Teamwork: not just for team members! Part 2
Welcome to part 2 of this blog about how I use Teamwork to collaborate in real time with my clients. In part 1 I told you about how I set up Teamwork to be a fully functional portal for each of my clients which is accessed via the e-BAS Accounts website. In part 2, I want to give a more indepth explanation of how the portals actually work and expand on the benefits for both myself and my clients when we use the portals.
How the portals work:
As I explained in part 1, each client has been given access to their very own portal (AKA Teamwork, referenced by “TW” from this point on) via this website using a secure login. When a client logs in to his portal he will see the following screen:
Where you see my e-BAS Accounts logo, the client will actually see their own company logo which is uploaded by me when I set up each client portal. I think this makes them feel “more at home”. Along the top the client can access the “calendar function” where he/she can see meeting dates, expected task finish dates, important due dates such as when the BAS or superannuation is due etc. Clients can also use the calendar to alert me to future holidays or business trips or create times for unscheduled meetings.
Over to the right, next to the “search” field you’ll see a headshot icon. When the client logs in he/she has the ability to upload a photo there of him/herself to further personalise his/her portal. Next to the headshot icon, you will see a bell icon. This icon is the notification alert area. It works like notifications in FaceBook. If I have sent the client a message, he/she will see a red coloured bell notifying him/her that a message is waiting. When I log into TW if the client has responded to the message (or sent me a new message), I too will see a red bell notification. Copies of these notifications can also be sent out of TW as ordinary emails, further ensuring that messages are not missed.
Further down the screen, you will see various tabs. These tabs include Overview,Tasks, Milestones, Messages, Files, Time, Notebooks and Links. Here is a quick summary of what each tab does:
- Overview: a summary of all activity currently occurring in the portal
- Tasks: a list of the jobs to be done including due date, who will do them
- Milestones: a breakdown of each task by specific sub-tasks
- Messages: the emails between me and my clients
- Files: files uploaded that are relevant to the project/client
- Time: time logged against each task
- Notebooks: documents you can create that relate to the project such as client details, meeting notes, brainstorming etc. These are arranged by category and can be downloaded in pdf format.
- Links: a list of clickable links that relate to the project
Underneath these tabs and over to right is the “Add” button. Here clients can add a new task, message, file or notebook to their portal quickly and easily. Each time a client adds any of these things to their portal, I will receive a notification in my TW portal. Clients can send a message about what they have added if they like but this isn’t necessary thanks to the notification feature.
What I like most about the “Add” feature is that clients can create a task for me to do, include notes and files related to the task, the date by which they would like it to be completed and if it’s a job that they need to be done on a regular basis, set it as a repeating task. Repeating tasks automatically show up in my task list on the day on which the client has directed them to be done, eliminating the need to continually recreate tasks – a great time saver!
Making use of the the portal “message” feature is encouraged heavily because my main reason for setting up the client portals was to enhance communication levels between me and my clients. The message feature keeps all “emails” within the client portal instead of in an outside email client such as Outlook or Gmail. In this example, the client has sent me a message about a file he has uploaded to the portal:
You’ll notice that there is red notification with the number 1 in it. This is because I have responded to the client’s message. Let’s see what that looks like:
Keeping all communications within the portal makes it super easy to find information if required even if it is years old. This is great if either me or the client needs to clarify what was agreed to or discussed. Also, these messages can be sent directly to an email client if necessary and the recipient can respond directly to them there without having to log into the portal. This is so convenient and all responses are added to the thread within the portal so nothing ever lost!
Another feature I would like to showcase is “Files”. The files area becomes a storage facility for each client. Categories or folders can be created to help keep all files organised. I typically create folders for BAS, payroll, bank statements, superannuation and queries as can be seen below:
Both the client and I have access to all files at any time which is great especially if a client needs to get a copy of his BAS or a bank statement etc out of office hours – he or she can do so without even having to contact me! Another great thing about the files area is that there isn’t any restriction on file size. This is useful if a client needs to send large documents or files which cannot be sent via an ordinary email client. Lastly, the client portals via TW are extremely secure because TW’s level of security is very good. For clients (and me) this means that uploading files to their client portals is a safer option than sending via ordinary email and as we are dealing with highly sensitive financial documents, this is extremely important. Of course, the other benefit here is that all documents are kept in one place so both the client and I know exactly where everything is – we aren’t searching through old emails, Dropbox, Google Drive folders etc when we want to find something important.
Lastly, I want to cover off how I use “Notebooks” with clients. This is an area where important information can be kept as “live” documents accessible to both me and the client. By “live’ I mean that both me and the client can open a notebook and edit it as needed. Of course, it is possible to create notebooks that can only be seen by me if needed – see how below:
I keep notebooks for a client’s entity details such as ABN, GST registration, PAYG registration etc., meeting minutes and important things to remember like employee payroll details or upcoming changes to the entity etc. See an example below:
Keeping the meeting minutes is important because it helps both me and the client to remember what needs to be done or addressed. Many times, items are identified to action during a meeting. As such, I will then create tasks within the client’s portal to address these action items. Having the minutes at my fingertips means that all action items are not forgotten and are dealt with as needed – just another thing that helps to keep me organised!
The Benefits of using the Portals:
From reading the above, you can probably see that there are many benefits for both me and my clients when we utilise the client portals. So to conclude this blog, I will now summarise some of these benefits:
- All client data is centralised – client files, messages, tasks, resources, calendar etc are kept in one spot instead of across various applications. This stops things from falling through the cracks!
- Communication – because all messages and emails are kept within the portal, communication levels between me and my clients are enhanced.
- Collaboration – clients and I work together within the portals. We both add tasks, leave messages and upload files relating to their bookkeeping assignments.
- Security – as shown above, TW’s security levels are better than ordinary email. Clients can rest assured that their sensitive data is stored safely.
- Clients can access files when needed without having to contact me.
- Audit trail – all discussions and emails are kept in one place and can be referred to later if required to settle disputes should they occur.
- File size restrictions – as there is no restriction on file size, clients can easily upload files without worrying about restrictions typically applied to ordinary email clients.
- Support – TW support is wonderful. The team at TW will try to assist with any issue that may arise quickly and efficiently – I can’t speak highly enough of their customer care!
Utilising the private portal feature via Teamwork has greatly improved my bookkeeping business. I am able to keep control of my to-do list more easily and get things done more quickly. More importantly, I don’t forget things like I used to do! This has made me more efficient and organised. My clients who use their portals feel that they have greater control over the way we both work together and a better understanding of what is required. They enjoy having a place to keep “all things bookkeeping” together, a place which is both private and secure.