You’re probably under a lot of pressure to get things done! Your business needs accurate information and optimized cash flow, but it’s a lot of work. And while automation can help, the reality is some work can’t be automated such as inquiries, reconciliation, and disputes to name a few. We wanted to understand what’s the best way to manage these requests, so we interviewed and surveyed a lot of people like you and learned a bunch. Bottom line, everyone has a process to tame their accounting inbox, but some teams have an insider’s secret that makes their process more productive than others.
Here’s the secret: the most productive teams use a workflow approach similar to Getting Things Done. Developed by David Allen, Getting Things Done is a method for organizing to-dos, priorities, and schedule. As opposed to having one long list of to-dos, a core principle of Getting Things Done is to organize work into actionable buckets. It forces you to decide what’s actionable and what’s not so that you can focus on exactly what to do next. It’s the difference between a highly productive process and a status-quo process. (NOTE: More information on Getting Things Done)
Using the Getting Things Done approach, a typical accounting team has five types of buckets for managing work:
- Actionable Now. This is the bucket of work that will be completed today. It requires that every work item in the bucket has a clear owner who can take action to either resolve it or move it to another bucket.
- Waiting for Response. There’s a lot of situations where a work item can’t be resolved without additional information from vendors, customers, and other departments. This bucket is the place where these items sit while waiting for a response, but it’s important for everyone to know who is being waited on and for how long.
- Waiting for Approval. Similar to waiting-for-response, the waiting-for-approval bucket gives one place to track approvals and aging of approvals. Importantly, this bucket also makes it clear to the business how timely or delayed approvals impact closing of the books and cash flow.
- Scheduled for the Future. There’s also situations when a work item requires follow-up confirmation or needs to be resolved in the next accounting cycle. This bucket tracks when to put them back into the actionable-now bucket. Review of this bucket is an important part of daily planning.
- Archived. Once the work is done, the item and all associated content is placed into an archive so they can be retrieved in the future for audit or other purposes.
While the above process doesn’t sound hard, it is actually hard if you’re using Outlook or Gmail. Implementing Getting Things Done means making folders and lots of subfolders for each of the steps in the workflow and then moving emails between them. When you have to manually sort up to 100 emails every day, lots of mistakes are going to be made. Whether it’s late payment, overdue collections, or missed entries, it means lots of headaches for you and your team.
If your current process doesn’t clearly differentiate between what’s actionable and what’s not, implement changes that embraces the Getting Things Done strategy. It will boost your team’s productivity. If you’d like a copy of Getting Things Done, register here and we’ll send it to you.
If you’re running your process through Outlook or Gmail, you should evaluate better tools. It will make your job easier and your team much happier not to mention more productive. Lockstep is a solution that can quickly boost your accounting cycle efficiency. Learn more about Lockstep here.