There has been a rather modest prediction made that 2009 is the Year of Workflow.

Okay, so the modest predictors were the editors of Accounting Technology. And there have been a lot of Years of in technology that have come and gone. Those who lived through the technology developments of the 1980s probably remember the talk of “The Year of the LAN”, which had probably passed us by while we were waiting for it. Technology tends to build, not suddenly take over a market in a tidal wave.

So it’s always a bit chancy to make a prediction about when a Year of is actually on the horizon.

Workflow has been a hot topic in all kinds of software, including applications used in accounting firms and in the general accounting packages used by companies to run their financial operations. After all, most of these organizations have software applications. Few larger than the very small companies linger in the era of pencil and paper.

The trick is getting value out of the investment. Two areas are particularly important in this endeavor. One is business intelligence, or whatever you want to call getting understandable information out of the data. The other is workflow.

Workflow is simply about who does what in what order. I would add one qualifier to that, which came from Roger Mongeon, the co-vice president of sales and marketing of, and that it is about communicating that information within the organization so that everyone knows the procedures.

If an organization doesn’t understand its processes  implementing new technology can become an exercise in automating bad processes and getting less than optimal results, but more quickly.

Within the tax and accounting business, this goes hand in hand with document management since so much of the work in this profession involves how information in documents, which once existed on paper, enters an organization and leaves as a billable client service.

Many will understand the phrase I use to describe what can happen in a tax office, which I call ping-ponging, in which returns are batted back and forth between preparers, reviewers and partners.  A well-devised workflow is going to cut down on the number of times the return is hit back over the net.

And in a troubled economy, this all boils down to the old-fashioned concept of getting your house in order, engaging in solid business practices and having the discipline to execute.

And hoping it all works.





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