You didn’t go into business to deal with the bookkeeping. Nor to run big finance departments. Well, fear not, because this is why automation is here to help.
Automation seems to come in many different guises (and adverts) nowadays – but each has increased productivity as its goal. Some of the most common types are:
Putting your bookkeeping into a cloud app opens it up immediately to new productivity features, and which are continuously updated.
Productivity can take the simplest form of a feed to your bank account, which auto-enters transactions without anyone having to rekey them.
If both your supplier and you are using Xero, one of the most popular apps, then your supplier can send you an invoice via a direct link. This direct import is a particular timesaver if the invoice contains many lines of items.
Software such as Xero has an app family. These are apps that perform specific tasks for your business, but most importantly are integrated on a two-way basis with your accounting software.
For example, a projects app keeps track of profitability per project, with sales and purchase invoices linked to the main software. Similar apps track where you are buying goods to order for a client and selling on at a margin. At the least, this tells you that you have billed everything. Other apps provide timesheets that feed into sales invoices and to your main software. The list goes on.
The important thing for you is to consider what manual spreadsheets you currently keep to control information. Explore instead whether a linked app can perform this control and reporting in a far simpler and quicker way.
Supplier invoices, expenses capture and payment
Invoice capture is currently the most used type of automation. Apps such as Hubdoc and Receipt Bank automatically capture your incoming supplier invoices. Ask your suppliers to submit to its dedicated email address direct; upload invoices yourself from email attachments or paper; or snap your expenses bills using the mobile phone app.
In all cases, you get to input invoices with a minimum of rekeying. Set-up processing rules for repeat invoices so that they go to the correct and consistent expense code(s). Set-up authorisation rules so that you choose who reviews what before an invoice goes for payment.
Invoice capture apps also give you the advantage of digitisation. The app stores a copy of the bill against the accounting entry. A digital copy means you can double-click on it later when reviewing what you have spent. The VAT man and others are easier to deal with, and you are not clogging up the office and archive space with A4 folders of paper files.
Connect your accounting software to an Open Banking app such as Modulr, and you no longer need to go out to your separate banking app to make payments. Access to the Faster Payments bank system means you keep money in your account for longer, rather than ‘give’ it to the BACS system for 2-3 days.
Sales process automation
You have more control over your sales process, thereby making it easier to automate.
Now you can make a sales proposal and send it together with a copy of your detailed contract for your prospect’s review. Your customer can review and digitally sign. On acceptance, your sales invoices both initial and recurring are all automatically lined up in your accounting software. You just need to review, confirm and click send at the appropriate time points.
Use chaser apps to follow up for prompt payment and alert you if your customer misses a deadline.
Even better, use the ‘Request to Pay’ or similar features within open banking to get your customer’s authorisation to collect in advance. These Open Banking innovations replace methods such as Direct Debit of old.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
RPA tends to be for medium and large-sized businesses, although it is becoming more accessible to smaller organisations every day.
RPA sees ‘bots’ performing mundane repeating tasks. Anything where say you open up data source A, each time you copy or format it in the same way, then input it to something else whilst navigating the same menus and pressing the same buttons.
For those of you familiar with Excel macros to make a ‘recording’ of a series actions then play them back, think macros on steroids – they can work across many systems, not just Excel.
For example, you may be an IT Managed Service Provider. Each day you pull various reporting data from your Jira and network monitoring systems. You combine them and email each of your clients with their daily snapshot report. It is this type of task that is suited to RPA. Look for bespoke tasks performed in your business and which cannot be easily swapped out by a standard app.
How much of your finance processes have you automated?
The above are just some of the ways that your finance function can be automated to save you time and money.
Please give us a call to explore how many more of your processes can be automated and how.