Originally published in CPA Practice Advisor on November 2, 2020.
Now that the initial shock of the coronavirus pandemic is subsiding, organizations have a much better understanding of remote work’s benefits, shortcomings, and what their teams genuinely need to maintain productivity without sacrificing service to their clients. Many popular tools may keep staff connected but don’t understand the needs of specialized industries like accounting and finance. The accounting profession, where some clients prefer in-person meetings and physical documents, has realized that they also need secure client-facing solutions to communicate and receive sensitive documents securely.
This past year, industries worldwide have been tested on their versatility and agility in responding to unexpected circumstances remotely. While the world stopped, professional service industries drudged forward to meet crucial deadlines that, in turn, provided much-needed aid to clients facing new struggles.
As firms were forced to move daily operations to a remote setting, they quickly adopted well-known services and task management tools like Slack, Zoom, Worklayer, and Asana. As the only lifeline for groups to collaborate, these software services experienced unprecedented growth rates. However, most fall short in providing a cohesive platform for specialized industries that require a solution to not only collaborate internally and manage projects, they also need the ability to interact with their clients.
Fad to Favorite
The concept of online project management and communication services have been around for years. Companies like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Monday.com, and countless others were once considered niche products and brushed off by many as a Silicon Valley fad. These companies strategically built their platforms with a one-size-fits-all mentality in order to expand their user base, establish legitimacy, and raise capital.
Feature-packed but unfocused, users were offered little guidance and were left to figure out how to make these platforms work for their company. These tools, cluttered with unnecessary components, added stress as management teams were forced to modify their workflows and find workarounds to fit the features of a “one-size fits all” environment. With so many features and capabilities, workers lost precious time learning the products and all their features to find what could work best for their teams.
Managers have started to reject these one-size fits all platforms and are eagerly searching for platforms that better suit their industry-specific needs.
Knowing The Industry
There is no substitute for first-hand knowledge when understanding how specialized industries operate. When developing industry-specific software, users come before the features. Generic software often gets cluttered with superfluous features because developers don’t want to limit how users will use their programs. As a result, specialized needs, processes, and standards get overlooked.
Industry-specific workflow platforms can alleviate this added workload for managers and simplify a process altogether. By removing novelty features and replacing them with industry-specific features which allow for a more functional user experience without the fluff.
A critical factor in deciding what software to use is determining how well the software in question will facilitate record keeping for completed and ongoing work in your company. An essential component at all business levels, especially the managerial level, is having an accurate (and easily accessible) log of transaction details, communication transcripts, and client information that ultimately help to create analytics dashboards that allow all levels of the organization to see the KPIs that matter to them most.
With the advent of the recent pandemic, this need has become much more apparent, with detailed information becoming critical for decision making. As we move away from the in-person check-ins and chatting common in the office workspace, companies need to ensure that information that previously came from a quick conversation at the office is still being conveyed just as easily (if not more so) in a remote setting without interfering with employees’ time and productivity.
New software companies are racing to demonstrate that they can effectively provide this type of service, establishing a precedent for others entering the market.
The traditional view of record-keeping moves away from a passive task, completed after the “work” is done, to a real-time feature for routing and managerial software. As work is completed through the unified management platform, data for the different components of the task (documents exchanged, financial transactions, approvals, milestones, etc.) is automatically saved in the system for easy access, clear visuals, and useful analytics. As has been the case for most successful digital ventures, information, and the way it is managed are key.
With so many tools that can help your firm be as productive as possible, it is essential to know what features to look for when moving towards an industry-specific workflow platform. However, as we move into 2021, professional service firms will drive great demand for workflow management platforms created with their unique needs in mind. These key points can be critical to a firm’s expansion over the next fiscal year.
As companies continue to integrate these platforms, more case studies will arise, leading to better software innovations for data organization and gathering. Workflow management platforms are increasingly becoming faster at compartmentalizing imputed information, creating automated reports and statuses on open projects quicker than any person or team could have in the past. While interest in this technology has increased due to these challenging times, I believe that even after the pandemic is over, these platforms’ efficiencies and the results driven by them will continue to unify a growing number of markets.
Richard Laviña is the CEO and co-founder of consumer, small business, and enterprise SaaS accounting-tech company Taxfyle. Prior to founding Taxfyle in 2015, Richard worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers as an auditor. While working at PwC, he obtained his Master of Accounting and was inspired to start Taxfyle, having witnessed firsthand and learned about the systemic inefficiencies of the accounting industry. Since then, Ricky and his team have transformed Taxfyle from an idea to a venture-backed company that serves tens of thousands of taxpayers each year, hundreds of CPA firms around the country, and counts a Big Four accounting firm and international accounting corporations among its enterprise clientele.”