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5 workflow capacity planning tips every business needs to know

In our recent blog, we discussed how workflow management is critical to the growth of any business and is directly related to the quality of the work that you can deliver.Workflow management has enabled us at One 8 Solutions to leverage technology and develop processes for repetitive and automated tasks, as well as bundle services, so that we can focus on becoming more of a trusted business advisor, widely known as an advisory accountant.

Through workflow and process management—and by being aware and engaged in our clients’ business needs at a holistic level—we have been able to improve our accounting and bookkeeping services, provide meaningful numbers and timely decision making tools, and provide or connect our clients with the ancillary support services that not only help our clients run their businesses more efficiently, but also support their own business development and growth goals.

Now let’s talk about capacity planning. If workflow and process management is the cake, capacity planning is the icing on top. Capacity planning is what allows a business to predict, plan for, and manage staffing and development needs to support growth.

Here are 5 workflow capacity tips to increase productivity.

1. Planning for capacity is key to growth

It’s like the adage, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Planning is essential for continued growth and success. Firms that have successfully implemented workflow management are in a much better position to predict and plan for capacity, and it’s a key to you and your staff to be able to become, or to maintain yourself as, a trusted advisory accountant firm.

To get us started, the list of questions below will help give you some insight into your current business capacity:

  • Are you able to meet the needs of your current clients?
  • Do you have the necessary staff trained and in place to onboard new clients?
  • Do you have enough internal capacity right now to fill immediate new engagements or increase in current client services?
  • Where do you need additional staff or training to support the desired growth of your firm?

2. Assess the need to hire additional staff and support

I purposely kept a lean number of employees and vendor partners for several years so we could run as efficiently as possible, while meeting our business goals. However, as my firm grew, this also became a pain point for me as we struggled to handle tight deadlines, onboard new clients, implement marketing initiatives, and much more. It became clear that we needed to spend money now to maximize our future business goals.

Firm of the Future offers a great article that explores this value proposition in greater detail. It’s also important to remember that not every team member will bring the same strengths to the table. Matching your employees to your clients takes thoughtful and purposeful planning. Employee development and retention does as well.

By leveraging your team members’ strengths while improving their weaknesses, you can plan for employee success, as well as for their growth and development.

3. Understand your ideal staff/client/vendor qualifications

Every employee is not right for every firm. Neither is every client. It’s important for you and your team to understand what makes for a good fit for you. Four things to consider are:

  • Define what your business strengths are and what the criteria is for an ideal client, vendor, or employee.
  • Identify a list of questions that will help you ascertain the right fit, and assign a value to each question based on priority to make the selection process easier.
  • Plan your growth. Are you a niche provider, or do you have the knowledge and skill base to support a wide variety of clients? Being a trusted advisory accountant firm means having the ability to understand your client’s business and speak to its needs beyond accounting.
  • Identify your skill and knowledge gaps, and look for employees or partners to fill them.

4. Update technology

I understand the hesitation to invest in new technology. However, technology updates can pay for themselves quickly by improving IT performance, security, and enabling staff to produce more in less time. Consider upgrading computers every three years or more often if you can afford it. Manage and reduce your IT and Cybersecurity risk. To learn more about how to reduce your cybersecurity risk, read the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) tips.

Here are some best technology practices for your firm:

  • Stay current with the latest firmware or software updates, or hire an IT Managed Service Provider (MSP) to manage, update, and track your IT network for you.
  • Upload all documents and record to the cloud.
  • Back it up to another cloud backup service and/or to another local device, if you have one.
  • Invest in, and utilize, automation to free up resources.

5. Enhance communication workflow

Communication is an important key to success as your firm grows. Establishing clear communication channels is challenging and can be particularly so with a remote team, but by building the structure and workflows to support it, you can help improve team productivity and client responsiveness and satisfaction.

According to a recent article in Financial Cents, the optimal workflow can be as simple and straightforward as: your team will get a request, a member will respond, they’ll find a remedy, and resolve your client’s issue. Is this how your firm works now? Does your staff clearly know who to notify when issues or questions arise, what the expected response times are, what the escalation procedures are, and where to go for help? If not, build those processes out.

Another key to success is making certain that you do not have any single point of contact or knowledge for any process or client. Having a trained and knowledgeable back-up is key to managing employee turnover and out of office time. The goal is to make it as seamless and painless as possible for the client (and for your team) when someone fills in for or takes over an account. Remember, your client hired your “firm,” not your employee.

Having one central place for all your business communications will ensure that there will be no bottlenecks or messages that fall through the cracks, while providing a digital thread to keep everyone up to speed.

It’s also helpful to have frequent conversations with your staff to discover what’s working and what’s not. Your employees are on the front lines of obstacles and opportunities, so their feedback plays an essential role in implementing meaningful change.

Moving forward with capacity planning

Workflow capacity planning is the next level of effective workflow management. Planning for capacity, assessing the need to hire more support, developing clear support/client qualifications, updating technology, and enhancing communication workflows are 5 tools every business owner needs to increase their company’s teamwork and produce quality results for their clients.

Editor’s note: This article was previously published on the one8solutions blog.

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