Are You Driving Firm Profitability — or Merely Accepting It?

Would real-time, actionable metrics help you make better decisions? They certainly have in our firm. Like so many other accounting firms, we used to review firm performance metrics a few times a year — usually when we got invitations to participate in MAP surveys.

But now, we have implemented our proprietary performance management system, PracticePro 365. Backed by robust business intelligence, it has been nothing short of transformative for our firm.

Today, we can quickly analyze productivity and realization numbers by service line, by engagement, even down to the partner level. At any point during an engagement, we can see how profitable it is, so we can do something to turn it around if needed. As soon as billing begins, we have the numbers to tell us how profitable the engagement was, allowing us to make decisions about whether to pursue similar opportunities and how to staff them.

Yet in most firms, performance metrics are used as little more than a history lesson. And there’s a very good reason that most firms don’t review these metrics more frequently. Generating them typically requires pulling data from multiple systems and dumping them into standalone spreadsheets. Not only is this process time-consuming, but it can also be error-prone. The result is often outdated metrics, with different versions of the “truth” being generated by these disparate systems.

If you lack a single version of the truth, you are essentially driving blind. Without the real-time, actionable data you need to make good decisions, you could be heading down the road to an unprofitable outcome. By the time you realize it, it is probably far too late to make course corrections.

What’s Your DTA?

The truth is that any firm can make these performance metrics part of a regular review process. It’s a matter of priority.

Back in the 1980s, when I worked for Coopers & Lybrand, we had something called a Daily Time Analysis (DTA). Every day, each person on the job would post their time on a sheet of 13-column paper. The senior on the job maintained the DTA, spending at least an hour every day tabulating those columns and comparing with the budget. If the senior could not produce an up-to-date DTA upon request, he or she would be taken to task.

The point is that, even without technology, you can choose to make regular profitability analysis part of your expectations and standards.

Luckily, we do have technology today that can quickly and accurately generate performance metrics. Far more than the glorified time and billing systems of the past, today’s practice management systems integrate time tracking, billing, workflow management, customer service, sales and marketing functions into one integrated system. When these solutions are backed by robust business intelligence, they can quickly analyze all this disparate data to produce simple, powerful graphics illustrating the trajectory of the firm.

These practice management systems answer a lot of questions very quickly. How does the tax department realization rate compare to the audit division? How did billable hours compare to budgets on each engagement?

When departments or individuals aren’t performing well, you have the numbers to hold them responsible  and to give credit where credit is due. Accountability is key to performance management, and performance management is key to driving a profitable firm.

Remember that in today’s competitive environment, the only way to continue growing is to deliberately drive firm profitability and manage with a purpose.

Maybe you’d rather sit back and enjoy the ride, accepting whatever destination you happen to reach. Myself, I prefer to be in the driver’s seat.

Want to see how the next generation in practice management technology can move the needle for your firm? Discover PracticePro 365 today.

Shining a light on CPA firm profitability

Have you been operating in the dark? Managing partners routinely tell us that their technology stack — a disjointed array of point solutions for tasks such as time tracking, invoicing, customer relationship management, and workflow management — does more to obscure the state of their business than illuminate it.

Without a clear understanding of what is and isn’t working, you can’t make the intelligent, real-time decisions that lead to growth and profitability.

While mergers and acquisitions represent a massive opportunity for firms to drive growth, they also  exacerbate the problem. Despite a record pace of M&A in the accounting industry, the potential profitability of both the acquiring  firm and the acquiree is often stifled by multiple — often incompatible — technology platforms. These disparate systems require time-consuming, error-prone reconciliations that often lead to multiple versions of the truth.

Successful leaders of professional services firms know that you can’t realize your vision for tomorrow when you can’t see where you are today. With more than 30 years of experience running our own practice, we know that good decisions require reliable, real-time information from a single source of the truth.

That’s why we designed the industry’s only complete practice management solution that unites all your data and workflows. We built PracticePro 365 to give professional services firms a holistic view of what drives the practice and help them reach their full profitability potential. Managing your business on a single, unitized platform enables you to maximize productivity, minimize waste, identify new business opportunities, and ultimately build the business you envision.

But a power source is useless if someone does not flip the switch to turn on the light. That’s why any software platform must be accessible and easy to use. PracticePro 365 is designed to serve as the digital nervous system that reaches every desktop in your firm with a single, easy-to-use point of entry. By delivering and pulling data from every desktop (and mobile device) in your firm, the system efficiently feeds and generates the key metrics you need to run your firm the way you want to run it.

It’s time to stop operating in the dark. PracticePro 365 is our commitment to the industry – to illuminate the path to greater profitability and growth.

Explore PracticePro 365 for yourself.