In honor of World Standards Day, Vault is excited to share about the internal standards our team follows to ensure we can deliver outstanding service to our clients efficiently, consistently, and with continuity across our team. Standardization lays the foundation for delivering consistent, timely, and accurate work that our Not-for-Profit clients and their communities value. Internally, it clarifies many questions for Vaulters and gives them the confidence that their teammates are prepared to support them if necessary.
Jessica Bradshaw, CPA, is a Senior Manager in Vault’s Outsourced Accounting Services (OAS) and leads standardization practices for OAS. Mike Hayes, Managing Director for Vault’s Research Business Unit, heads up standardization for the research side.
“Our focus is to make sure that we can have a consistent workflow for all projects, starting from the ground up with smaller projects,” says Bradshaw, explaining how standardizations typically come about and what their objective is. While client needs and engagement scopes can vary tremendously, finding common denominators among workflows, basic tasks, and the technology that supports them creates efficiencies across every project.
“As things get complex, they will be unique in different ways, but trying to establish the same baseline for every project to reduce the learning curve makes staffing easier, makes quality control checks easier, and makes us more efficient,” says Hayes.
Standardization also creates a more collaborative, supportive, and dependable work environment internally. It reduces the questions Vaulters may have when beginning a project or task by establishing a clear, repeatable, and scalable process that others can step into if necessary.
“The more efficient we can make complex tasks, that helps staff focus on specialization or specific customer services that clients need. We can focus on the value add rather than things that could be done more efficiently,” says Hayes.
Standardizations can take many different forms and have different points of origin, depending on which side of the firm they are designed to support. Hayes and Bradshaw credit professional development experiences like conferences or industry-standard best practices as common sources of standardized practices at Vault. In many cases, these standards also originate from Vaulters finding faster, easier, or better ways of accomplishing tasks in their area of expertise. They are encouraged to share this knowledge with other team members and help codify them into clear processes. This is part of Vault’s collaborative atmosphere that is focused on learning, improving, and innovating.
“Our best way of learning is from each other and seeing how things work in actual day-to-day work,” says Hayes.
On the research side, Vault often receives hundreds of thousands of data points on a monthly basis across numerous projects.
“We need the ability to compile everything and ensure quality and the accuracy of what we publish. Efficiency and automation ensure that happen correctly and without delays,” says Hayes. “Our clients hold us to a very high standard. Our research is of very high value to our clients and their members. They expect all reports to be error-free, in addition to following anti-trust rules, confidentiality rules, and data privacy rules.”
On the Outsourced Accounting side, some of the most valuable standards include the transition to cloud-based systems that efficiently archive and centralize all project data securely.
“We want to offer a suite of services we are all familiar with, such as accounting, budgeting, and expensing software,” says Bradshaw.
Having a standardized, integrated technology suite simplifies processes for both Vaulters and clients.
“Standardization has reduced our lead time with AP processing. Up until a year ago, it was manual, but we did a big internal push to implement cloud-based electronic disbursements. It has decreased the amount of time we spend processing AP and for clients as well,” explains Bradshaw.
This shift made the sudden move to an all-remote work environment due to COVID-19 much less complicated than it would have been otherwise. As many organizations moved to remote work and increased their reliance on technology for daily workflows, the importance of data security has only intensified. State-of-the-art cloud-based systems with enhanced security ensured that Vault was ahead of the curve when major changes impacted client operating realities.
“As we talk about following industry best practices and putting more things on the cloud, there’s improvements for data management and security related to that. It’s a double benefit. As we become more efficient, we are following best practices and standards from a security perspective,” says Bradshaw.
By providing clients with a fully-integrated cloud-based accounting system, they also have a more complete picture of their organization’s accounting and overall finances. When the systems are fully integrated with each other, it makes strategic decision making, budgeting, and nearly every aspect of financial management more streamlined for client partners.
Ensuring that the firm does not hinge on a single person not only benefits our client partners who depend on Vault’s service delivery, but also helps relieve some of the weight on Vaulters’ shoulders. With efficiencies, well-documented practices, and a deep bench of people who are prepared to jump in, transitions between team members are less stressful for Vaulters and seamless from the client perspective.