The evolution of technology has brought monumental changes to most professions. Accounting and bookkeeping are no exceptions. Gone are the days of green eyeshades, heavy ledger books, cumbersome calculating machines, and a labor-intensive process. They have now been upstaged by faster computers, sophisticated accounting software systems, and closer system interconnections.
These technological advancements now make it easier and faster to gather, organize, measure, analyze, calculate and present key financial data. As a result, accounting firms can work smarter, faster, better, and more efficiently.
In essence, technology is the new arbiter in determining winners and losers in the accounting and bookkeeping industry. For your firm to be efficient and competitive in today’s environment, you need to understand how you can best use technology to benefit your organization, staff, and clients.
Therefore, it’s important to keep up with the major trends and changes. Your firm can shift towards greater automation, cloud-based solutions, and secure collaboration tools.
Here are some modern ways you can leverage technology to take your firm to greater heights.
Specialized Accounting Software Systems
Modern software systems have replaced many of the manual, routine-based accounting processes. Most of the processes from input to output are now automated. Yet, it is important for you to understand how you can make software work specifically for your firm. Many specialized software systems have emerged for this purpose.
This trend is buoyed by the advent of Application programming interfaces (APIs). APIs allow several pieces of software to communicate and share data. This makes the integration of several activities seamless. You can now easily integrate your online and mobile payments systems with customer loyalty programs. You can also integrate your email marketing with tools for scheduling, logistics, merchant services, and reporting.
With this automation in place, you can use your time taking on new, more interesting tasks. For example, focus on more important and higher-value work for your clients.
Cloud computing accounting occurs when employees access their software applications remotely through a network, the Internet, or through a cloud application service provider. Cloud computing accounting uses internet power to complete tasks that are usually done on a desktop computer.
With cloud technologies, you can aggregate data entry and information in one place. Your clients can also access the portal. There is also a common interface where they can collaborate with the firm. You and your clients can upload and download files as well as communicate with one another.
The mobile part of cloud technology supports many form factors and operating systems that grant access to a client’s data remotely from any mobile device and perform any given task at any time. This accessibility and efficiency build trust which in turn, creates added value for your client.
Because the cloud’s reliability is high, you can access information and do important work from your own offices or from your clients’ offices. From airports to restaurants, or even from your bedroom. You can work from wherever and whenever makes the most sense or feels most convenient.
You must understand that there are clients out there who are skeptical about the cloud and security. To cater to this, most cloud providers will offer encryption, multi-factor authentication, and login management systems to protect sensitive information. It is important for you to be knowledgeable about how cloud security works. You must stay up-to-date with changes so you can reassure your uncertain clients.
Project and Personnel Management
In your firm, you will most likely need to assign different tasks to different staff. You might choose to assign these tasks based on clients, the nature of the job, or some other metrics. Project management tools make in-house team collaboration more efficient.
Reporting and time tracking tools allow you to uncover inefficiencies in workflow or personnel. You can easily and more accurately answer important personnel questions. For instance, are employees currently doing work that has value to clients, or is it just busy work? Are employees fulfilled in their work? Are they happy with their work-life balance?
The insights you’ll get from project management tools will allow you to allocate work to the best hands. You will also be able to provide the needed mentoring to your staff. These tools help in determining job assignments, monitoring progress, and reviews.
Customer Relationship Management
Technology has brought accounting professionals and customers closer. Data sharing and video/audio conferencing technology now allow you and your clients to “meet” virtually. You get to share data in real-time. You are also able to discuss any aspect of your work across long distances as if you were in the same room.
Clients can get receipts, bills, and other paperwork to you via apps in real-time. This is better than sending everything at once at the end of the month. You get to process the documents as they come in, and you can provide your customers with outstanding service by giving them the information they need to run their business successfully all the time.
In addition, the ability of modern accounting software to display information in a variety of formats and visuals means that your non-accountant clients can more easily understand and appreciate not only the raw and finalized data presented to them but also the value-added work you have done for them.
Also, getting paid by your clients is now easier with automated invoicing and billing. Digital invoicing gives you the speed and professionalism your firm needs. It also allows for digital payment.
You can use the cloud and social media to help automate your marketing process. This is possible with techniques such as programmable marketing and social listening. This allows you to redirect a great deal of your time into the actual fulfillment of your services, while automated procedures take care of the marketing programs.
Social media is an effective, and sometimes free way to market yourself. You can achieve this by posting content clients want to see and establishing a strong brand. Post frequently to increase visibility. Make sure to react to comments from customers and prospects. This allows you to build an authentic relationship with your customers. With a strong online presence, your firm can grow its customer base.
When deploying technology, your firm must not be afraid to change the way it works. Shifting to new technology requires the firm to look inwards at how it does things and reimagine business model processes to fit the new business landscape.
You can start by building your own IT department to lead the efforts. Get ready to innovate and adapt. Start from basic modernization to advanced technology. Always check where you are on that continuum, and what are the next steps you need to take to get to the next level.
In today’s world, technology is the difference between a good and a great firm. Client expectations are at an all-time high. Your clients need to perceive your firm as up-to-date.
Leveraging technology affords you the opportunity to use your most valued resources more effectively. It helps you distinguish yourself in the crowded marketplace. With the right tools, you have a better chance to increase productivity and profits.
Regardless of where you’re starting from, there are proven solutions in the market today that will give your firm back critical time and greater capacity to meet growth goals, increase revenue and meet client demands. In this fast-paced nature of today’s business environment, you need every edge you can get.