work to others
  39. Realizing that every team member was doing the work a little differently. Training was like a game of telephone and firm wide consistency was being lost.
  40. There was no specific moment.  I always knew we needed it, however, what was the correct tool? That was the toughest process.
  41. When I saw what Financials Cents (FC) could do and the plans it had for the future, I knew we needed to get our act together by purchasing FC. We had to create concrete processes that would automate themselves and easily identify who was responsible for each task in a process. I had hope for growth again.
  42. Being stressed out as I gained new clients and not having enough time for
  43. I came from Corporate America where we used a multi million software to manage workflow.
  44. When we had to cover large amounts of filing penalties for us not keeping on top of files.
  45. When I felt disorganized mid-month, still trying to collect records from some clients, trying to work on regular service work for other clients, and also doing one-off projects for two new clients
  46. When we constantly had to request clients for paperwork
  47. When I worked for a firm that still used paper files and looked for files all day
  48. When we kept having issues with training and people not knowing who is taking what. It was horrible.
  49. Due to staff turnover, we were losing things in the mix.
  50. Seemed I was the only one looking at what needed to be done
  51. Our staff! We needed it and we know it and they confirmed it by the ask’s
  52. Lack of visibility & missed deadlines
  53. With client growth, there was too much to keep up with.
  54. The defining moment for automating workflows usually comes when a business or individual recognizes a repetitive and time-consuming task that can be streamlined for efficiency
  55. Workload became too much and I spent a lot of time emailing clients for information.
  56. Too many different spreadsheets and things getting missed when spreadsheets were created
  57. I could not add any more hours to my day and I know something needed to change
  58. Not having qualified staff in place and needing to prioritize what staff members are working on (hands-on). Removing tasks that could be automated.
  59. I attempted to build good workflows in Asana before taking my first client, however, it wasn’t the correct software to automate anything, just kept me on task. As soon as I saw what Financial Cents could do, I was sold because I didn’t want to keep repeating the same tasks each month (reminding clients etc.)
  60. No longer able to name all clients and their respective compliance deadlines
  61. Reached too many clients to keep track of on a notepad
  62. Lack of balance
  63. When I completely forgot about a job a client hired me to do since I didn’t have a proper task listing. The client wasn’t angry, but I did give them a discount.
  64. Slow closing processes
  65. The first time I broke down in tears and started screaming at 1 past midnight on whichever tax deadline that was.
  66. Work overload
  67. New staff member. More clients made me realize that streamlining workflow was becoming more necessary.
  68. Insomnia, stress, smaller clients leaving
  69. Tired of feeling responsible for missing deadlines because I “failed to remind clients about documents”.
  70. Poor work life balance
  71. Like a Christmas miracle, when all seemed lost in the darkness of chaos…automation was the gift our firm needed to streamline workflows and bring joy (and free time) back into our lives.
  72. Not knowing what work was needed.  Not knowing status of the work and information needed
  73. Too many sleepless nights to get stuff done
  74. I would spend 2-3 hours on a sunday writing an email of who was doing what – too much time delegating. Then we doubled out client size and that was not sustainable.
  75. As the manual process was very slow then the need for automation arose
  76. When I saw I didn’t have enough time to accept new clients I needed to get to be a profitable-enough firm.
  77. I’ve partnered with legal practice management cloud based providers
  78. When I started missing deadlines and felt overwhelmed and disorganized.
  79. I am always working
  80. Manually moving people around every morning!
  81. Never enough time to get stuff done.
  82. Emails became inefficient and overwhelming resulting in lost or forgotten tasks/items
  83. Gradual recognition, not a single defining moment
  84. Too much time spent on admin side of things and wanted to free some time for the owners to work on the growth of the business and not just work in the business.
  85. spending too much time finding the same things over and over again
  86. Onboarding new clients is not consistent among all clients (it varies by client); so every client has a different experience. Also, workflows/processes are not documented in one place.
  87. I was fired by a client because they didn’t receive their monthly financial report. I explained to them that I did not receive any monthly bank, credit card and loan statements. They acknowledged that they didn’t meet their obligations but I was still fired. At that point I knew I needed something to help with automating document retrieval from clients and something that could send email reminders to clients to send documents.
  88. Larger number of clients with the same number of staff
  89. When I was no longer thriving in choas
  90. I always knew it, however the possibilities I learned from workflowcon sealed the deal!
  91. I started my own business and knew this was important to me to get right because
  92. I knew I wanted to grow and expand but the way I was doing things, I became a huge bottle neck in the growth of the firm and was working well over 9 hrs per day.
  93. Couldn’t scale
  94. When I had to be involved in every step of onboarding a client, and having to oversee all client communication at all times.
  95. When communication was missed and colleagues started butting heads
  96. We had a whole lot of returns to complete before the extended deadline. We worked every day until the deadline (including weekends) to have them all completed.
  97. When we lost an employee and didn’t know where her assignment list stood.  We had a difficult time reassigning her work as we didn’t have enough employees and didn’t know the bandwidth of the employees we had.
  98. Documents were sent via too many places, email, text, portal, etc.
  99. When staff was complaining there were too many places to look for information and they didnt know which client to work on first.
  100. When my firm grow and I hired my first employee
  101. When we exceeded 75 clients
  102. Spent too much time on admin stuff
  103. All the scraps of paper and notes on my desk.
  104. Clients not submitting their information timely
  105. Headaches
  106. When I was ready to review the client’s work but was still chasing bank statements because the client had not been asked for them.
  107. Missing deadlines repeatedly.
  108. When I realized that I was spending most of my week chasing clients, then spending nights and weekends doing the work!
  109. All my work was helter-skelter. I was trying to enjoy time with family, and vacation and was worrying about what needed to be done for clients.
  110. Managing retainers was arduous and time consuming. Hiring staff, having to train them and provide detailed step-by-step instructions as well as all info about the client and the work we do for them, whether project or ongoing.
  111. We hired someone to help as we were all overburdened, but in trying to hand off work and explaining processes, we realized how bad it was and that we needed to tweak the system. We immediately shopped for a new system, delayed the new hire 3-5 months, and hire a junior bookkeeper now instead of a senior level.
  112. When business partner died
  113. Revenue
  114. Needing to establish a Hybrid work environment.
  115. I knew I could recover lost time, and therefore lost revenue.
  116. We knew we needed automation when managing the work started taking more time than completing it.
  117. Unable to keep up with time spent on client’s work. Missing out on revenue
  118. Realizing that spreadsheets were not the answer to know what is going on
  119. When I tracked my hours and realized how much time was being wasted that could be automated
  120. Besides wanting to have good visibility of all projects, we wanted to take our firm paperless and throughout the USA.
  121. When we didn’t know how utilized a team member was. It made the sales process difficult because we didn’t know when to bring on new clients.
  122. When I saw I needed more clients but did not have the time to take on more
  123. When I couldn’t answer a clients question of what stage their work was in.
  124. The feeling of absolute OVERWHELM!
  125. When a client called the main office to check the status of a project and admin had to call three people to find out.
  126. Crush of work near tax deadlines.
  127. Constant stress and paralysis when you sit down and have no idea what to work on, but you know there are a million things to do.
  128. Too many emails, and becoming a bottleneck between staff and clients
  129. When the time difference between first contact, first meeting, employee assignment, and actually starting any work became drastic. It bogged down existing clients and even after some people (staff & clients) left, it was not manageable
  130. Watching videos and webinars of others who have done it
  131. Feeling overwhelmed
  132. Missing tax deadlines and having too much work remaining until due date
  133. Frustration with process
  134. When my client base grew to over 30 clients
  135. I lost 25% of my business this year because I don’t feel that we were fully delivering on commitments.  It was so hard to see good clients go, based on our lack of “easy to do business with”.
  136. I knew we needed to automate workflows when there was no way to take on the new client. Hiring was not an option.
  137. Too many hours managing client workload and data. I literally had NO time for anything else.
  138. I wanted to keep a small workforce.
  139. When I was getting, “I don’t know what more information I need to provide,” type questions and couldn’t keep up with answering them because the work and process to look that up for each of 100 some odd clients was more than one person could do.
  140. When I kept having to repeat processes over and over; knowing I want to be 100% paperless, I knew automating workflows was a huge part of this.
  141. The turning point was when we found ourselves unaware of how our accountants and bookkeepers were handling client work. We lacked visibility into the progress and were unable to provide clients with updates. Clients would inquire, and we struggled to answer because the process was unclear. Additionally, the challenge extended to obtaining necessary documents from clients, who often sent them late or not at all. Documents were scattered across emails, making it difficult to track and manage effectively. This highlighted the urgent need for workflow automation to streamline our processes, enhance communication, and gain better control over our operations. We started using Financial Cents app and things have changed drastically.
  142. I realized that I would not be able to grow that way because I would be the bottleneck of the business
  143. Client work has become more complex and we must meet their needs.
  144. My firm grew, both in clients and in staff, so we needed something better than Excel to keep track of all deadlines
  145. I spent too much time working in my business instead of on my business.
  146. My processes were only in my head, and my team did not know how I wanted things done.
  147. Retirement of long-time bookkeeper
  148. Constantly flustered and forgetting deliverables
  149. Pulling my hair out and constantly being on edge about deadlines
  150. Constantly doing manual, repetitive tasks
  151. Knowing that I want to scale the business and have a life!
  152. As a Founder, I was bogged down in the details too much
  153. Architecting for scalability and pressures to move from tactical bookkeeping to more advisory services.

A case for workflow automation (or not)

Better workflow management begins with a mind shift because it involves a fundamental change in perspective and approach. Traditional workflows may be rigid and linear, but a modern and efficient workflow requires individuals to embrace flexibility, collaboration, and adaptability. Shifting the mindset towards continuous improvement, embracing technology, and fostering a culture of innovation allows for the development of workflows that are dynamic, responsive, and ultimately more productive. This change in thinking enables organizations to streamline processes, identify bottlenecks, and enhance overall efficiency in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape."

Dawn Brolin CPA, CFE President, Powerful Accounting Inc.

30.4% of spreadsheets users say they don’t use workflow automation software because of ‘app overwhelm’

App overwhelm is a thing. Just do a Google search of apps for anything and several options will be presented to you with convincing details, fascinating reviews, and unique features. What we’ve seen work for most firms is talking to their peers and getting honest feedback about the apps they’re interested in. This can include asking on online communities or requesting a virtual coffee chat with a peer to go over app features and performance.

Equal split between those who think workflow automation is possible with software and those who don’t

What about you? Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below.

What spreadsheets users wish workflow automation software would do for them

  • Increase number of clients
  • Improve processes
  • Create easy to follow workflow that will create efficiency and consistency
  • streamline processes
  • Make things run smoother with less input dedicated to admin work.
  • Work smarter
  • Allow us to see what has and hasn’t been done, where help is needed, etc.
  • create a more seamless process, and keep better track of client work/updates
  • Efficiency and consistency
  • Speed up data entry, ensure receiving complete data ‌getting answers from clients faster.
  • Set up reminders of who has something coming up or if we need to contact a client because we are missing something.
  • Have more time to work on finding better clients.
  • Transparency of status and priorities. Easy to update so firm owner and staff can stay focussed on client work and capacity/ helping each other to deliver rather than just updating the admin.
  • Reduce time spent on admin tasks
  • Keep us (me!) on target with deadlines/commitments
  • To make things more organized and up-to-date
  • Improve time management, communication internally and with our clients
  • Auto upload source documents and organize client file
  • Delegation
  • Allow me to increase my revenues by getting more clients due to time efficiencies gained
  • Keep me on track with tasks and automating client reminders, collecting documents and info needed
  • Help me manage the workflow and keep on top of the status of projects.
  • Track deadlines
  • Streamline onboarding and task management
  • Streamline, organize/collect data securely, relieve my stress
  • Create consistency
  • Streamline processes for improved status communication internally.
  • Provide standards and consistency
  • Take over a lot of the administrative things
  • Help manage work. Knowing it is done.
  • Help to organize processes and alleviate the stress of forgetting/dropping information
  • Save time
  • Make sure deadlines aren’t missed.
  • Save us time and make us more efficient
  • Be able to take on more clients

I had been using Asana for my workflows but it was not as functional as I wanted. When I saw Financial Cents, I tested it for a few days then jumped all in. It solved many issues I had with Asana (emails were captured, effective hourly rate report was so helpful, seeing tasks/projects deadlines easier etc)."

Anonymous survey respondent

Case study

How Financial Cents Helps Harvey and Simons CPAs Organize Their “Multiple Irons in The Fire”

Firm Name: Harvey and Simons, CPAs LLC

Firm Type: Payroll, tax, financial planning, and QuickBooks services.

Staff members: 12

Year founded: 2011

FC Start date: 2021

Location: Artesia & Carlsbad, New Mexico

We wanted a tool that could help us manage our workflows and distributed teams and not have stuff fall through the cracks. And we found that Financial Cents meets a lot of those criteria. We like it. I've got buy-in from the staff."

Chris Simons, Partner, Harvey & Simons CPAs, LLC
Chris wanted to ensure organization, visibility, and accountability in the firm, but struggled with disorganized workflows because as the team grew, it became too confusing for staff members to understand what was most urgent amidst the several tasks and projects they were involved in. They also struggled with knowing where clients would send requested documents. Some were fond of sending documents to staff members’ emails.

Chris was determined to find a tool that would enable the team to communicate and collaborate better while helping him get visibility.

Financial Cents gives Chris’s team the needed clarity of roles and deadlines through workflow visibility and the ability to organize work information in one central place. It allows each team member to view their dashboard to see what’s most urgent at any time.

Chris said,

“I can now see at a high level what’s not getting done so I can put it in, and not forget it. I also like the idea of the client chat. For one, it helps to centralize where client information is instead of being spread out in emails and phone calls. We’ve had clients respond or send us a chat about certain things. And I like that idea.”

Post-workflow automation

It's easy to point to data entry, transactional activities, and AR/AP as the first items to think about when exploring automation for your accounting services firm. While those items are critical pieces of an accounting workflow, I would recommend exploring how your team communicates as a primary focal point for automation. Automating communication friction in areas like - client requests, client reminders, client updates, and internal team updates can yield a far greater impact than most realize!"

Roman Villard, CEO, Full Send Finance

Since implementing workflow automation software,

34.8% now spend an average of 0-1 hour scheduling and assigning work per week

33.5% now spend 0-1 hour reviewing and updating the status of work each week

A great workflow automation software will significantly cut the time you spend on manual, repetitive tasks through features like recurring work, a dashboard that shows you the status of work in one view, automatic project hand off, task dependencies, among others.

55.2% say automation made their onboarding process smoother for sure

With automation software providing you with the opportunity to automate the whole onboarding process from start to finish, it’s easy to see why firms experience smoother onboarding post-workflow automation.

32.9% say automation has made their firm very collaborative

Picture this: 

Pre-workflow automation, your team is working in and out of different spreadsheets and missing important client updates, making managing your workflow feel cumbersome and inefficient.

Post-workflow automation, your team can see all client updates and notes, discuss tasks, ask questions, share files, and get notified within their workflows without having to check their emails.


45.5% say receiving documents from clients became fast since implementing workflow automation

With good workflow automation software providing auto reminders and follow up so you never have to chase down clients again, combine that with easy-to-use client portals, it’s only normal that clients would respond faster.

So far, we are receiving documents much faster in Financial Cents."

Anonymous survey respondent

27.6% of respondents say the biggest impact of workflow automation on their firm is helping them implement standardized systems and processes

Firms that implement workflow automation software report better and consistent work quality across the firm, alongside reduced errors on client deliverables.

Deal breaker workflow automation features

66.1% say recurring projects was the major feature they looked out for before buying workflow automation software

Recurring projects in workflow automation software significantly cuts down time spent on scheduling work. Firm owners and administrators can set up recurring work on both ongoing and project-type deliverables so they can focus on getting work done with clarity and ease. It’s therefore no surprise that it’s the number one feature firms look out for in workflow automation software.

Other important features include a workflow dashboard that gives great visibility into the status of work, automatic client tasks and reminders, easy-to-use client portal, and streamlined communication and collaboration.

The litmus test for success

66.8% measure the effectiveness of workflow automation through smoothly operating systems and processes

Firm owners and administrators are convinced that workflow automation is working for their firms when systems and processes run smoothly. Nothing feels like a bottleneck, everyone is on the same page, there’s peace, and work gets done as at when due.

AI will continue to enhance the tools we use, but will most notably drive personal productivity. A more personal approach to AI means having an assistant on standby to tackle those fiddly issues that our software platforms won't solve for. Embracing a culture of curiosity, and resisting the urge to designate "AI experts" will ensure AI adoption isn't piecemeal, and is instead acknowledged as a new paradigm of work that we're all leaning into together. "

Jason Staats, CPA, Realize

Introducing Financial Cents

Financial Cents is a workflow management software that has all the features you need to get work done in a simple user interface that your team will love and find easy to use.

Whether you’re just beginning to document your processes or have been doing it for a long time, our workflow checklist templates that are both editable and customizable will get you up and running in no time.

Track & assign work, set up recurring tasks, store client information, automate client data collection, and more with Financial Cents.


Like the data shows, 45.5% of those who implemented a workflow automation system get documents from clients faster, 32.9% of them now have very collaborative firms, 55.2% of them have smoother onboarding workflows, 34.8% of them spend less than an hour on admin tasks.

The sweet spot like we also saw in the data is having documented systems and processes then using a workflow automation software to implement and automate them.

— — —

A big shout out to everyone who responded to our survey and thank you for reading this year’s State of Accounting Workflow Automation Report.

View last year’s report below to compare the results:

2023 State of Accounting Workflow Automation Report

You are welcome to share and republish the stats on this page with proper credit to Financial Cents. This data was collected between November 9th, 2023, and January 18th, 2024.

Study methodology

This report was developed ethically and scientifically.

We drafted the survey questions with a focus on uncovering workflow challenges in firms. The questions were previously reviewed by a certified bookkeeper. We sent the link to the survey out to our email list of accounting, bookkeeping, CPA, and tax firm owners, including users and non-users of Financial Cents.

514 people started the survey, and 367 people completed it, for an overall response rate of 71.4% completion rate.