How Accountants Can Use Automation To Improve Their Processes

13th Nov 2020
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Using automation to improve your many accounting processes is the key to saving time and money. It’s also what modern clients expect. Find out more.

Embracing new technologies

Even for the most established of accountancy firms, juggling all the functions of a busy team can be a challenge. It’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut, completing tasks manually or in a set way, just because that’s always how it’s been done.

Thankfully however, more and more tools are coming online that allow you to automate many of the most laborious, time-intensive processes you carry out each day. Not only can these serve to sharpen up your services and enhance your firm’s reputation, but they can even improve your bottom line. Here we look at how.

Why automating accounting processes is something that can’t be ignored

For business accountants, a large part of the role involves data entry and various admin tasks. It’s often tedious, and even despite your best efforts human error is far from uncommon. These errors are not just annoying, they can seriously damage your firm’s reputation too (not to mention the unhappy clients).

The whole point is that those who use your services expect 100% accuracy - and this can realistically only be obtained by automating as much of your work as possible.

Then there’s the staff skills and time allocation to think of. Manually entering in data is repetitive, trivial work that doesn’t require much in the way of expertise. Yet in smaller practices especially, more highly trained staff members tend to get roped in - and it’s hardly the best use of their time and skills. Automation on the other hand, means that daily tasks can be completed automatically, improving efficiency and not taking up so much resource. More time is then freed up for improving your business and making strategic plans for the future (including growth). There’s also space in the diary to take on more complex work too, thereby generating more revenue through higher rates.

Finally, a lack of automation can be a real turn off to modern, tech-savvy accounting professionals. The highest quality talent is likely to be attracted to your organisation if it embraces digital technologies and automation - ones that don’t are likely to be left behind.

Next steps

There are a number of practical steps you can incorporate into your automation strategy when you’re ready. These include:

1. Linking your business accounts, credit cards and supplier accounts

Tracking the cash that flows in and out of a business should be easy. Aim to enable bank feeds, rather than manually entering business transaction data. This will not only save a substantial amount of time but also makes reconciliation easier. Popular software to do this includes Xero (which we recommend as it integrates with our Tax Cloud portal) and QuickBooks, to name just two. They are also cloud-based, meaning they can be accessed at any time, on any internet-connected device.

2. Using online invoice management

Online invoicing is one of the most powerful tools any business can use - including accountancy firms. It means payments can be received faster, and debtors are easier to keep track of as everything is kept in one (accessible) place.

3. Using intelligent data verification and validation

Most businesses need to check their invoice details against the purchase orders, stock codes, and supplier details. This can take up a substantial amount of time, making automated data verification and validation software essential (LucaNet is a popular one). Once data has been captured and verified, this type of automated software makes light work of validating and matching it to the details contained in the invoice. Everything can then be uploaded automatically without the need for any manual data entry.

4. Always uploading documents

To avoid a load of paper trails, it’s well worth uploading every supplier bill and document into your accounting software as you go along. It’s much more time-efficient.

Some software has certain tools built in that can be used in identifying crucial information to speed up your data entry. Something like Scan2Invoice is ideal for either uploading the PDF or you can simply email it to a dedicated address that you wish to use. The other great thing is you no longer risk losing bits of paper, or manually working your way through document after document.

5. Automating your invoice approval process

Invoice approval processing can be a real pain. It’s often the slowest part of invoicing simply because documents can easily be lost or delayed which can seriously hold up approval times. Not only does this mean more chasing, but it can actually make running the business more expensive. Plus of course, it’s all too easy to send an invoice to the wrong person, or to someone who has now left the company.

Essentially, automating your invoice approval process reduces the requirement for human contact and is much more efficient. Accountancy firms looking to automate their own invoicing process should begin by deconstructing their current process and looking at it critically. Where are the hold ups occurring? Is there anything that is currently being done manually that doesn’t need to be?

This will show where the weaknesses lie and where automation can step in. A task management solution can then be implemented which will automate your workflow. It will allow you to set up automated rules for ensuring that digital invoices are sent in a timely manner to the correct person.

Contact the R&D funding experts at Myriad Associates

Automation can be key when it comes to claiming R&D Tax Credits too. It’s a highly lucrative tax incentive that many companies will wish to claim if they’ve been involved in any innovative R&D projects over the last couple of years. Find out more about R&D Tax Credits.

Not only could the scheme benefit your clients, but your own accountancy firm too.

If you would like to speak to us about anything we’ve looked at in this article, particularly in relation to R&D tax relief, please do get in touch today. Over our many years in business our team has partnered with accountancy firms up and down the UK and Ireland to offer the most comprehensive R&D tax and grant funding service possible. We’ll be pleased to advise you.