From XU Magazine, 
Issue 27

It is what you do (and the way that you do it)

Process mapping for success

You know how your practice works - but what about everyone else? James Kilford of Senta Practice Management shares some of the benefits accountants will gain from mapping practice processes - and how to get started.
This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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Steve Case is the CEO of Finance Box, self-styled ‘Bean-counting superheroes’. I was interested to talk with him after the support team were raving about how he was using all the data generated by Senta to improve productivity. What I actually uncovered was a process mapping mastermind, who has detailed the way his practice works and used that info to build processes which make the practice run better. It’s made a massive difference to the effectiveness of his team. And their clients are happy too - because they know exactly what’s expected of them and when.

What do we mean by process mapping?

It’s not so alien - nor is it difficult. Steve compares it to a spreadsheet. “As accountants we program client inputs, create a machine of formulas and then study the output. If it’s wrong, we check the machine and edit how it works. The same applies to process mapping: we look at the info we need and how we complete a task. Then we keep tweaking this to make our processes better over time.”

Post-it note by post-it note

Steve has gone on to build each post-it note step into Senta. For those of you who don’t use Senta, we’ve set it up so it’s completely customisable for the needs of your practice. You can create workflows and automate emails that help you manage client work as it moves through your practice. By automating the small admin jobs, your time is freed up so you can concentrate on keeping your clients happy, your team motivated and your coffee cup completely full. Priorities everyone, priorities. 

Take your team on the ride

Team buy-in is essential to success. Steve recommends involving your team as you build your process, paying heed to those who are really involved with the client work. But you definitely need to be clear that following the process isn’t optional - it’s essential for your practice to succeed. A degree of empathy is required too, as you need to put yourself in the shoes of your client. Do you have a friendly client you could call on to talk about how they see the process or even get some feedback on proposed changes? All feedback is important.

Fix the chaos

Ally Watson from Make Change Matter helps accountants and business owners identify and fix the things that cause chaos in their business.  

“Process mapping isn’t difficult, it just takes time and focus but for it to be truly effective there are two very important things you must do. 

Firstly, don’t just consider the “Happy Path” of your processes – also consider the exceptions.  Make sure you spend time thinking about and being honest about the parts of a process that can go wrong and what you do if that happens.           

Secondly, processes constantly change so don’t do it once and then forget about it.  Senta’s dashboard shows you when things go wrong, when they are overdue or haven’t been done or you may get negative feedback from a client through your NPS.” 

Process for peace of mind

What our clients are telling us is that their processes are a key part of who they are, it’s part of their brand. Having processes clearly mapped out also helps with everyone’s peace of mind. Steve Case agrees: “From a business owner perspective, I have peace of mind that all my clients are receiving exactly what they’ve been sold and the same high level of service. It protects us - and makes the teams’ lives easier. If someone’s on holiday or away from work, the rest of the team can see exactly what needs to be done, how and when.”


Six steps to success

Steve was kind enough to share his killer six step process with us:

  1. Map out your existing process. What’s the reason for each step? Use post-its (electronic or physical ones!) to detail each step, so you can clearly see gaps or add in new steps later.
  2. Once you’re clear on your existing process, look for opportunities to make improvements. You may need to add new steps in, or find ways to link one step to another. What parts can you automate? e.g SMS reminders around tax season or chasing emails.
  3. Consider the data you hold at each stage and where it could be used or needed later - link that data up in your process. e.g. payroll process. You have all the data in front of you. If you note the PAYE to be paid now, you could use that in a step later such as an automated PAYE reminder.
  4. Take the new process away and consider your business brand. Is this what YOU want as the business owner? Are you asking the client to do too much themselves? Do your automated emails sound like they come from you? Is the language the best it can be?
  5. Test the new process as if you were experiencing the client side as well as the staff side. The client side is how your clients are going to feel about your process - even if you know in your head what you’re doing. 
  6. Review and evolve. There’s nothing wrong with not having it perfected the first time. We should be looking for constant evolution and improvement - and technology, like Senta, allows us to do that all the time. Review your processes regularly as a team and make sure they remain relevant.

Why leave it there?

Don’t just take our word for it - try Senta free for 30 days

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