In a typical 40-hour work week, there are many demands on a person’s time. The key to scaling any business is to efficiently allocate that time, spending more on tasks that add value. For an accountant, this might mean devoting less time to data entry and management, and more time to providing financial advisory services to clients.
The problem is that menial tasks are often also essential tasks – after all, an accountant needs to enter the data before they can analyze it and offer advice to their clients. So how does one cut back on something that is essential? The answer is automation.
In the 1800s, mechanization enabled industries to automate, develop economies of scale and boost production. Today, cloud-based technologies are similarly enabling bookkeepers and accountants to automate routine tasks to improve accuracy, boost productivity, scale their business, and provide better value for their clients.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most common time-consuming pain points in the profession and how bookkeepers and accountants are leveraging advanced automation to free themselves (and their clients).
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Problem: Too much time spent on manual data entry
Solution: Automated data capture
Data entry is a slow, mundane task that eats up countless hours, particularly during tax filing season. The sheer volume of information to sort through and process often results in accountants working extended stretches of overtime, with little to no opportunity to offer their clients useful feedback or advice.
Technological solutions like Dext Prepare enable bookkeepers and accountants to automate the manual data entry process with industry-leading accuracy of over 99%. That’s hours saved every week that can be dedicated to more interesting work, such as advisory.
One Dext user, Breakwater Bookkeeping, reported reducing the data processing time for one major client from over 100 hours per month to a fraction. That’s 2-3 days a week that could then be spent scaling Breakwater’s business – from one client!
Clients benefit from this too. They’re able to capture and submit information anywhere and anytime. Plus, of course, the value-added bonus of working with an accountant that has time to offer them useful financial insights to help them develop their business.
Problem: Having to chase clients to submit their financial data
Solution: Automate client data collection
While there are some superstar clients out there that submit their financial data on time, let’s face it, they’re the exception! Most bookkeepers and accountants expend a great deal of time and energy chasing clients for documentation – then even more time sorting and categorizing the data once they’ve got it.
Luckily, advanced automation tools can free accountants and their clients from this task. Tools like Dext Commerce can automatically pull client sales data from various e-commerce and POS systems – ideal for online and brick-and-mortar businesses. Dext Prepare can automatically fetch bills, invoices, and other recurring AR and AP information and enable clients to photograph and submit receipts the moment they’re received.
The data is extracted and loaded to cloud-based accounting software, and even categorized based on defined parameters and machine learning from past categories used. This greatly simplifies the review and approval process for clients and bookkeepers alike.
Accounting and bookkeeping firm AMLB was able to make the process of submitting documentation much easier for their clients using advanced automation tools, including Dext Prepare. For one of AMLB’s clients, Pancreatic Cancer Canada, the simplification of the data submission process made a significant difference to their routine operations.
Before using Dext, they used a spreadsheet template to create payment requisitions. For every invoice, staff had to fill out a requisition template and manually enter the vendor name, invoice date, and amount. Using Dext Prepare, they simply emailed or uploaded invoices and within minutes (or even seconds!), that information was extracted and imported into QuickBooks. Invoices, receipts, and other documentation were even tied to their related transactions in QuickBooks. When it came time for PCC’s next audit, they saved an estimated 50 hours’ worth of work and were even complimented by the auditors.
Problem: Having to repeat and re-check work due to client data errors
Solution: Use technology to do a pre-check before work begins
Duplicate invoices, overpayments, miscategorized expenses… The list of possible errors in a company’s financial data is long, and accuracy matters. Manually checking for these, not to mention reworking a tax filing or financial statement once an error is discovered, can be incredibly time-consuming.
Modern cloud-based accounting tools can help bookkeepers and accountants evaluate the quality of client data before analysis of that data gets underway. Tools like Dext Precision can be used to check client data for duplicates and discrepancies, conflicting or missing categorizations, and other data errors. These can then be flagged for review and approval with the client.
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.
For Dext user Insert Coin, an accounting firm that specializes in serving the gaming industry, improved documentation capture gave them a much more detailed window into their clients’ expenses and cash flow.
Game developers work on multiple projects at a time, with each project tied to a fixed amount of funding that needs to be stretched over two to three years. Cash flow management is critical, as is accurately assigning costs and expenses. Miscategorizations can result in projects overrunning their assigned budget and skew other financial data. With staff working on multiple projects at a time and handing in paper receipts, it was a common problem.
By automating data collection and improving their clients’ expense information capture with Dext Prepare, Insert Coin was able to help clients more accurately track the costs tied to each individual project and create cash flow projections to help them better manage their project runways.
Problem: Struggling to catch your own bookkeeping and accounting errors
Solution: The accounting equivalent of spell check
Clients aren’t the only ones that can make errors. Bookkeepers and accountants are human, after all, and like all of us, they need to check their work. But as we all know, catching our own mistakes can be challenging, especially when we’ve been staring at the same documents for so long.
In addition to checking for client errors, Dext Precision can also be used to double-check the work of bookkeepers and accountants for errors. The software highlights issues and discrepancies, saving time while improving accuracy.
Dext’s many integrations also enable creative solutions to the checking and approval process. Montana-based accounting firm JCCS set up a double approval process using Dext, Bill.com and QuickBooks. With many of their small business clients working in remote locations, this process enabled JCCS to ensure bills were paid on time while creating enough of a buffer to give their clients ample time to review and with the added bonus of being able to approve the information from anywhere, anytime.
Problem: Difficulty managing staff and resources efficiently in order to meet deadlines
Solution: Analyze and assess which clients need the most help before you start
For a bookkeeping or accounting firm, advanced automation tools can enable more efficient use of time and resources. With client data collected, entered, and categorized automatically in real-time and the health of client data reviewed in advance, a firm can predict which client files will require the most time. This enables them to allocate staff more efficiently and to better manage deadlines. It also creates the opportunity to differentiate pricing based on the level of work each client requires.
By streamlining their workflows, an accounting firm can redirect hours saved towards higher-value work, such as financial advisory services. For trained financial professionals, these services is a more engaging, rewarding, and productive use of their time and expertise than manual data entry. And providing clients with business insights informed by accurate, up-to-date financial data empowers those clients to improve their business as well.
For JCCS, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a much higher demand for cash flow forecasting. Having used technology to free up staff time and improve their collection of real-time client data, JCCS was able to meet the demand and offer faster response times. They could also shift resources to better prioritize and fast-track more urgent client needs.
Want to learn more about how advanced automation can help you save time and add value? Check out our comprehensive guide to selecting and implementing new technologies that are right for your business.