Monday, January 23rd, 2023

The Scheduling Challenge

“Be like a duck, my mother used to tell me. Remain calm on the surface and paddle like hell underneath.” – Michael Caine, actor

I continue to hear many stories about the scheduling challenge for CPA firms. Audit work is easier to schedule than tax work. Audits are bigger engagements and consume a higher volume of hours per engagement. Audits also demand more coordination with the client giving the client time to prepare for the upcoming work.

Tax work is more like a constant fire drill. Sometimes a tax return can take many hours, but most are budgeted for a few to several hours. Plus, it is difficult to know, for sure, when the client’s tax information will be submitted to the firm.

Many firms are using software to help in the task, such as Prostaff and others, but the whole process is still a challenge. Other firms have appointed a “Scheduler,” but it is an overwhelming task for one person. So much information is needed from so many people!

Here’s something that might work for you. It works best for firms that ask their teams to be skilled in both tax and audit. One and two-year staff are usually exposed to both tax and audit. They can specialize later on.

Each staff person keeps a two-week schedule. It shows what they have scheduled for the coming week and what they expect to have for the following week. It also shows open time, PTO time, holidays, etc. They submit this report to the Schedulers every Friday morning.

There are two schedulers. One experienced Tax Manager and one experienced Audit Manager for the office. These two managers are charged with knowing what their teams are doing and how they are doing. The Tax Manager and the Audit Manager meet every Friday morning. The firm administrator (practice manager) is also a part of this small scheduling committee. The firm administrator acts as the management contributor, helps balance work when needed, and/or relays communications from management.

The schedulers use the individual team members’ two-week schedules to assess who has too much work and who has room for more work, and they determine the experience level needed for new assignments. They assign work into the two-week schedules and also may move work around depending on client needs and workloads.

The firm administrator, sometimes with the help of an administrative assistant, modifies each two-week schedule and returns the schedules to the staff.

Some managers also keep two-week schedules if they are more involved in doing the work rather than supervising it.

This system makes sure that everyone has a full schedule for the next week and a good idea of what they will be doing for the week after that. Also, these two-week schedules have the number of hours indicated to do the work. The schedulers provide the hourly budgets as they assign new work or modify existing work.

I hope all of this is helpful and not too confusing. If you have questions, feel free to contact me. I will also share a handout explaining all this and a sample two-week schedule form if you request one.

  • "Keep busy at something: a busy person never has time to be unhappy."
  • Robert Louis Stevenson

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