Business people process and workflow automation with flowchart. Business Analytics Workflow Process Project and Research Concept
Business automation

Do this one step before automating workflows in your firm

With the ever-evolving push in accounting firms to increase efficiency and scalability, automation has come front and center. As with most innovative technology, there is always the initial excitement around going all-in on experimentation to dive head first into a new tool or software. While we’ve all spent countless hours in this exploratory phase, don’t lose sight of why you are bringing something new into your firm.

After years of going through this cycle, it’s critically important to have a clear “why” in your experimentation process. There may be multiple reasons why you are looking to leverage automation in your firm. Maybe you want to streamline the accounting close processes or get better data on how your team spends its time. Maybe you just enjoy experimenting with new technology. There is no right answer across the board, and whatever your motivation, the most crucial step to success is to have that open conversation with yourself and your team.

If your “why” is for your own personal enjoyment in exploring new technologies, this conversation changes quite a bit. But for those who are exploring automation to scale or transform your business, I have one piece of advice: Do not build a single automation before you process map your firm.

This surely sounds a bit less exciting than the allure of jumping straight into building an automation. However, I can nearly guarantee your automation success rate will be 10x greater than if it were built without any process mapping beforehand.

What is process mapping?

Process mapping is the exercise in which you, your team, and/or an outside party document the exact process you are looking to automate—usually in a visual format. It outlines in order the specific steps of the process, including which people, apps, or documents are used. Here’s an example of what we use at GrowthLab.

Customer success processes example frame

What you’re doing is expanding past the traditional high-level approach of X does this, then Y does that. Process mapping should go deep into who touches what, when, and with what output. Spend time diving into the systems. What existing automations do you have in place? Perhaps your project management tool automatically sets up a piece of work for you when a new client signs on. That's awesome! Now make sure this automation is included on your map.

Why process map first?

I am sure you are reading this thinking to yourself, “Why would I do this; I already know my processes.” You’re absolutely right! You do know your processes … through habit. However, the exercise of documenting it and outlining each step will serve as a blueprint, offering a clear overview of the workflow in granular detail. The process map ends up illustrating how data and information flow through the workflow, highlighting potential bottlenecks, redundancies, and inefficiencies. It is only with a clearly defined process that you can understand the true depth of any desired automation.

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It is only with a clearly defined process that you can understand the true depth of any desired automation.

For example, perhaps you want to automate your onboarding process. This is one of the most important steps for accounting firms because it sets the stage for the success of your new clients and team. While building an automation to set up your project management system after a signed engagement agreement may sound like the clear development route, your process mapping may identify that the project management system should not be set up until later in the workflow due to data constraints.

The point here is that sometimes jumping to the solution causes you to lose sight of nuances in your team’s specific workflow.

Once you have built your process map, you’re  ready to begin developing your next automation. Doing this allows you to understand the true end goal of your automation. When  you start with the automation before understanding the process, you’ll go down rabbit holes and end up with an automation that may not fully fit into your team’s workflow.

Automate your processes for workflow success

Process mapping is the cornerstone of successful automation. It serves as a guiding light, illuminating inefficiencies and setting the stage for streamlined, error-free, and scalable processes. By thoroughly understanding your workflows, you can make informed decisions about where to apply automation for the greatest impact to your scaling, successful firm.

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