As a bookkeeper, ever-growing workloads and expectations are pushing the boundaries of what was once the ‘typical forty-hour week’. And, what’s more, those tasked with doing the work. The question is – what can be done to reverse this trend?
The answer, while far from revolutionary, is automation. Whichever software provider you look to, the core message will remain the same: accounting automation saves you and your firm time by helping you complete routine tasks much faster and more efficiently. That then leaves you with a little more breathing space, allowing you to allocate more time and energy to things like billable advisory and planning.
In this text, we’ll be assessing a handful of use cases where automation solves common problems in today’s accounting world. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of how automation can help your firm improve your current accounting workflow, rediscover more time for advisory and free up your team for better planning.
Problem: Too much time spent on manual data entry
Data entry is a slow, mundane task that eats up countless hours, particularly during tax season. There’s a whole load of information to sift through, then process, then check – and check again. From the outside, manual data entry might seem a minor, somewhat straightforward task. In reality, though, it’s often a root cause of why your team ends up working overtime.
Solution: Automated data capture
There are a number of technological solutions that help accountants, bookkeepers and their clients automate this type of work. These products (like Dext Prepare) allow clients to scan receipts and other financial paperwork using a mobile phone. Then, using optical recognition technology (OCR), all the data you’d usually enter manually is extracted and processed within the platform, ready for you to use.
The accuracy of this technology also reduces the chance of error significantly, while removing the need for you to go over the data and check for anomalies. Again, this only saves your team hours of back-and-forth, manual admin. They can then redivert that time towards advisory.
Problem: Chasing clients to submit their financial data
Let’s face it, clients that submit their paperwork on time are a rare exception. As we’re sure you know, a lot of the time this can cause severe delays which halts how much work your team is able to carry out. It’s why so many bookkeepers and accountants spend a great deal of time chasing clients for documentation. That’s before they even think about how to categorise it.
Solution: Automate client data collection
Again, advanced automation tools can free accountants and bookkeepers from this kind of arduous work. By enabling clients to take pictures of their receipts, bills, invoices and more, these smart tools also make everyone’s role much easier.
There are also tools (like Dext Commerce) that automatically collect client sales data from e-commerce and point-of-sale systems (POS). These types of solutions are ideal both for brick-and-mortar businesses and the ever-rising number of businesses that operate online.
Once the data is extracted and loaded to cloud-based accounting software, it’s then categorised based on set routine behaviours. This not only simplifies otherwise complex processes, but also saves your team from going back and forth, asking clients for specific details around the supplier.
And, as with all things automation, the time you get back can be reallocated to more value-adding tasks. Many choose to focus on advisory, while other managers will encourage their team to focus on their own development. It really is up to you and your firm.
Problem: Repeat and re-checking work due to data errors
Duplicate invoices, overpayments and miscategorised expenses – there are many things that can go wrong with a company’s finances. With so many variables and potential errors, accuracy counts. That becomes all the more difficult when trying to check for those errors manually. And that’s before you even have to rework a tax filing or financial statement after finding an error once an error.
Solution: Use technology to do a pre-check before work begins
The good news is that cloud-accounting capabilities stretch beyond that of automated extraction alone. There are a number of products out there (like Dext Precision) that help accountants and bookkeepers evaluate the quality of client data before any form of analysis and reporting. You can scan client data for duplicates and discrepancies, conflicting or missing categorisations, and other data errors. These can then be flagged for review and approval with the client.
As you know, it’s essential that everything is correct and in order before you start this type of work. If it’s not, you risk wasting your own time and missing costly errors that have the potential to undermine both the work you deliver and your firm’s reputation.
Catching errors in advance protects the client as well, as errors can attract the attention of auditors. And missing (or lost) expense receipts can result in companies missing out on deductions come tax season, which can add up.
The benefits of automation for accountants and bookkeepers are far-reaching. What’s more, those benefits also apply to client satisfaction – which is always an added bonus. The bottom line, though, is this: time will always be a finite resource in accounting and bookkeeping; anything that makes more of it should be taken very seriously.
Whether you’re chasing clients for paperwork, entering data or checking that data for errors, automation is a welcome, time-saving addition. These are by no means enjoyable tasks, so why not look to make them more efficient? That will only give your firm more time to focus on generating more revenue, building better client relationships, or developing your own team. The key to all of that is automation.
If you’d like to find out more about this kind of technology, we’d love to hear from you. We have three products designed to help you automate routine tasks, across the pre-accounting cycle. Click below to learn more.