Often, we get the chance to interview colleagues and influencers in the accounting space. Seldom, though, do we find an interviewee who serves up quite as much in the way of 'salient takeaways' as Laura Redmond from Aero Workflow (a product of Cloud Consultancy). Aero Workflow is a company that is helping accountancies streamline workflows across the board. Laura is also Principal at Redmond Accounting, giving all the more weight to her words for those in the industry.
The advice found in Laura's responses is the kind that finds a home in any firm. Since this interview needed little in the way of editorial, let's likewise dispense with this introduction and get right to what Laura had to say.
Could you talk about optimizing staff output? How does Aero Workflow help accomplish this?
To optimize staff output, give staff everything they need to perform their work efficiently, effectively, and consistently. Remove yourself as a bottleneck.
1. Give staff a list of tasks expected of them, ranked by priority, so that they know what they need to do even when you are unavailable.
2. Provide resources at staff’s fingertips, such as web links to apps and usernames & passwords.
3. Provide step-by-step checklists for each task at hand
4. Provide easy access to procedure guides for full explanations with print-screens
5. Make sure any client information needed to perform work is easily available in a secure, central location
Aero is a web-based app that staff access from any computer or smart phone browser. Staff work from their list of assigned work. Each assignment provides a checklist of steps, web links to apps and procedure guides, and client information, such as passwords, tax ID #’s, capitalization threshold, contacts, other scheduled work for this client, etc.
What's the biggest encumbrance to employee efficiency in business today?
When the work is not well-defined, staff may waste time trying to find their way or performing work that is out of scope of the agreement. When necessary resources are not provided, staff may need to stop work to contact you or another, to find out a password, or some other information. When staff can not access the central log of communication and activity between your firm and the client, staff may replicate already-performed work or spin their wheels trying to provide a team effort from a silo.
What's the single biggest factor that can help a group of employees become more efficient?
Taking advantage of your firm’s knowledge capital is the single biggest factor in making staff efficient. It is the responsibility of the firms to define their services - what they are selling and exactly how they will perform this work. This is their knowledge capital, their secret sauce. The firm will use this knowledge capital to create revenue. Once this is defined, you can assign this work to clients and staff. When the knowledge capital is defined and organized in a workflow management app like Aero, you can watch your firm at work and make adjustments and improvements, as needed.
Talking about streamlining workflows and automating employee efficiencies can be misconstrued as sounding somewhat "clinical." Could you talk about it in terms of the human element? In your experience, what do employees think about the implementation of Aero Workflow? How does their role change?
Staff is one of a firm’s greatest assets. Firms need to manage staff availability and labor costs, but also acknowledge that it is the responsibility of the firm to provide staff with clear work assignments. Staff are trained, intelligent people that want to do great work. They are often certified or experienced in the type of work you hired them for. Staff don’t want to be micro-managed and constant supervision is difficult when you have staff working remotely. You can’t always look over at their desk and watch them. Plus, you don’t want to interrupt them all day, because that will slow them down. Aero Workflow gives staff the information they need to work autonomously. This is a powerful effect that allows staff to take ownership of their work and makes for a happier workforce.
How do you manage the workflow in your practice? Could you stand to profit by implementing some of Laura's suggestions? We'd love to hear from you in the comment space below.