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Case study: How Connolly Accountants tackled client data capture

14th May 2013
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Buckinghamshire-based practice Connolly Accountants has grown rapidly since pioneering online accounting services for its clients. Robert Lovell reports.

Since embracing Celaton’s inSTREAM technology, Connolly has fully automated data capture and processing of accounting source documents, reducing costs, enhancing services and doubling its client base due to the improved efficiency, says managing partner Declan Connolly.

The firm introduced a cloud-based service, 1ne, in 2011 to support clients with outsourced accounting. While clients loved the service, there were still barriers to the growth Connolly wanted. The ability to take on new quickly also poses a serious challenge. The new clients increased the need for clerical staff to enter data from thousands of invoices, credit notes and receipts.

As it grew on the back of its cloud services, Connolly Accountants reached a point where unprecedented demands for data entry staff made it difficult to scale any further.

“Cloud-based accounting systems, which really have only come on stream in the last five years, create the opportunity to offer a bookkeeping service to clients,” said Connolly.

“But they still hadn't overcome the challenge of what to do with the paperwork. They started out with a situation where they would pay all the invoices and then send it to their bookkeeping. From a client perspective, that could be a month or two months after the transaction takes place.”

Data capture

Connolly's solution to this problem was inSTREAM from Celaton, which automates inbound information capture and minimises the need for human intervention. The accountant had bumped into Andrew Anderson of Celaton, who claimed to have a system that would deal with his data entry needs.

Initially, Connolly Accountants experimented within the practice itself as a "guinea pig" for the system and used inSTREAM to capture and process all the supplier data from its clients. After further specification and design work, a working pilot system was up and running alongside the 1ne accounting service within two weeks. The new service went fully operational late in 2011, just one month after the first contact.

“It was fast and efficient - we could get through a huge amount of volume,” Connolly said. “It was very impressive technology, and very easy to sell. From our point of view, the more volume the client had the better, because you can just scan it through and get through hundreds of invoices,” Connolly said.

In addition to statutory accounts, tax advice and management accounts, the practice now offers a service that gives clients complete visibility to any piece of information in its system, with a complete audit trail.

Connolly said the service gives clients access to all their information, wherever they may be: “I tell my clients they can manage their business from a smartphone on the beach!”

Added benefits

Connolly explained that inSTREAM doesn't just scan paperwork, it automatically identifies and converts unstructured information into structured accounting data.

As a result, the firm has been able to reduce the number of clerical staff devoted to this task from four full-time staff to one part-timer.

The 87% reduction in people costs has had two effects:

  • easier to offer attractive pricing to clients
  • capacity to offer the service to many more clients.

Connolly Accountants has doubled the 1ne client-base since introducing inSTREAM, resulting in profitable growth and higher morale for staff who can serve customers rather than spend their time capturing data.

Putting document scans online has also reduced processing times and cut physical document storage requirements to zero.

The inSTREAM technology is able to learn as it encounters new document types – if it finds something it doesn’t understand and can’t process it, the software will flag it for attention, and is taught how to deal with it in the future.


Connolly Accountants managed to get rid of all the paperwork and if it wanted to, it could move all that data to the cloud.

The Celaton solution allowed the firm to greatly increase the amount of bookkeeping it could handle, while also improving the quality of its work.

Declan Connolly summarised the impact inSTREAM has had on his business: “After solving people's ‘mucky’ problems, they then move on to the sexier stuff like statutory accounts. It leads into much better work, but also but what they do in terms of bookkeeping is of a much higher standard.

The return on his investment was easily 100%, he added. “If we get big volume customers it's be significantly higher than that. It's a complete no-brainer - the bigger you are the better it is.”

From the supplier's point of view Andrew Anderson commented: “We measure ourselves by the outcome our customers measure, and if you look at the before and after, Connolly's had five people working seven days a week trying to handle half the number of customers they have now. The heavy lifting just goes away in the blink of an eye.”

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