Mastering Project Management: The Ultimate Guide for Accountants

Two hands holding cards saying “To Do”, “Doing”, “Done”

Proper project management is a serious asset for accountants. Making use of it allows projects to progress smoothly and minimizes the number of mistakes and errors being made. 

If you are an accountant looking to learn how to master project management, look no further. This article is a guide to project management for accountants. It will explain the details behind it and explore some tactics along the way. 

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What Is Project Management? 

Project management is the process of managing the scope of a project and the details behind it. This includes small things like making sure the team has supplies and double-checking that everyone is doing their job. This also includes larger things like deciding the work schedule, resolving conflicts within the team, and determining the project’s overall direction. 

Why Is Project Management Important for Accountants? 

Project management is generally helpful in almost all professions because it streamlines work and makes it easier. However, it is particularly valuable for accountants. 

This is because accounting is a field with a lot going on. Multiple issues will run in the background at once, multiple due dates will be on the horizon, and firms may have difficulty sorting through who is working on what. Managing all of this can be a logistical nightmare. 

Accounting also deals with a lot of paperwork and a lot of deadlines. Things need to be sent to people in a timely manner or need to be turned in by a certain date. All of this is handled by project management to ensure that no one drops the ball. 

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Project Management Solutions for Accountants

While project management is a valuable tool for accountants, it should not be implemented in the same way in every situation. Different companies or individual accountants will have different needs. So, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. 

Instead, there are several different solutions out there. Part of implementing project management is finding the best solution for your situation. 

Three people in a planning meeting

Use an Issues List

An issues list is a great way to start moving past traditional accounting management tactics. These are essentially lists of tasks that need to be completed. As they are finished, the tasks are checked off, and information is recorded about them. 

A good issues list starts with a list of every task that needs to be completed. Each task should include the following: 

  • Issue number: In most cases, each task is listed numerically from 1 to however many tasks there are. However, tasks can also be grouped together to indicate a relation to one another. For example, issue 9 could be to obtain a grant, with task 9.1 to fill out the grant and task 9.2 to submit it. 
  • Priority: While issues may be numbered as they arise or as they are thought off, they will have different levels of priority. Indicating this in a prominent way lets everyone know which issues should be tackled first. 
  • Description of the issue: Each item on the list needs an accompanying description to tell what it is. This description should be short and should be no longer than one or two sentences. 
  • Who is responsible?: Each item on the list should explain who is responsible for making sure that the issue is completed and that it is finished on time. This person doesn’t always have to be the one who does the work related to the issue. However, they will be responsible for making sure that work is done. 
  • Effort level: This estimates how much work is required to complete the issue. Usually, this is listed in the number of hours it is expected to take. 
  • Estimated completion date: This is the date that the issue is expected to be completed by. If the date needs to be changed, two dates can be listed: the original estimated completion date and the revised estimated completion date. 
  • Issue status: This is the current condition of the issue and will change as the issue progresses. It will often start as “open,” then progress to “in progress,” and will conclude with “completed.” 
  • Completion date: This is the date the issue was actually completed. This will be one of the last things filled in. 
  • Comments: At the end of each issue, there should be a space for comments. These are typically made after the issue is finished and indicate any issues or new pieces of information that came with the issue. 

After the project is complete, some reflection helps. Looking back on the issues list will let you see what issues took longer than expected, thus holding the project up. You can use this information to revise similar projects in the future. 

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Project Management Software

One of the easiest and potentially most effective project management solutions is project management software. This is a type of accounting technology that makes project management easier. There are a lot of different software programs out there specifically designed to help accountants, rather than other professions. 

Most of these programs offer the ability to manage tasks and schedules. In this way, some function almost the same as an issues list. However, the fact that they are directly integrated into a larger program often makes them easier to work with. 

Some programs even allow real-time tracking across different platforms, which lets you see exactly how a project is progressing. Others integrate automation features to let you know when due dates are approaching or when tasks are finished. Still others integrate with other accounting programs, like Microsoft Office, to bring all software together. The features you need will depend on how you work as an accountant. 

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Use a Professional Project Manager

At some accounting first, there may not be an employee with the skills or training to handle project management. In these cases, using a project manager may be helpful. This is someone who will handle the project management side of things and will be responsible for guiding the project to its completion. 

Often, a project manager like this will use project management software or another tactic. In addition, they will typically work with the company to develop a method that works for everyone

Two people sitting in a planning meeting with laptops

Mastering Project Management

Properly executing a project relies on properly using project management. This starts with finding a tactic that works and continues by sticking to that tactic. By doing this, any kind of accounting work can be improved. 

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