By Harry Hall | Accounting and Auditing
[callout]This is a guest post by Harry Hall, the Project Risk Coach. Harry is a speaker, teacher, and blogger who helps leaders and project managers get results. Harry has managed projects–mainly for insurance companies–for more than 17 years. He also teaches project management courses to CPA firms. Harry lives in Macon, Georgia with his wife Sherri. He can be found on LinkedIn.[/callout]
Are you wondering how to create new accounting products and services? In this post, I’ll explain how.
Imagine an accounting firm (we’ll call it Premier CPAs) that has struggled in recent years. Revenue is down, and the firm has lost several top clients. To make matters worse, the firm recently received a fail report in its peer review.
The partners recently met and were brutally honest with one another. Something has to change.
Premier CPAs has a great team of auditors. However, they are failing to understand their client’s needs, and they are not changing their business model accordingly. Over time, competing CPA firms have created superior products and services.
The partners selected a team to go offsite and develop a strategic plan. The group was challenged to perform an assessment of where the firm is and where it needs to go.
The top strategies identified were to:
- Implement a more modern auditing software solution
- Map and re-engineer Premier CPAs’ audit processes
- Implement a small customer service center
How to Make Your Dreams Come True
Great ideas, but how do we make them a reality? It’s easy to talk about things, but it’s another matter to plan and execute new ideas.
Well, you could do this like many lack-luster firms. Just do the projects willy-nilly. Do it as you have time. Find a few warm bodies who are not busy to do the work. Maybe assign the activities to the IT guy.
Will you get there? Maybe, but how long will it take? How much further will you fall behind your competition?
Take a different approach. Focus on your goals and strategies. Be intentional.
How to Create New Accounting Products and Services
The following steps can put you on a fast track to greater success:
- Define your projects. In the initiation of your projects, define them with project charters. Spell out the problems you are attacking, your goals, what you will deliver, the assumptions of the project, the constraints of the project, key stakeholders, top risks, and who will serve on the project team.
- Assign project sponsors. Select partners and senior management who will define and cast the vision for the projects. These leaders should have the authority to provide resources and money to complete the projects. While the project team does most of the work, the sponsors are ultimately responsible for ensuring success (and should be held accountable).
- Create project teams. One of the most important things you can do for your projects is to staff the teams. Carefully select individuals who have the knowledge and skills to deliver the project in a timely manner. There will likely be some opportunity cost in this equation. You may have to assign some audit personnel to perform the project work.
- Kick off projects. Get your project team and key stakeholders together for the project kick-off. The sponsors should share their vision for the project. The individual leading the project (i.e., project manager) should review the project charter, ensuring that everyone understands the project and their roles.
- Monitor progress. The project managers should periodically meet with their team members to check the status of the project and to plan their next steps. The project managers report to the sponsors, and in some firms, the sponsors report to senior management and partners. Doing so provides transparency throughout the firm’s leadership.
- Celebrate success. Create a robust project culture by celebrating when teams hit milestones or complete projects on time and under budget. Thank your teams.
- Perform benefits realization. How do we ensure that the projects produce the desired results? Measure your results at designated times (e.g., six months and twelve months after the completion of each project).
Parting Words…This Is NOT Easy
These steps may require a significant transformation in the firm’s culture. Changing what people believe, their attitudes, and their behavior is the toughest part of creating a productive project culture.
First, leadership is required, not optional. Without a firm hand, people will fall back into old bad habits. The senior leadership team of the firm must consistently communicate their expectations and lead by example. Make sure there is a high level of accountability with appropriate rewards and recognition for high performing teams.
Second, train your teams in project management. At a minimum, identify and train individuals who will serve as project managers. You may want to get a project coach to work with your firm. Many progressive firms require their project managers to get project management certifications.
Lastly, all of these actions must be performed with an eye on your firm’s strategic goals and objectives. Make sure the changes align and support your vision, mission, and goals.
Your best days are ahead!