By Andrew Filev, founder and CEO, Wrike
Companies are turning to the expertise of professional services providers more than ever before. According to the Professional Services Market Global Report, the professional services industry is forecasted to grow by 5.4% by 2020, reaching almost $5 trillion. Of course, any news reporting growth is welcome, but it does inherently mean there will be new challenges in execution for firms.
At Wrike, we wanted to get an idea of the challenges that teams in the Professional Services industry are already facing, to understand how this growth might impact teams on the ground. Our report “From Process to Automation: The Professional Services Work Management Benchmark Report” surveyed accounts and other professional services workers, and revealed that many are already struggling to deliver projects on time, juggle their clients, and keep projects within budget.
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. By looking at the challenges accountants are facing at the moment, we can assess how processes can be tightened in preparation for the impending growth.
Let’s take a look at the tasks that are slowing accountants down.
Time consuming admin is taking over
According to our research, accountants cite having too many projects and/or clients to manage effectively (32%) and managing different clients’ processes (30%) as their most prominent work challenges. And these tasks take a long time – the majority (60%) report working more than eight hours a day, two to three times every week.
The amount of admin they do might be contributing to their long working days. Just over a third (36%) said that they spend two to three hours sending project update emails, generating status reports, or having status update meetings each week and a third (33%) spend the same amount of time tracking billing hours every week. Nearly a quarter (23%) said that automating administrative and/or repeatable tasks like status update notifications, project creation, and task assignment would have the most significant impact on their team.
When you consider that these tasks could be automated, you start to wonder why so many are having to waste so much time doing it. And our respondents agree – over a quarter (28%) say they could do double the amount of work every week if technology could automate the repetitive, administrative parts of their job.
Having to spend so much time on these manual tasks is likely contributing to projects going over deadline. This is a big problem when you consider that nearly a third (29%) cited going over budget or deadline as causing the most churn and frustration among clients. Over a quarter of respondents (28%) said keeping projects on track and hitting deadlines was their biggest struggle and over two-fifths (41%) said most projects completed within the last year went over budget and/or past schedule.
Of course, there are some reasons for missing deadlines that are beyond an accountant’s control. Eighteen percent of accountants cited waiting for client feedback, 19% cited last-minute changes to requirements, and 15% unclear expectations from clients. Even so, these problems could be mitigated by having clearer lines of communication right from the beginning of a project kicking off.
Creating clear lines of communication to keep projects on track
Professional services companies are bogged down manually tracking and billing time — and they don’t always get paid for those hours, either. Automating these tasks saves professional services reps significant time better spent building client relationships. Intuitive time management capabilities increases profit margins because clients are much happier when they understand how they’re being billed and can correlate time spent to value added. Automation also helps streamline task creation, work assignment, project notifications, reporting, and more, moving processes along and freeing professional services agents to focus on more meaningful work.
Other easy-to-implement, work management best practices to incorporate into your project workflow include:
- Use checklists to organise work. Checklists are tried and tested. They help to organise every stage of the project that needs to be considered before you get started and can be used time and again.
- Meet with your clients at the beginning of the project. Meet with your client before you start working to make sure you’re on the same page.
- Be specific. Try to allocate specific tasks to particular people with timeframes.
- Break projects down. Most overriding larger tasks can be broken down into tasks and subtasks.
- Track projects in a shared timeline or calendar. Plotting tasks in a calendar helps when prioritising, assigning and scheduling tasks.
Tightening up working processes doesn’t just make your working life easier – it also benefits your clients. Completing client projects on time and with a high standard of excellence is critical to customer retention and your firm’s reputation. By improving your processes for work management and execution, you can keep your clients happy by delivering work on time and to the highest standard.