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Firm and Workflow Management

The value of project management in CPA firms

Jason Blumer  Blumer & Associates, CPAs

Jason Blumer  Blumer & Associates, CPAs

What lessons have you learned from your clients? Ours learned of the applicability of project management in CPA firms.

How does a marketing agency’s workflow relate to project management in CPA firms?

Our firm serves the digital creative and marketing agency industry. One common role in these companies is a Project Manager, or multiple Project Managers if the agency is large enough. The Project Manager is concerned with the movement of creative work through the company. This role makes a distinctive line between (a) the production of creative services and (b) the movement of creative services. This distinction is very important as a creative company scales larger.

How did the creative agency industry know they needed Project Managers? Because they produce highly subjective creative services. It takes a lot of head space for the producer of this content to focus on its production, and to stay focused on the inputs and outputs of this creative knowledge. There are rarely file folders floating around the office of a creative agency, or deliverables driven by a government. The stuff flowing through agencies (and CPA firms) is creative knowledge that enhances the businesses of the clients.

The owners of creative agencies knew they had to not only be good at the technical delivery of creative services, but they had to manage the subjective flow of this content as well. Those are two separate values: (a) producing creative services, and (b) coordinating the movement of creative services.

Here’s a headline:

CPA firms also deliver subjective creative services.

Recognizing this fact and embracing what this service model brings will allow you to serve in ways that other firms haven’t figured out yet. Employing, leading, and adding project management into your firm will pave the way to open up amazing value in your firm’s service (and price for it).

Our firm has been implementing project management in CPA firms for over five years, and we have learned so much about the immense value of this role.

Here are 5 takeaways of the value of project management in CPA firms:

  1. Project Management is a ‘work movement’ care role. Project Management helps the team manage the flow of many moving parts, and allows the team to do their best work. The PM takes care of the movement while the technical team takes care of the service side of the firm. The technical CPAs and other technical team members get to lean on the PM to help them prioritize, and know the global service view of the firm and its service. If a CPA wonders what is due next, they get to ask the PM to help them prioritize their minds as the CPAs focus on the client.
  2. Project Management is the eyes and ears of the owners. The PM serves with the same view as the owners. The owners want to know if everything is moving, if clients are being served in a high value way, and if the team is staying on task to deliver work on time. The PM cares about these things too (because the owners do). The PM is intuitive to know what the owners want, and what they don’t want. The PM knows the intuitive flow of work, which team members struggle, and which ones don’t need as much oversight. The PM has their ‘ear to the ground’ so to speak so they can keep the owners informed of the value being consistently delivered by the team.
  3. Project Management is team-focused. The PM is not a client-service role. They are inward focused on helping the team consistently become better. They want to help the team improve what they do, remind them of service they’ve forgotten, and ask if they ‘sent that last set of financials to so and so client.’ In a sense, the team can ‘forget service’ because the PM will remind them. Of course, that’s not the design of the role, but it does reflect the value of the role. The firm owners can make bigger promises in large part because a PM role is running around making sure the plates are all spinning. The PM doesn’t spin the plates, they just make sure someone is spinning all of the plates on an ongoing basis.
  4. Project Management frees a technical team to focus on technical client service. The technical team gets to be even more technical in the presence of a PM. A Project Management role is a guarantee of sorts that the promises of deep, intense technical expertise is being delivered consistently and timely. Do you offer complex services? Do you serve in a deep niche? Then you need a PM. The stronger and more intuitive your PM, the deeper your technical team gets to go in their work. The technical team can enjoy ‘getting lost’ so to speak in their deep work (in the presence of the PM). The PM will always be pointing them to the client, the ultimate delivery, and when things need to be completed.
  5. Project Management carries the responsibility of processes and software that enhance the firm’s service. As your firm grows, your software, your processes, and the movement and ‘box checking’ of various pieces of software just becomes more taxing for your technical team. The PM gets to worry about those processes, and the related software. The software has to be maintained after all. The PM can do that well. They know what needs to be running through the software in the first place. They can populate new processes in the software, they can keep it updated, and they can build new processes that make the firm even better. And when the whole firm is aware of the PM’s role, then everyone can rest easy knowing someone is maintaining the processes that make the firm amazing.

Project management in CPA firms

Practically, your firm can now choose one of the top ways in which Project Management can help your firm. Project Management can add a lot of impact to a firm that has a team of 5 to 8 at a minimum. If you are a firm of that size, consider promoting one of your team to the role of Project Manager and help them grow their skill set through training. More than one on your staff can even share that role for a time. See what value this role can bring to your firm and enhance your service.

 

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