February 6, 2024

How to Conquer Accounting Project Scope Creep


Accounting project scope creep can be a huge frustration for accounting professionals. When new requirements are added after timelines and budgets have been agreed, accountants need more time to allocate resources, putting them at risk of missing crucial deadlines. As a result, client relationships can start to deteriorate, and accounting firms can find themselves out of pocket. 

In this article, we’ll outline strategies to help you avoid accounting project scope creep while ensuring that your accounting service clients remain satisfied with your work. 

The mounting issue of accounting scope creep

85% of UK accountants polled by Ignition in 2022 say they have first-hand experience of clients increasing the scope of their work. Additionally, 58% of those surveyed also admitted that they have difficulty saying no to clients pushing their original agreements’ boundaries. 

Subsequently, 32% of clients are not billed for the extra work. These costs quickly mount up, leaving accounting firms shortchanged by an average of £5,830 per month (totalling £69,957 per year). 

Accounting project requirements can change after the task is underway for a number of reasons. For example, the original agreement may be missing crucial pieces of documentation, or the client may feel the need to micromanage the project to attain a particular outcome, resulting in additional unplanned work for accounting teams. 

Often, when difficulties like these arise, accountants can end up working longer hours to absorb the extra workload, impacting their mental health and leading to employee burnout

So, what can accounting firms do to maintain control of their client relationships and reduce workload stresses? 

Here are some top tips for conquering project scope creep: 

1. Outline the full accounting project scope in writing beforehand

Defining the project boundaries early with accounting services clients is a vital first step. In your initial meeting, document everything the client needs and send a follow-up email highlighting all aspects of the project discussed. 

Creating this record will help you save time in drafting your agreement and give you something to refer back to if you begin to see the scope of work expanding. You can use call recording tools like Otter.ai to convert speech to text to help you write up these notes instantly. 

The agreement itself should outline clear expectations for deliverables, required paperwork and the responsibilities of both parties to meet payment and project deadlines. Ensure the agreement is signed and you have all the required documentation before starting work. 

2. Set our clear expectations if workloads expand

 Within your agreement, outline possible scenarios for accounting project expansion and the extra charges they may incur. Doing so will ensure that your client sees in writing what they need to do to boost their service level, if required, in a way that’s fair for your firm. 

You can also draw up a script that will help your accounting teams feel more confident in pushing-back if the client goes beyond the project’s scope, rather than expecting them to think on their feet or just say ‘yes’ to avoid an awkward conversation. 

3. Provide regular client updates

Checking in regularly with your accounting services client will ensure that you can discuss how the project is going and allow your client to ask any questions. Reaffirm the details of your project on these calls to ensure you stay on track and remind your client of your agreed workload. 

4. Use accounting client management software to stay on track

There are many project management solutions out there to help accounting firms keep track of their client relationships and tasks. Opt for accounting client management software that enables you to track changes and additions to the scope of work as and when required. 

These solutions also have resource planning tools that help firms delegate tasks and send updates between internal and external parties. Moreover, the software will help individuals at your firm set priorities, view the entire pipeline of work and make adjustments if their workload becomes too challenging to manage. 

INAA is here to help accountants foster productive client relationships

INAA offers a dedicated platform to accountants worldwide. We’re on a mission to help accounting professionals share best practices, optimise client relationships and keep up with the latest accounting technology trends. 

So, if you want to learn more about our membership benefits and how they can help you grow your business, sign up for INAA membership today.

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