[IMGCAP(1)]Like most of you, I’ve already experienced my fair share of stress this busy season, and it has barely begun. In addition to the shortened filing period, many practitioners are facing significant software glitches. Those are tough challenges for firms like my own, which consists of myself, a seasonal employee and an administrative person.

As the planning chair of the 2013 AICPA Practitioners Symposium and TECH+ Conference, I believe the only way to survive this extraordinary season is to find the learning opportunities. One key thing I’ve learned so far is the importance of evaluating our processes as we go along to ensure they’re promoting peak efficiency. As a result, we’ve made several improvements that have helped keep us on track.

First, we’ve broken larger projects into smaller ones, becoming more task-oriented, rather than file-oriented. Franchise returns, for example, have no bearing on the other returns, so we attacked them right away. We also got started early on annual reports that are due to our secretary of state at the same time as tax returns and require no financial data. When we finally pick up the entire file to complete the other returns, we won’t be starting from scratch.

Instead of a weekly meeting, we now have daily 10-minute discussions. Internal Revenue Service and software vendor changes are coming so quickly that we need to exchange news and ideas to ensure we don’t miss a vital update or spend hours all chasing the same information. By scheduling a time to keep each other posted, we’ve created our own personal office blog.

We’ve also learned the value of a backup software plan. Many practitioners affected by this year’s hitches were scrambling to find alternative solutions even as the season began. When I go to the Practitioners Symposium every year, I spend time talking with vendors, getting to know their products so that I have options in case of a software problem.

All in all, this season has opened our eyes to different approaches that are not only helping us weather this crisis but that will also make us more productive once it’s over. I hope you’ll find your own learning opportunities this busy season!

DeAnn Auman Hill, CPA, PFS, CGMA, is a sole practitioner in Baxter Springs, Kansas, and the planning committee chair for the 2013 AICPA Practitioners Symposium and TECH+ Conference, which will be held this year June 10-12 at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.