Accounting

Forget Artificial Intelligence: There Are Plenty of Easy Automation Wins with Today’s Accounting Technology

Aug 22, 2018 | By Blake Oliver

Overwhelmed by buzzwords like “blockchain” and “artificial intelligence?” While these technologies will no doubt be transformative over the next decade, there are plenty of ways for teams to get significantly more efficient and effective using excellent accounting technology solutions you can implement today.

A survey citied in a recent article on CFO.com, “Don’t Forget About Your Existing Technologies,” found that:

  • 55% of companies have neglected to implement basic automation technology such as OCR or online invoice approvals for accounts payable.
  • Another 43% on the accounts receivable side are failing to send invoices electronically or set up customers with self-service portals.
  • Only 53% have a tool for automatic journal entry creation.
  • Only 31% have automated revenue recognition.

What’s crazy about those stats is that there are plenty of software vendors ready to sell you solutions today that will give you easy wins! You don’t need to wait for blockchain or AI to start benefiting from today’s accounting technology.

Here at FloQast, we’re all about making it easier for accountants to do their job. And we practice what we preach. Here’s what we recommend based on a combination of what we’ve seen our most successful clients use and what we use ourselves.

First, move to a cloud ERP

The first step of course is moving to a cloud ERP such as Oracle Netsuite or Sage Intacct. (FloQast integrates with both, by the way.)

Moving your accounting to the cloud has these benefits:

  • Save IT Resources — Your internal IT department won’t be tied up implementing or maintaining your accounting technology and reporting processes. They can spend their time working on things that make your company money.
  • Save Money and Time — Cloud ERPs can also be easier and less expensive to implement  than installing a system on your own server.
  • Scalability — Easily scale up (or down) as your needs change.
  • Security — While no system is infallible, your cloud ERP provider adds another layer of protection on top of what you’re already doing. (Not convinced? If you don’t have biometric security and armed guards protecting your server room, that’s less secure than the cloud.)
  • Easy Access — Your team can work anywhere, anytime, and from any device. Perfect if you’re scaling up a remote workforce like Stack Overflow.

For more on the benefits of moving to cloud ERP from three NetSuite users, check out our blog post, “Los Angeles Accounting Leaders On The Benefits Of Moving To Cloud Accounting.” (One of our panelists shares how he managed to automate 40% of the manual work his team was doing.)

Next, build an app ecosystem

There are so many apps that integrate with cloud accounting systems. How do you know where to start? To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of accounting technology solutions used here at FloQast and/or by our customers. These are all off-the-shelf solutions that you can implement today to make your accounting team more efficient. Take a look and let us know what you think on Twitter!

1. Procure-to-Pay – Accrualify

This app automates all the steps in the procure-to-pay process. Employees can create a PO, which then goes automatically to the right person for approval. You can even send accrual estimate requests right to the vendors, making accruals easier. Invoices are collected as they come in, and sent to the right people for approval, then can be paid automatically. We use Accrualify here at FloQast, and one of our favorite features is the automatic accrual roll-forward reporting.

2. Sales Tax – Avalara

With something like 10,000 separate sales tax jurisdictions in the U.S. alone, businesses that sell online or across state lines face a huge, time-sucking compliance nightmare. Avalara automates sales tax compliance, from calculating the correct sales tax on invoices and in e-commerce shopping carts to reporting and payment. Their tax experts stay on top of ever-changing sales and transaction tax laws across the U.S. and around the world so you don’t have to. Avalara easily integrates with your GL and many e-commerce platforms.

3. Payments – Bill.com

This app saves you time in paying vendors and contractors by taking your Accounts Payable paperless. Invoices can be imported via email or drag and drop, then sent to the correct person for approval. Payments go out with the click of a button via ACH or check. Syncs with your accounting system for easy reconciliation.

4. Cloud Storage – Box

Box is a simple cloud storage solution that allows your team to share files securely from any device, anywhere in the world. You can share files by sending a link, which can have an expiration date and unique password, both set by you. You can even preview files without downloading them. Mobile apps for iOS and Android let you work on any device. By the way, FloQast integrates with Box (and a number of other cloud storage providers) to ensure enterprise level security for your Excel reconciliations and other financial close documents.

5. Electronic Signatures – DocuSign

DocuSign allows documents to be signed electronically from anywhere in the world. Besides signing electronic documents, the latest release even lets you convert paper documents into documents you can sign electronically by taking a picture. This eliminates the hassle of printing a PDF, signing it, then scanning and emailing it, making it easier to work with remote vendors, contractors and employees. (Full disclosure: DocuSign is a FloQast customer. See more of our amazing customers here.)

6. Expenses – Expensify

Expensify’s motto is “Expense Reports That Don’t Suck.” Just scan in a receipt or snap a photo, and their SmartScan accounting technology codes that receipt and submits it automatically for approval and next day reimbursement. You can also track mileage and time within the app. A budgeting module helps travelers stay within approved travel budgets. Integrated currency conversion makes it convenient for international travel. Those of us who travel frequently here at FloQast love using Expensify!

7. Close Management – FloQast

FloQast was created by accountants for accountants to help them close the books faster and more accurately. Keep your familiar checklists and spreadsheets in Excel and sync them dynamically with your GL. Get automatic alerts when journal entries cause a reconciliation to go out of balance. Everything is tied out and audit ready in less time. A central dashboard lets everyone see the status of tasks so your team knows exactly what they need to do next. Integrated document storage keeps backups just a click away for easy review, and makes your auditors happy. Users especially love the review notes, which make collaboration easy, and keeps conversations attached to the relevant items, not trapped in endless email chains. On average, FloQast customers close their books three days faster.

8. Financial Planning – Host Analytics

Want to spend less time in spreadsheets and more time understanding your numbers? Host Analytics streamlines FP&A by taking the information in your ERP and pulling it into reports and dashboards you can use to make decisions. It’s a scalable solution that automates planning, budgeting, consolidation and reporting.

9. Invoice Management – Stampli

Stampli simplifies the process of invoice approval by routing invoices to the correct person for approval. Details from the original vendor agreement accompany the invoice so you can compare the invoice to the agreement. Any questions about an invoice can be sent within the app to vendors or team members. Machine learning and automatic coding eliminates data entry to the GL. You can also set up portals so your vendors can upload new invoices and check on the status of previous ones. A management dashboard makes it easy to monitor performance of the AP department and identify any bottlenecks.

10. 1099s – Track1099

Avoid the madness of year-end 1099 preparation and filing with Track1099. This app will file your 1099s online with the IRS and deliver them to recipients via email or postal mail. Besides the 1099-MISC forms for your contractors and vendors, Track1099 will also handle just about any other kind of 1099, 1098s, or W-2s for your employees, and will also help you with any corrections you need to make. You can import the data from most any accounting system. Track1099 uses IRS-approved and bank-level 256-bit SSL encryption so your data stays safe.

11. Billing – Zuora

Zuora is designed especially for subscription services or any other service that has recurring billing. You can group similar customers and set up automated schedules for billing. If those customers upgrade, downgrade, or make other changes to their account, those changes are automatically calculated for proper revenue recognition according to GAAP. Customers with multiple locations can be consolidated into one streamlined bill.

Before investing in something big like robotic process automation, or waiting for blockchain to be perfected before you leave your manual processes behind, try some of these off-the-shelf, proven accounting technology solutions first and realize massive productivity gains for your team. Not convinced? Check out the 647% first year ROI of FloQast according to industry analysts Amalgam Insights.

Blake Oliver
Blake Oliver, CPA, is an entrepreneur, accountant, writer, and speaker who specializes in cloud accounting technology. In 2016 and 2017, Blake was named a “40 Under 40” in the accounting profession by CPA Practice Advisor. He is the Senior Product Marketing Manager for FloQast.

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