Over recent weeks I have attended conferences for members of the profession and believe that in 2016 there is already an obvious uplift in the engagement with new software and technology, says Mike Foster.
Previously it felt that many in the accountancy and bookkeeping sector were avoiding the subject either hoping it would go away or that it was something in the future that they did not need to embrace immediately.
At the recent awards evening of The International Association of Book-keepers (IASB), it was good to speak with Receipt Bank’s UK country manager Nelson Da Silva who shared his experience around the pace of change. Da Silva reiterated some of his thought provoking comments on how accountants must embrace change now.
As bookkeepers and accountants, we are in a time when we are seeing more change than perhaps ever before. The recent AccountingWEB article ‘What accounting software vendors are promising in 2016’ demonstrates how the specialist software houses are planning to stay ahead of such change and serve our market with new products and services that support our role.
So I was interested to learn more about what bookkeepers and accountants were using today to aid their efficiency with their day to day processing and work flows.
At this point it is worth mentioning that it is not just the new providers that are adding value to our efficiency and productivity. For example, without doubt, the most favoured software I continually hear referenced is Microsoft Excel. As it may be considered business as usual to use such software, its users may simply upgrade or download the new features without exploring their value, like the significant enhancements to Excel’s forecasting capability.
There are now so many providers in the market, which on one hand is great for choice but also makes the research and decision a little more complex. In the past we may have had a handful of options to choose from, but today we have a vast array of providers promoting their supportive solutions.
There are a few areas where many bookkeepers and accountants have now started to use and embrace software and technology within their working practice. There were also a few suppliers that were continually raised with me as ‘must have’ solutions.
Without covering the actual bookkeeping software providers, of which there are now many options, perhaps the most embraced technology and software I have seen introduced to work flows in the past year is the ability to take a picture of a receipt and have this processed to an importable file.
Receipt Bank appears to be leading the way here, but the product has developed so much to seamlessly aid our data entry. An additional point here is that this technology has perhaps changed how we work and who we need to recruit for our business to support the processing. In the past we perhaps needed a good technician who knew the software we used, but with such developments in software and technology then perhaps a good administrator can now process the expense receipts instead?
Also for expense claims, the manual recording of the mileage was considered unproductive by many and my experience is that everyone has their own system for keeping their records. So software, such as Tripcather, now enables us to accurately record our travel journeys and then automatically provide us with the information we need for our claims in a standard format.
Over the last year the technology and software has evolved to continually improve our user experience. In the past, perhaps many were sceptical about the accuracy of data capture solutions such as DocuRec and StatementRec from OCREX. Such tools that automatically capture the statement and invoice details to a CSV for importing is one to watch this year, as more and more bookkeepers and accountants consider the option.
A popular choice was having software to record time. There was not one that stood out as a favourite, but this is an example where many have embraced software to help ensure they actually record their time effectively to produce accurate billing or manage their margins.
My last example is around credit control. I would often hear that credit control was not being offered as a service to clients due to the fear of using the telephone to chase the money due. However, software such as Chaser and Satago have changed the thinking and have highlighted the benefit of a good credit control process that in fact therefore reduces the need for using the telephone. Again this type of solution is now being embraced as a time saving, productivity tool that can be utilised within our day to day business to add further value to the clients experience.
One of the key learns I hear from many is to ensure that you really explore the functionality of the software so that you have an understanding much deeper than what is considered at first glance.
Speak to the account or product manager to truly understand the functionality and the benefits for you, but also seek case studies of how others use the software in their business.
An example of not looking at the features in comparison to the true benefit, is that in the past I was always surprised how many people used Sage 50 when Sage Instant Accounts would suffice because the additional unlocked features were not being utilised. Similarly, at first glance Receipt Bank takes a picture of your expenses receipt. Yes, that is great but as we have come to learn it is much more than this as a productivity tool.
I encourage you to embrace the technology that is right for you, your business and your clients.