This is the third of three articles published by Business Fitness on reducing risk and improving efficiency through the standardisation of procedures and templates. To read the rest of these articles, head to the standardisation category.
Part 2: 10 simple steps for implementing effective procedures and templates (steps 6-10)
Step 6: Categorise and group procedures and templates
When saving your procedures and templates to your firm intranet or other designated central storage location, you should categorise each of them and group them according to type.
This may be by subject matter (for example, FBT, personal ITR or SMSF) or it might be by document type (for example, checklist, workpaper or letter). If your intranet capability is sophisticated enough, you should be able to group by both subject matter and document type.
*Please note that, if you decide to rely on a reputable external provider for your procedures and templates, they may offer you an effective intranet system. You should investigate this option when selecting and evaluating any external provider.*
Step 7: Ensure procedures and templates are accessible only in ‘read-only’ format
Ensure the templates stored in your firm’s intranet or other designated central location are accessible only in a ‘read-only’ format, so that when team members open them, they open a new document based on a read-only version of the document, which must be re-named in order to be saved. This will protect your master versions from changes being inadvertently made to them.
Step 8: Encourage and seek feedback
Firm leaders need to take the time to regularly reinforce the firm’s standardisation policy as well as the benefits of having all team members working in a consistent manner using approved and up-to-date procedures and templates.
A team member who is unhappy with a particular procedure or template is likely to revert to using his or her own version of these items. It is critical that these kinds of situations be avoided. You should therefore encourage feedback from your team – what do they like? What don’t they like? Have they identified any errors or inefficiencies in any of the approved templates? You must then make sure you act on this feedback and show your team that you genuinely want to establish the easiest, fastest and risk-reduced way for them to work.
Step 9: Make sure templates can be completed on-screen
Make sure your templates are able to be completed on-screen. The positive effects of the paperless execution of client jobs on efficiency and job turn-around times are significant and they are real – and they involve working on-screen as much as possible.
To avoid any frustration when completing templates on-screen, they must be very carefully designed using hyperlinks, form fields, check boxes and sign-off areas. This will make for the easy on-screen completion of your templates.
Step 10: Reject work that is not completed using approved templates
Reviewers should make it clear that they are not prepared to review any work that was not prepared using your approved and up-to-date templates.
Typically, it is the reviewers of jobs who stand to benefit the most from having a set of standardised and up-to-date templates in place. A substantial reduction in review time (as a result of all work being presented to reviewers in a consistent manner and in accordance with the most up-to-date rates and formulas) generally has the largest impact on the reduction in overall job turn-around times.