We’ve entered a new era for accounting automation. The tech industry, which has at times had a narrow definition of what makes an application innovative, is now turning its attention to financial tools that can help people run their businesses more efficiently. Accountants are benefiting from this trend, thanks to a recent batch of tools that are helping them become more productive and impactful for their clients.
Overall, these changes are a boon for the industry. By automating manual, transactional tasks, today’s accountants have the headspace to think at a more strategic level. But new tools can also be a source of confusion, especially for smaller practices. How do you wade through the clutter and choose high-impact tools that fit your business? And how do you decide what to prioritize? We wanted to hear it straight from the source, so we sat down with Keith Mueller of BookKeeping Express, Vanessa Kruze of Kruze Consulting, and Nick Pasquarosa of Bookkeeper360, to pick their brains on what accounting automation means to them. This is what we learned:
THE STRATEGY BEHIND ACCOUNTING AUTOMATION
To make the most of accounting SaaS, it’s important to have a strategy that guides all software implementation. “The best way to combat this confusion is to focus on a discrete set of challenges,” Keith told us. Keep your goals in mind and focus on one problem at a time as you begin applying technical solutions to your processes. For example, your goals may be to:
- Create a more seamless customer experience for clients: Keith told us a major priority for BookKeeping Express was to work with tools that automated their clients’ essential business processes. For example, they use Hubdoc to automate the painful task of document collection, as well as AffinityLive and Xero Practice Manager to manage client workflow, job status, and billing.
- Reduce manual backend accounting work: Death to the spreadsheet! Determining taxes, predicting revenue, budgeting, and departmental analysis can now be fully automated. BookKeeping Express uses Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll) to administer payroll for clients, as it automatically handles previously cumbersome calculations like local taxes and charity deductions. “It saves hours of payroll data entry,” Keith told us. Vanessa Kruze agrees, saying, “we could have never scaled Kruze Consulting at this speed without Gusto.”
- Align around a certain set of characteristics: Nick shared that Bookkeeper360 focuses on selecting tools that are equally accessible — integrated across platforms like Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android; scalable — adjusted based on the size and needs of various clients; and visible — by creating an audit trail of all activities.
A clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish will help you select the right tool, evaluate progress, and at the end of the day, ensure success.
TOOLS FOR ACCOUNTING AUTOMATION
Our accounting experts also recommend implementing the tools below — either as standalone solutions or all together — to help streamline your practice:
Salesforce.com: Nick likes Salesforce because it enables accountants to follow the evolution of leads into converted accounts. Its various features and integrations allow for seamless tracking, reporting, and ROI measurement.
Box.com: Box’s enterprise-level solution offers “the most advanced cloud storage and file management system,” says Nick. Striking an ideal balance between simple and secure, Box improves accountant workflow by making it easy to save, organize, and share files. Its different permissions and access levels also make it great for sharing and collaborating with clients.
Xero: Invoicing is automatically integrated from Xero to Salesforce, removing the need for double data entry by Bookkeeper360 employees. Not only does this live-syncing save time and money for clients, it also allows for error-free transitions.
Gusto: Vanessa Kruze says using Gusto has allowed Kruze Consulting, and their clients, “to focus on building the businesses [they] love.” With our service, payroll and filing complex business taxes can turn into a simple and automated experience. Our platform knows the rules and regulations for the state where you’re doing business, eliminating the need to think about compliance. We see supporting accountants as such a core part of our mandate that we also have a partner program to make it official.
With the right knowledge and strategy, automated tools are a huge value-add for both accountants and their clients. These tools aren’t intended to replace the role of accountants, but will actually help accountants do their jobs more effectively. In the words of Bookkeeper360’s Nick Pasquarosa, “Salesforce, Box.com, Xero, and partnering with Gusto will help launch your accounting firm into the automated world of 2015 and will build the foundation required for the scalability and demand that will follow.” In other words, automation will bring you a little closer to winning the accounting game.