Customer Story

How BKL uses Karbon to save 4 days per month

Spending time in front of clients and not just behind a desk is a big part of BKL’s identity. But running a firm with over 200 people servicing thousands of individuals and businesses is no small administrative feat. It’s no wonder BKL was searching for a way to centralize and organize their work.

That’s what led Tom Li, BKL’s Cloud Accounting Supervisor, to recommend bringing in Karbon to streamline and automate their workflow. Tom’s vision was to implement a practice management tool to take care of the administrative and portfolio management side of things, so the BKL team could spend more time delivering value to their clients.

Manual processes were slowing BKL down

BKL's Advance Business Services (ABS) team—which provides outsourced finance services under the name BKL Advance—consists of smaller sector-specific teams known as pods. At the start of every month, the managers of each pod were using spreadsheets to manage ABS work. Their time was spent amalgamating data, updating job progress statuses and then allocating jobs to different people.

Using spreadsheets to manage workflow and allocation (and keeping them up-to-date) was time-consuming for BKL’s management team. The size of the firm, in conjunction with the nature of their workflow, meant that staff were waiting on their managers to allocate work. And if there was a hold-up, those delays echoed throughout the firm.

“Each manager had their own different spreadsheet—they weren't uniform. It was super-reliant on the managers making sure that they updated where each of their jobs were, rather than the staff member that was working on the job updating where the job was,” Tom says.

So, it became a priority to find a tool that would standardize their workflow and remove bottlenecks, which is partly what led Tom to Karbon.

Utilizing Karbon’s function to build and assign work items eliminated the need for that report. Instead of updating a spreadsheet, managers use templates and role assignments to show the team where they should be working. Without needing to build that spreadsheet, BKL has saved an estimated 3 days per month.

Searching for workflow management software

When BKL started looking for workflow management software, the first solution they trialed was generic workflow software not specifically made for accountants. And because it wasn’t built for accountants, BKL was making too many concessions, which took them away from their goal of making life easier. 

“We were really looking for a fit-for-purpose accountancy workflow management tool,” Tom says. “We had a full requirements list of the things that workflow software needed to fulfill for us.” 

It was June 2021 when Tom and BKL began to see that Karbon would tick those boxes. 

Test for success

A firm the size of BKL needed to be sure that Karbon was the right fit before committing to what would be a formidable data migration effort. That’s why they conducted a nine-month testing phase before signing on. With the guidance of the Karbon customer team, BKL explored all of Karbon’s different features. 

Similar to a prototype, they developed a single pod that used Karbon in an ideal way. In Tom’s words, “We built a full proof of concept. We knew one pod was built out the way it needed to be built out. Once everyone was happy with how that one pod within our team was working, that’s when we decided to migrate.”

Tom acknowledges that while it was a long process testing Karbon, the experience was positive. “We were thorough, thorough testers over the nine months, but we never felt like Karbon saw us that way.” 

I was really impressed with how much commitment—with or without us signing the agreement—Karbon showed to us as a business, and how confident Karbon was that they were the right solution for us.

Tom Li, BKL

Getting everyone on the same page

Now that BKL’s ABS team is fully onboarded with Karbon, Tom is finding they have much greater oversight of the work being done. “We are able to see just how much work we do have—the complete oversight. We can have a bird’s-eye view of everything across our team, exactly what work we’ve got, when we’re busy, where our bottlenecks are.” 

With so many staff and clients, making sure resources are allocated correctly is a significant focus. Now, with the views afforded by My Week and the Kanban work view, BKL managers can see their team’s workload, and other staff can see and prioritize what they’re working on. 

Features that are giving back valuable time

Client Requests

The automation of Client Requests has been Tom’s favorite Karbon feature. 

“For my portfolio, I save a day a month—maybe even more than a day a month—just on Client Requests alone.”

Client Requests enable us to build bespoke requests for all of our clients, whereas a mail merge doesn’t really do that.

Tom Li, BKL

Chasing clients for necessary information used to take a lot of Tom’s time, but with Karbon’s reminders, he can relax knowing that the information will come in. “I save an extra half-day a month by not chasing people to send me their information. Karbon does that now for me.”

In fact, Client Requests have been so useful for Tom that he would take them over everything else: “I think Karbon’s pricing pays for itself just with the Client Requests module, and everything else is a bonus.” 

My Week and Work 

Karbon’s customization and versatility means different people use it in different ways. As Tom puts it, “Different people love different features about Karbon. It’s got a feature for everyone. It’s got a view for everyone. Managers like being able to see an overview of everything in the Kanban board, but individual staff members love My Week because they can plan what they're doing this week and next week.”

“It gives us oversight, and especially with My Week—which people have started to use a lot more now—the ability to see who’s doing what and when they’re planning to do it.”

Insights

Tom has found the Work and Email Insights particularly useful: “We can stop a lot more jobs from being late or missing any deadlines because we can quickly run a report.”

With those reports, people are held to account and are allocated more resources if that’s what they need to deliver work on time.

Templates

BKL’s work creation process is sped up by using templates to create work on the fly. Team members are encouraged to customize templates for each client. Customizing the core template to reflect the way a certain client likes to work means anyone can build a workflow for that client, even if they’ve never worked with them before.

A Karbon future for BKL

While ABS is the first department at BKL to use Karbon, Tom would like to see others follow. “I’d love every team across BKL to use Karbon,” Tom says. 

As one of the founding members of the Karbon Customer Council, Tom has embraced his role as a Karbon champion and ambassador.

Further down the line, Tom sees management accounting becoming more and more automated. And he sees more people doing their work with smartphones, working on the move in places other than the office.

But it will always be about spending time with clients for BKL. With the implementation of Karbon, all the time that was once spent updating spreadsheets or chasing documents can be reallocated to the client. Being present gives the client reassurance that they’re being guided to grow the right way and that they have the right support: hands-on and always available.

Key results

  • Save 3 days every month using Karbon’s workflow management features

  • Save 1 day every month with Client Requests and reminders

  • Remove bottlenecks to consistently deliver work ahead of schedule

BKL logo

About BKL

Services:  Accounting, Audit & Assurance, Outsourced Finance, Advisory, Tax

Location:  London, United Kingdom

Firm Size: 51-250 Employees

Key Results

  • Save 3 days every month using Karbon’s workflow management features
  • Save 1 day every month with Client Requests and reminders
  • Remove bottlenecks to consistently deliver work ahead of schedule