We are an accounting firm and let me admit to start with I wasn’t taught project management as a part of syllabus. But soon after setting up the accounting firm, I realised all we do is project management. Be it carrying out an audit, filing a tax returns, or any other aspect of the work that we do regularly in our offices. Regardless of how big or small is your team or clients, it’s at the end project management.
In short, what we do on a day to day basis is nothing but project management. Despite so much importance of it, funny part is, we aren’t thought project management in our curriculum. If that’s the case, how on earth we manage our offices? Are we doing it completely wrong? Well, not so. But yes, if we learn to get a bit more aware of some of the good practices of project management and try and get a bit more organised, there are many benefits.
This intrigued me to learn more about the art and science of project management. Frankly, I wasn’t trying to become a project management professional. Yes, there’s a worldwide organization, Project Management Institute and they have a flagship certification, Project Management Professional, which is a very coveted one I believe.
After doing some study around this, I understood that applying principles of project management at accounting firms wouldn’t make sense so we needed to approach this learning in a bit bespoke manner. A keen look at the workflow of our firm, I noted 6 steps to the project management at accounting firms.
1. Project creation
We typically receive projects over emails/calls/chats. This is the trigger to any work at the firm. Since, this trigger can be at the partner level or client manager level or any other team member level, it is critical to have a mechanism to centrally collect all projects so we don’t forget them. This mechanism, preferably should be centralised and in a shared manner so everyone concerned can see and contribute to this. Remember, projects which aren’t captured properly, may never get done. So this is the most critical piece in the equation. Here, projects could be simple, single task based or complex, involving several tasks and milestones.
2. Assigning task to a person and assigning due date
Captured projects need to be broken into tasks and need to be assigned to a person (s) and they need to be notified of this. It is also important at this stage to follow the basic rules of delegation of work. First the person’s skills must be matched to the tasks. Second, there has be brief discussion on explaining the tasks, resources available, importance, expectations and limitations.
If the project is longer and has multi-steps involved, it’s important to define the milestones and due dates at this stage. Needless to mention, be a bit conservative while estimating your team’s capabilities and be a bit generous while assigning due dates.
3. Review and status updates
Best of projects suffer from time and cost overruns if they aren’t reviewed timely. So it’s critical to have a system of timely reviews and status updates. The review process should be aimed at identifying bottlenecks and limitations proactively. Based on the review status, milestones and due dates could be recalibrated. It would be useful to let the clients know if you anticipate delays at this stage.
4. Completion and closure
The last phase is completion and closure. If the project was scoped properly, and reviewed timely, in all probability you will be able to complete the project on time. A few important points for closure, getting client feedback before closure and documenting the knowledge base becomes helpful for future projects of the same clients or similar projects for another clients.
These are some of the things we follow at our office and we don’t claim to be experts in project management nor do we say these methods are scientific. However, these have worked for us time and again. I don’t say that we don’t experience project overruns, but I can certainly say these cases are far and few.
I hope you will find this information useful. Feel free to counter or contribute.
If you would like to know more about us, see us on www.iplusb.in.