The complexity and rate of change in the accounting profession today requires firms to juggle multiple projects throughout the year: evaluating technology decisions, handling recruiting, training and onboarding, process improvement initiatives, strategic planning, mentoring, and coaching, just to name a few. Often, responsibilities for all of these projects falls on the shoulders of partners who are already busy with marketing and business development, client service, and practice management. If that sounds familiar, it’s time for your firm to hire a project manager.
How often have you attend a conference where you listened to speakers, participated in roundtables and networked with peers? You return to the office with a pile of ideas jotted down on paper, saved in your smartphone or tablet, or emailed to other partners in the firm. You leave the conference full of motivation to make changes in your firm, but those ideas are soon put on the back burner or buried under client engagements and other pressing responsibilities. A project manager could take that pile of ideas, turn them into actions and see them through to completion. Firms increasingly realize the value they can create by hiring a professional dedicated to this role.
Here’s what you need to know about hiring a project manager for your firm.
Identify goals and responsibilities for the position
What types of projects will your PM work on? A project manager can work in a number of areas, including:
- Human resources – Assist with recruitment, selection of candidates, orientation, training, coaching and reviews
- Strategic planning – Contributing information and recommendations for strategic planning, assigning responsibilities for action items
- Financial – Forecasting requirements, preparing annual budgets, managing expense reports
- Process improvements – Obtaining buy-in from other partners and staff, scheduling follow-ups and gathering feedback after implementation
- Technology – Assisting your internal or external IT teams with selecting and implementing new solutions and training staff
Remember, the PM’s role is not handling all of the tasks involved themselves, but managing the project by overseeing the initiative and ensure it all comes together.
Invest in the necessary online tools
CPAs may pride themselves on their organizational aptitude, but few have ever been exposed to a systematic method for tracking projects and understanding where in the process the staff is and whether the project is on track to be finished on time.
True project management requires a tool for keeping track of multiple tasks and subtasks (each with a start date, duration and end date), assigning people to each task or subtask and tracking deliverables. An Excel spreadsheet won’t cut it. Fortunately, there are several options on the market, from free base versions to premium options with all of the bells and whistles.
Before you hire a project manager, consider the tools that your PM will use to gain insight and information on the projects. Evaluate, select and implement those tools and the processes needed for these projects before you hire, so you can look for an expert who is familiar with those tools. Otherwise, you’ll either hire a PM that needs to spend time learning your system or hire someone who needs to implement their preferred tool and spend time training everyone else to use it.
Hire the best candidate
The person you hire doesn’t necessarily need experience working in a CPA firm. They just need to be proficient in managing projects. Knowledge of the accounting industry can follow.
Look for candidates who are proactive, enthusiastic and motivated, have a positive attitude and can manage stress and multiple deadlines. Communication skills and cultural fit are also critical, as your PM will need to be respected by peers and know how to coach, lead and mentor team members.
It may seem as though hiring a project manager is an unnecessary expense, but if you’re missing deadlines on your internal projects, have teams that are not communicating well, and budgets that are going out the window, then it’s time to hire a dedicated project manager. The right person will free up a lot of your time by taking on a chunk of your workload, and you can use this additional time for other important matters and creating more value for your firm.