An intro to automation for accountants: Part 1

by
Keir Thomas-Bryant
June 21, 2022
Robotic hands on top of receipts and invoices to illustrate accounting automation

From calculators in the early 1970s, through to the PC and spreadsheets in the 1980s, dealing with the numbers has been getting easier and more intuitive for decades.

A competitive advantage has always been delivered by using technology.

In fact, the viability of a business is often defined by its willingness to embrace tech.

And in today’s world, automation is the key tool to reduce costs and drive growth. It offers the potential to revolutionise client relationships and the services you provide.

In this five-part series, we take a deep dive into the essentials of automation when it comes to accounting. In later instalments we’ll discuss topics such as how to begin your automation journey, and how to be the automation advocate in your workplace. But in this first instalment we look at the lesser-known benefits of automation.

Here’s what we discuss this time:

  1. Instant results
  2. Getting a feel for the numbers
  3. Relationship building
  4. Getting started with accounting automation

1. Instant results

We all know about the client that expects miracles—who emails at 5pm on 31 January requesting you complete their Self Assessment return.

What if you were actually able to perform that miracle?

People often talk about how automation delivers efficiency, but they don’t talk about what that actually means: Being able to get back to a client in record time with actionable results.

Get the client to photograph their paperwork, like receipts, and then get them to forward via email any PDF invoices, bills and purchase orders. Then feed it all into AutoEntry.

The data is extracted automatically and accurately, The result is reducing down to hours a task that formerly might've take a day, or more.

For clients this kind of result really does seem like magic. But you’re also freeing up time to add value for the client, either as part of the existing service offering, or by offering something extra. You can use the time to discuss and prepare cashflow forecasts, for example.

Or you can spend the time educating them about making timely requests for accounting assistance!

2. Getting a feel for the numbers

With the constant flow of data provided by automation tools like AutoEntry, you and your client are simply much more likely to know what’s going on at any given moment.

The days of a client only understanding their financial position monthly, quarterly or even yearly, can be banished to the dark ages. And rightly so.

But for an accountant, there’s more to it than even this. You can bring your experience and knowledge to bear on the financials.

In short, you can get a feel for the numbers.

You’ll be able to intuitively see, without a great deal of exploration, whether a business is healthy or otherwise. You can see opportunities. And if you suspect there’s an issue, the information you require is ready and waiting for you to dig down into.

Again, this empowers a superior client service along with the potential for increased and improved service offerings.

3. Relationship building

Have you ever had a client take an interest in exactly how you do their accounting?

Maybe one or two do, but let’s be honest—it’s rare.

Clients don’t care about how you do the work for them. But the one thing they do really care about is your relationship with them.

They might not even be aware of this, but they need to trust and believe in you. They need peace of mind.

From your perspective as an accountant, ticking these boxes isn’t simply about doing a good job. It’s a base requirement in any attempt to sell additional or enhanced service offerings. If clients trust you then this will not be seen as an upsell. It’ll be seen as an essential requirement for them to achieve their goals.

Automation like AutoEntry is a shortcut to building this level of trust. Aside from delivering speed and accuracy that clients expect and appreciate, and which present your services in the very best light, it frees-up time for you to invest in those client relationships.

Conversations can move away from demands for things like paperwork to discussions about business growth and how you can help, as one example.

Or you can move onto suggesting periodic financial check-up services, or the kind of reporting services required before capital investments or financing applications.

4. Getting started with accounting automation

We’ll dig down into the details of how to get started introducing automation in your practice later in this five-part series. But here’s some steps you might want to undertake right now.

  1. Ask around for experiences. Speak to colleagues or even people in other practices who’ve started their automation journey. It’s tempting to discuss technical details of their implementation, but instead try to learn about their experiences—how have things changed and improved for them? In light of this, is there any way they would’ve done it differently?
  2. Consider your processes. Start to think about how you and possibly your colleagues complete your day-to-day tasks. Where might automation be implemented to make improvements? Again, consider the broader picture—are there any colleagues who might require additional time and training investments to get the best out of automation?
  3. Try it yourself. It’s possible to get a free trial of automation tools like AutoEntry, so why not give it a try for your personal business-related accounting? If nothing else, this provides vital experience that you can rely upon when it comes time to sell automation to your wider practice and even to clients.

Conclusion: Automation and accountants = perfection

The next step for accountants is here in the form of automation. It’s the only way to remain relevant and competitive in the age when taxes are being made digital, and the world of business is fundamentally changing to accommodate different ways of working.

Practices and clients that use AutoEntry have seen huge reductions in the amount of time traditionally spent on core accounting tasks.

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