Automating reports is the latest innovation to benefit accountants. It's especially useful for client communications
One of the key changes of accountancy and bookkeeping in recent years is the rise in automation. Digitized accounting dates back to the late 1800s, so it’s not new, but its use has accelerated in recent years, especially in 2020 with the explosion of remote working. Accounts automation is a remote working tool, as it allows for less handling of paper documents and less in-person meetings.
Automation does not lead to obsolescence but a shifting in what the accountant or bookkeeper does for their client.
For example you should be doing less manual data entry and spending less time getting to trial balance and more time sharing your expertise with your clients. Indeed, you might know your clients’ accounts and even opportunities and dangers better than the clients themselves.
So this is an opportunity to offer something more substantial for your clients and potentially more lucrative for you.
The more accounting and reporting you can delegate to automation, the more time you have to offer more valuable services that no machine can provide – namely, insight.
Automation is an opportunity, not a threat, for accountants. Data entry and (more recently) report creation frees accountants to focus on management accounting, strategy, and communication.
Some accounts automation packages (including AutoEntry) include a level of report automation. Here are some advantages of this feature:
Naturally, cost reduction and labor reduction are interrelated. Time that you would have spent creating reports is now saved as it's automated. Naturally, this is especially convenient in busy periods, like tax season.
In general automated data tends to be more accurate than manually entered data. This accurate automated data now lives in your reports. There's less room for human error, subjective interpretation and bias.
Another advantage of automated reports is that you can program it to create more uniform reports for every client. So for instance if you're creating quarterly reports they're all consolidated in the one file preferably in the cloud and you have saved settings to remind you to create uniform reports every quarter year (or whenever you create these reports). This is especially beneficial when you're comparing seasons or tax years.
Automatic reports greatly reduce risk fraud. They are harder to doctor or manipulate, leaving less margin for human interference.
The days of thick paper reports we're already coming to an end before 2020 and COVID-19. However the advent of automated reports and their increased ubiquity is another step towards a completely paperless office. Not only is this environmentally friendly but it also has logistical advantages as you don't have to send or handle reports. And digital reports and files in general are much easier to consolidate, search through and analyze than their paper counterparts.
Some clients and colleagues are more visually attuned than others. In other words while some clients can look at spreadsheet and see a pattern others would prefer to see a graph. This applies to management and colleagues too. So the ability to easily create graphs and reports should aid communication both within a company and outside. In fact, report automation in general can have multifaceted use, with communications benefits to colleagues working in sales, marketing, finance, customer service, manufacturing, and HR.
Because automated reports can be quite uniform there is a danger of creating a uniform report for every client. But as you're aware, every client is completely different and unique with their own challenges and strengths. There are also preferences in how they like to read reports broken down into preferred styles of charts, length of reports, depth of insight and other aspects. So take the time to learn what your clients prefer when it comes to reports, their level of understanding and their aesthetic preferences.
There are several things to decide before you begin an automated report, and questions to ask. Firstly who's the target audience or reader? Then how frequent are the reports to go out? How much time are you going to cover in the report? What are the KPI's? What numbers or trends are important to you and or the client? What format do you want these reports to appear in? Do you want these reports to be insightful, user friendly ,in depth, surface level? Will you be presenting the report to the client (giving you a chance to explain or contextualize) or will they be reading it on their own?
The one reason that accountants should not be afraid of automation is that accountants can provide insights that no level of automation can yet provide. Reports are great opportunity to highlight trends and patterns that you or your client might not initially be aware of. This could be expenses that could be addressed by changing vendor, for instance. trends in the market and seasonal changes in demand, and other opportunities and risks.
Every new workplace technology brings with it inherent changes in expectations between client or employer and worker . For example, the advent of email meant that employees had to be always on and always available. The same can apply to automated reports. So, while reports can be created more swiftly and easily, expectations might change from the client who might expect them more promptly.
AutoEntry has a range of features and benefits, from automated data entry, to smart analysis to auto-publishing of data into your software. Our latest feature, AccountsPrep, can generate a P&L, balance sheet, trial balance, tax report and more, automatically. Find out more with a free trial.