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Botkeeper for Dummies is a Roadmap for CPA Firm Transformation

Sep 24, 2020 9:43:00 AM

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On September 16, we finally got to tell the world about Botkeeper For Dummies. From the beginning of this process, we knew that Botkeeper For Dummies was more than just a book. It’s an introduction into how CPA firms can transform themselves into the firm of the future. Knowing how tough this is to wrap our heads around, Botkeeper For Dummies really helps CPAs and accountants understand and visualize unknown, maybe scary technology.

As Jim Bourke, CPA, a partner at Withum and Botkeeper user, puts it, “for the most part, everyone is afraid of [bots],” and the book “takes the mystery away from [it]. Everyone can understand it.”

When you get right down to it, this book helps readers manage their expectations about what this shift in technology and practice management actually means, for their firms and their clients.
 

“For the most part, everyone is afraid of [bots],” and the book “takes the mystery away from [it]. Everyone can understand it.”

 

“The book was a way to walk the firms through the necessary steps … to implement the next wave of technology, which is machine learning and artificial intelligence, while also debunking the myths about how it operates,” explains my co-author and the founder of Botkeeper.

Here’s the thing. Bots are just the tool. It’s how we change and manage our firms that makes the difference. We didn’t have a roadmap to guide us through COVID-19, the CARES Act or PPP. But we do for bots.

Where is the Accounting Industry Today with Advisory Services?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. One of the biggest silver linings from COVID-19 was that it pushed CPAs and accountants into true advisory partners for their clients. During our virtual book launch, Patrick Strausbaugh, CPA, a principal at Jenkins, Magnus, Volk, and Carroll, PC, joked that if your cell phone didn’t need charged at least once a day, you probably weren’t giving consultative service to your clients! And it’s true. Where we are now is a crossroads of being able to do what we do best: advise. Get out of the weeds. Get out of all the manual tasks. That’s the role that machine learning (ML) and AI can perform for us.
 
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“If you can shop on Amazon, you can work on Botkeeper. It is an obtainable technology that levels the playing field. You don’t have to program a single thing.”

 

The technology available to us now can take the manual processes away so that we can better service our clients. Advisory is leading the growth of so many firms because they’re removing themselves from the repetitive, manual tasks and are able to focus on the bigger picture. It’s what we were educated to do! We weren’t meant to be locked in an office performing bank reconciliations. The next generation of accountants know that and are also demanding more from their firms.

Jim commented during the book launch event that “technology like this [bots] can run those processes so that we can look at all those other opportunities. That’s what excites this next generation about this profession.”

The best part is that we don’t have to be tech experts to understand and use bots. “If you can shop on Amazon, you can work on Botkeeper,” said my co-author and VP of customer success and growth here at Botkeeper, Byron Patrick, CPA. “It is an obtainable technology that levels the playing field. You don’t have to program a single thing.”

And that’s important for firms to remember, because in the ‘old days’ you practically had to be a technologist to implement some of the tech stacks that were available. It was intimidating.

Not only are bots not intimidating and easy to learn, but they also come with a support team made up of real, actual human beings. Lots of CPA firms might be surprised to know that Botkeeper has a growth team made up of CPAs to help with implementation. What this means is that they already understand debits and credits; they already speak your language. And they’re there to help you make this work. Your growth team can support you beyond the Botkeeper roll-out, too. Say you have other growth or technology initiatives. They can be a full-on coach to help with transformative conversations, understand what information is out there and connect you with influencers or experts in the industry.

Even beyond that, the practical impact of Botkeeping is that it can be used as a recruiting tool for younger talent.

“The way to attract and keep new talent is to introduce technology to your practice and give them access to these tools,” said Byron.

It’s also a way to make more money. Botkeeper partner firms like Withum and Jenkins, Magnus, Volk, and Carroll are getting requests from clients to outsource their entire accounting department in the months following COVID-19.

Patrick said, “It’s opening a whole new avenue of revenue for us that we hadn’t previously talked about.”

 

Changing Technology Expectations

 

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Next generation accountants have certain expectations about their firms’ tech stacks. So do clients. One of the things that COVID-19 pushed all of us to do was reevaluate our business models. Clients looked for CPAs and accountants who could easily step into those consultative, advisory roles. Now that the expectations have shifted, the responsibility is on firms to really manage how they do things like repetitive, manual entries.
 

“When you think about the amount of hours a firm has to spend, and half of that is being spent on tactical [manual processes], then what other kinds of services can you provide instead?”

 

There are risks with that old-school mindset, not the least of which are mistakes due to human error. You spend so much time inputting data, it’s like a statistical fact that sooner or later, something is going to get screwed up. Botkeeper can step in, empower firms to do what they do best (advisory), and in the process, mitigate the risks of manual data entry. No more human error!

The other point to think about here is that time is a finite resource. We have about 2,000 hours a year that we can spend on billable activity.

“When you think about the amount of hours a firm has to spend, and half of that is being spent on tactical [manual processes], then what other kinds of services can you provide instead?” Erron Stark, division vice president of channel sales and team leader of accountant strategy at ADP, asked the book launch attendees.

How can you go from being a commodity to being an advisor?

If you don’t have the capacity, it’s hard to be innovative. But traditionally, we’re so busy doing the work that we can’t get out of our own way. The beginning of transforming your business model from commoditized to innovative starts with getting the grunt work out of the firm. If you don’t have to be involved in all the details, you’re freed up to do more advisory work.

 

What Is Botkeeper, Anyway?

So, that all sounds great but how do we make this change happen in our firms? One of the questions that was asked during the book launch was whether Botkeeper is a platform or a service. And the answer is, it’s both. All the technology in the world is great, but if you can’t use it, it’s pretty limited in what it can do for you.

Enrico added that “we’re a pioneer in the new definition of SAAS. Botkeeper is one of the first [companies] doing this, where we’re actually providing service as a software. You don’t have to worry about spending a lot of time learning [because] there’s this really powerful, strong, attentive team helping you and proactively reaching out.”

Botkeeper helps CPAs and accountants be more attentive to their clients. And Enrico pointed out that while everyone cares about what’s going on with their clients, “it’s a matter of having the time to show it and demonstrate it.”

What this software really does, from a practical point of view, is it lets you love on your clients more. You can respond to them right away and just be there for them.

 

Who is Botkeeper for Dummies For?

When I was writing Botkeeper For Dummies, I was thinking about the staff accountant all the way to the managing partner. We made the book so that it applied to everyone. You don’t have to be a technologist to understand it. You’ll learn a little about math and decision trees, which are easy enough. You’ll learn about practice management, opportunities for pricing models and customer service and all those other things that firms have been struggling with for a while. You can get to that level of innovation. Botkeeper For Dummies is your roadmap.

The best part is that Botkeeper is perfect for any size firm and any size client, and it fits in anywhere where you need to gather data to get to your next step. Technology is no longer a differentiator. Every firm should be employing tech stacks to serve their clients from anywhere. We finally have the opportunity to make these radical changes that we’ve talked about for years.

To get a copy of Botkeeper For Dummies for yourself or a coworker, click below!

GET MY COPY

 

Jody Padar

Written by Jody Padar

VP Strategy at Botkeeper, and the Radical CPA

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