Mentioning automation to any accountant may elicit a strong response. Some will embrace it, while others believe that automated accounting is the beginning of the end for the profession.
Change is often accompanied by a fear of the unknown, or a longing for the good old days. And change is coming:
The ONS estimates that 1.5 million UK jobs are at risk from automation. Moreover, 29% of all automation is currently taking place within accountancy.
But this doesn’t mean accountancy as a profession is doomed. Computers may be good at maths, but accountants are more than human adding machines. If anything, crunching numbers is a distraction from the real job – being a trusted business adviser.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at the benefits of accounting automation. But first, let’s remind ourselves of what it actually is.
What is accounting automation?
Accounting automation refers to the harnessing of technology to efficiently carry out repetitive tasks. And to interrogate data in ways which were previously impossible, but now open up new opportunities to improve productivity.
Automation in accounting is nothing new. Excel was released in 1987 and has become an intrinsic part of modern bookkeeping. So much so that few accountants would even consider it a form of automation.
Automation in much of its current sense began in the early 2000s with the arrival of QuickBooks and similar software. These programs automatically track profits, expenses, inventory, and payroll. This information can be used to generate balance sheets and create invoices at the click of a button. Users can also store electronic copies of receipts and other documents that are needed to file a tax return.
It took a few years to catch on but, by the early 2010s, businesses were waking up to the benefits. QuickBooks now has over 4.5 million users, and its nearest rival Xero has a further 2 million. Now, the global market for accounting software is worth billions of pounds.
This growth is not surprising when you consider what’s on offer. From reducing human error to improving productivity, here are five ways that accounting automation will continue changing the industry for the better in 2022:
Make the most of your time
The most obvious benefit of accounting automation is the time it can save you. Professionals, like accountants in various industries and even healthcare staff, may routinely spend hours each day inputting data such as invoices or patient charges. This process could be made more efficient by implementing systems such as physical therapy digital billing. This is neither enjoyable nor especially productive – automating these tasks would allow for a greater focus on valuable, patient-centred work. By automating these repetitive tasks, accounting software frees you up to spend more time with your clients.
QuickBooks estimates that it can save the average business 42 hours a month. Xero claims to reduce the time needed to enter billing information by 25%. These extra hours can be spent face to face with your customers, building relationships instead of entering numbers.
Sadly, the best of us are prone to human error, and it is inevitable that even the most experienced accountant is bound to make the occasional mistake. Whenever this happens it exposes a firm to the risk of financial and reputational damage. It may even mean the loss of a key account.
Accounting software can process data with precision, reducing many of the opportunities for mistakes to be made. Once again, this lets you focus on what really matters.
Rather than spending your time double checking the numbers, you can spend it working out what they mean. This allows you to present your findings to your clients with absolute confidence, knowing that they are based on rock-solid data.
Keep data safe
Storing physical records carries serious security risks. Paper files are vulnerable to loss, theft, fire and flooding. Even traditional electronic records carry significant risks. Whenever data is transferred between you and your clients, there is always a danger that it will fall into the wrong hands. It has long been established that sensitive information should not be sent by email.
Automated accounting software reduces this risk to a minimum. Everything is stored in a central location, meaning that far less data is sent between you and your clients. Levels of access permission can be granted on a need-to-know basis and two-factor authentication has become pretty standard.
Improve file storage and data retrieval
Thankfully, the days of rifling through filing cabinets in search of information for customers are long gone. But even with spreadsheets, data retrieval can be a headache. Information is often stored across multiple spreadsheets, and there are few options for pinpointing individual entries.
Finding a single point of data can mean trawling through months of records.
Automated accounting software is designed for easy data retrieval. Everything is stored in a single location and entries can be tagged with keywords. You can search for information by name or date, finding what you need in seconds.
Increase your value
When we think about good customer experience, it’s about creating efficiency for your clients and, most importantly, converting prospects into clients by taking them through the buyer journey with as little friction as possible.
Automation is a chance for you to raise your status in the eyes of your clients. The accountants of the future will be judged by the quality of their advice and the clarity of their explanations. With accounting software handling the repetitive tasks, you can focus on building your reputation as their trusted adviser.
Our website platform, Horizon, is built on WordPress, and has fast become the prime choice for modern accounting firms. It has built-in marketing features and is connected to a growing range of third-party accounting, banking and marketing systems provided by our partners.
As well as the software already with us in the accounting industry, by embracing the new technologies as they are developed, you will be able to glean ever more valuable insights into the operations of your clients – particularly in the area of big data processing across different aspects of their business.
By interpreting this information yielded from automation you will be able to increase your value to clients with the advice you can provide.
Communication is vital
Successful firms appreciate the advantages digital offers and we have ensured that our website platform connects with the most popular business systems. It’s about improving the customer experience, creating efficiency for our clients and, most importantly, converting prospects into clients by taking them through the buyer journey with as little friction as possible.
As automation increases, the human touch will be more important than ever. Focusing on high value services is important, but only if your clients know what you have to offer.
For help in communicating the value you offer your clients through automation and more strategic advice, please get in touch.
Our results-focused websites for accountants are designed to attract your ideal clients, turn visitors into leads and enable your firm to measure your return on investment.