December 4, 2020
The Best Way to Improve Communication With Your Accounting Department
Posted by Derek Barto
If you’re like most accounting departments, you receive a ton of emails. They come from all sources: attorneys, partners, vendors, clients… you name it! Some of the biggest problems law firms have with their accounting departments center around how the department interacts with the rest of the firm.
Meanwhile, I have yet to speak to a firm that focuses on actually solving the communication problems. The tendency is to blame the department and, most times, the problem-solving stops there. Sometimes it leads to high turnover, other times complacency. It almost always leads to a lack of trust in one of the most critical groups in your firm — accounting and finance.
So, how do we solve these major issues? The best solutions I’ve seen at firms involve dedicated inboxes in Outlook, SharePoint groups or distribution lists… and lots of flagging and tagging. Many of these solutions only exacerbate problems by not providing a clear understanding of the tasks coming in, the urgency or who is responsible.
They also don’t provide department leaders with the ability to measure key communications data, and we all know that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Under these systems, without being involved in the most minute of details, there is no way to manage, measure and improve these processes.
In my humble opinion, this needs to stop. Fortunately, there is a simple fix.
Consider Ticketing Software
Ticketing software is a great solution to help your accounting team get a handle on communications in a short period of time. (One example of an effective ticketing system is FreshDesk.)
Made famous (orperhaps I should say infamous) by IT departments (no offense to my tech friends!), such systems allow a team to manage high volumes of requests and deliverables in a centralized way. For example, ticketing software can use automation to funnel conflict requests directly through the process. It can also allow your accounting and operations managers to focus on the key areas that need their attention most to prevent issues, as opposed to fixing them after they arise.
Here’s the best part: the systems are cheap. They typically range from $15 to $50 per user per month.
Some key features include:
· Measuring email volume (either in total or by subject/request/ticket)
· Tracking and measuring response times
· Closing completed tasks
· Running reports on individual users or groups
· Automatically routing requests to individuals
· Housing all communications in one spot (you don’t have to ask for all the prior communications to solve an issue)
Having managed many accounting departments, I know there is no one “silver bullet.” Managing communications is hard, no matter what tools you have. But, trying to tame the email dragon without a communications management tool is a futile effort. Ticketing software helps keep you from getting overpowered by the sheer volume and coordination.
One thing is for sure: it’s one of the first recommendations I consider for all my clients. And having used it myself, I can vouch for the results.
Derek Barto is a Principal in Armanino’s Law Firm Services Group where he spends 100% of his time consulting with law firms. He provides consulting services on critical issues that law firm managers encounter, including advising on partner compensation methodologies, merger and acquisition analysis, firm start-ups, restructuring, profitability improvement analysis, and analyzing and benchmarking data in comparison with industry statistics.
Derek’s clients range from start-up law firms with less than 10 attorneys to multi-office firms with over 100 attorneys operating in multiple states. He also manages tax return and financial statement engagements for his law firm clients.