Every firm—no matter its size or client roster—needs an edge. And that edge is often defined by the tools it uses. At the heart of a modern accounting firm’s toolbox sits the most valuable tool of all: the practice management solution. But not just any solution will do. For firms that are dedicated to serving their clients efficiently, only the best will suffice.
However, it can be a daunting and anxiety-inducing process to find just the right solution. There are several considerations—from cost to onboarding—to think about. That’s why we’re exploring the must-have features that define the ideal solution for managing your firm’s day-to-day operations. The best systems are more than just a fancy database; they’re comprehensive, user-friendly, secure, high-performing and backed by top-notch support. And they’re a single place to track work, bill clients, review realization and much more. So, let’s talk about what you should look for in practice management solutions.
Comprehensive features and integrations
The backbone of any practice management solution is its features. You need to make sure that the data you see is current, accurate and relevant, no matter what solution you use. And you also want your data to seamlessly integrate with other solutions, so you’re not wasting time on manual data entry.
Look for practice management solutions that include the following features:
- Cloud-based or hosted. One of the most important features to look for is whether the solution is cloud-based or available in a hosted environment. This ensures your data is available anytime—and anywhere—you need it. Being cloud-based or hosted allows for easier integration with other applications.
- Customer relationship management (CRM). This feature ensures that you track every interaction you have with a client. And it keeps it organized, allowing you to efficiently nurture and maintain long-term relationships with your ideal clients (and prospects).
- Reporting. What good is the data your firm enters into a solution if you can’t report on it? Make sure the solution you choose has a reporting feature that can help you review what’s important to your firm, including revenue by service line, staff utilization or realization, client realization, or project due dates and statuses.
- Time tracking and billing. Select a solution that includes the ability to track and record billable hours, along with generating invoices. This helps you analyze how (and where) time is spent on specific projects or tasks. And it also simplifies and creates more accurate invoicing, which you and your clients will appreciate.
- Project/workflow tracking. The solution you choose must include project management and workflow tracking to manage processes and track task due dates. This helps streamline repetitive tasks and processes in your firm and ensures everyone stays on track.
- Document management system (DMS). Look for a solution with a DMS to securely upload, share and store important documents. This helps keep everything in one place and reduces paper clutter around the office.
Also, consider a practice management solution that integrates seamlessly with other applications commonly used by firms, like tax prep software, payroll and financial reporting. Integration ensures one platform for all tasks, reducing manual entry—and potential errors.
User-friendly with some customization
Even the most comprehensive practice management solution in the world won’t help if it’s too cumbersome or intimidating for your team. That’s where a user-friendly interface comes in. You don’t want to select a tool that’s hard to learn. The solution you choose should allow for simple and easy onboarding for new team members.
Every accounting firm has unique workflows and processes. A solution that can provide a customizable dashboard and reporting—along with the ability to create firm-specific workflows—is a game-changer. It empowers firms to mold the solution to their needs, instead of the other way around. Customization makes collaboration a bit easier between staff and clients. And that makes the day-to-day smoother for everyone involved.
Robust security measures
The data your firm handles isn’t just valuable—it’s often sensitive and confidential. With cyberattacks and data breaches on the rise, there’s no room for compromising on security.
The best accounting practice management solutions make data protection a high priority. They come equipped with robust encryption to protect data from prying eyes. Look for solutions that use multifactor authentication for an extra layer of defense. (This isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have.)
Don’t forget the importance of data backup and recovery. They’re essential to ensure that data is safe and can be restored during unforeseen events, like a server crash, natural disaster or cyberattack.
Scalability and performance
As your firm grows, your practice management solution should grow with you. When your firm takes on more clients, expands its staff or handles more complex workflows, your system should keep up with your needs. You don’t want to migrate your data from an old solution to a new one just because you outgrew the old one.
Performance is as equally important as scalability. High-performing solutions ensure that operations run seamlessly, with minimal downtime or glitches. Whether generating reports, managing workflows or tracking client interactions, the solution should respond promptly. Also, look for tools that don’t make huge updates during busy season. (That would be a big red flag.)
Stellar training and support
Even the most intuitive practice management solutions can present challenges from time to time. And when you or your team have questions or issues, it’s important that you can reach out to someone for help.
The best solutions offer comprehensive training to ensure that your team is well-equipped from the very beginning. But training shouldn’t be a one-time thing. Continuous support should be available when needed so that any issues are addressed quickly and efficiently. The fewer disruptions to your firm, the better.
Outstanding customer service isn’t just about solving problems—it’s about forming partnerships. By choosing a practice management solution provider with a reputation for excellence in support, firms can rest easy knowing they have a reliable ally in their corner.
Find a practice management solution that checks all the boxes
Remember, when it comes to your tech stack, less is more. And finding the right practice management solution can make all the difference. By finding a solution that ticks all the above boxes, your firm can position itself for success, efficiency and growth.
Whether you’re a seasoned firm looking for an upgrade or a new firm just getting started, make sure your software works as hard as you do. After all, in the numbers game, every advantage counts.
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