Change – as good as a holiday

Last month we hit silver status for Xero. That means as a practice we now get WorkflowMax for free. Seems like a great time to get some thoughts from the person whose life has been most changed by it.

LeavesWhenever you implement a new system, there are going to be those who love it and those who don’t. There are going to be processes that translate well from the old to the new, and those that don’t. That’s why no review of WorkflowMax could really be complete without hearing from our Accounts Manager, Kim Buscumb.

Kim handles all of our invoicing and debtors processing, as well as looking after our payroll. It’s fair to say that 1st July last year was a watershed moment in her working life!

We took the approach that we would implement WorkflowMax first, while taking the Xero transition a little more gradually. For most of our team, this meant that on their very first day of work in July 2012, the biggest change they noticed was that they were using a different timesheet application. They were then able to ease into the job management capabilities of WorkflowMax over the next few weeks and months.

For Kim, it was like converting a nation to the metric system! On that first day, everything changed. Every process was now different. Her world was turned upside down. Not only did she have to now manage WIP and invoicing from an entirely new application, she also had to manage the setup of opening balances and historical data for all of her reporting. And on top of all of that, 1st July seemed like a good time to adopt the Xero payroll system and – you guessed it – Kim is also our payroll officer.

The team at Focus Growth Strategies were a big help as always. This was the very early days, so this was when we needed them most. They did the setup of our practice file in WorkflowMax and helped us transfer data and opening balances. We were able to throw a lot at them, on an almost daily basis, and they made sure that we got what we needed and that we understood how it all fit together.

But all of that ultimately still ran through Kim. She still had to prepare WIP reports and issue invoices that week. It was Kim who had to do a payroll run on the Wednesday of that first week, and make sure that all of the opening balances were correct for leave accruals. More than anyone else, Kim’s job needed to continue on as normal for the practice to function, but with a set of tools that were completely new and utterly foreign.

View from Kim’s office, circa July 2012

I wouldn’t argue with you if you said that we threw Kim in at the deep end. I could justify that to some extent with jingoistic rhetoric like “we only did it because we knew she was up to the task” – which is actually true – but in hindsight, it was probably too much for one person to handle all at once.

But cometh the hour, cometh the man! Or woman. Regardless of what we should have done, Kim proved her mettle and got us over the line, to the point where we now have a functioning time-management and invoicing system. Not to mention payroll too.

That background makes what is about to follow all the more surprising. We asked the person most affected by the transition to give us a few thoughts on it all.

Tell us about those first few weeks of July, 2012.

“When I think back to last June/July I remember getting up for work each morning and part of me was filled with excitement, partly because the person that I am really thrives when the pressure’s on, and partly because we were making a change and the practice was evolving.

“But as we got to say July/August a bigger part of me would start welling up with tears the minute I actually sat at my desk each morning, and I think I even got to the point that I felt almost paralysed because there was so much to do and I just couldn’t decide where to start.”

What happened next? How did you get through those early days?

“Bit by bit, day after tearful day, the work got done, the WIP got transferred, the debtors entered into Xero, the templates were tweaked and tweaked again with FGS, and WorkflowMax and Xero slowly but surely became second nature.”

Now that it has become ‘second nature’, what differences do you notice in your work?

“The benefits have really started to show. I set a new record for processing wages in Xero last week – 24 minutes! February saw me looking for work to do before the month was out. March saw the introduction of a new client which we will do the bookkeeping for in Xero, and I am now handling that, which I would never have had time for before. I was able to process two months of invoices for a manager who was going on leave, and now April sees me once again looking for work by the end of week three. I’ve already done the month’s bills and the bookkeeping for the new client.”

Does it bother you that you’re now looking for other work at times?

“I love that I can now be utilised for some other work like Xero processing and bookkeeping for clients, instead of just trudging my way through WIPs and bills all month, every month.”

[ED: I can testify that we too love having more of Kim’s time available so that we can utilise her extensive range of skills for other purposes.]

What do you like the most about the system now that it’s working so well for you?

“I love the way Xero has more than halved the payroll/superannuation processing time each week/month.

“I also love the new ‘For Invoicing’ job state – bills are being sent much more timelier, and it helps to spread my work out, so the end/start of every month are not such a stress.

Is there anything you still don’t like?

“Yes – definitely the reporting. I can’t get a current WIP report by date range – you either get a Job WIP report which includes all uninvoiced time to date with no ability to set a cut-off date, or a Client WIP report to a specific date, which includes all Jobs AND all invoiced WIP too, which is useless!  Also, for example, the other day I tried to find an Aged WIP report – one that would break down the total WIP for the practice into what was left for this month, last month, etc. so we could do some analysis. But I couldn’t find what I was looking for, and couldn’t work out how to write one for what I needed. It just seems that some obvious (for Accounting Practices) reporting requirements are missing.”

Overall, how do you feel about the move to WorkflowMax and Xero now?

“I’m feeling very confident in my day to day use of both WFM and Xero, and extremely happy with the efficiencies gained and the possibilities that will open up as a result of that.

If you had to choose, new system or old?

“Definitely new.”

Can WorkflowMax really replace the practice management system of a traditional firm? Of course it can. But can it actually make your practice better? We’re increasingly convinced that it can.

Just another day at the office for Kim today

For us, Kim’s conversion story is the most significant example of this yet. If ever there was a person who would be justified in hating a system, it would be her. And indeed she did. But here she is loving it some 10 months later – so much so that she’s now an evangelist for the cause – happy in her work and helping us to drive change in the practice. We’re happy too because our processes are becoming more and more efficient each month. With another previously full-time admin team member due to come back part-time this year after taking some maternity leave, it’s now conceivable that we won’t need to employ anyone else to absorb the hours we lose there. That kind of efficiency goes straight to the bottom line.

And did I mention how much WorkflowMax is costing us?

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3 thoughts on “Change – as good as a holiday

  1. Thanks for positive review. There’s almost always a point in a major implementation when the pain of change peaks and you start asking yourself why you ever thought this would be a good idea.

    Of course, if it is the right choice and you follow a good process, you’ll soon get through that and reach a point where you’d never consider going back.

    I’m pleased to say that the WIP reporting in WorkflowMax will soon be improved. You’ll be able to run a WIP control report and a WIP trial balance as at any date. And later this year, there’ll be aged WIP as well along with lots of other reporting goodies.

    • Thanks for the response Jason. With the efficiency gains we’ve made so far we’re pretty much sold, but addressing some of those last few reporting niggles (especially with WIPs) will really round things out nicely. Looking forward to seeing them.

  2. Pingback: Mutiple ledgers multiply costs | Approaching Xero

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