New tech can give accounting firm owners and partners mixed emotions. On one hand, there’s the hope of improving processes while driving greater revenue. On the other hand, there are concerns related to cost and how to implement a new tool across the entire company. There’s a lot to consider!
However, every time you evaluate new tech, it’s helpful to imagine a sliding scale that moves between value and cost/time to implement.
The biggest and most important question comes down to ROI: "Is this new tool worthwhile?"
The best tech that can advance the accounting industry is automation (typically through AI and Machine Learning). Even the word "automation" conjures dreams of getting things done faster and spending less money in the process. And while nearly a third of all automation tools focus on accounting in some way, there are so many other ways your firm can automate.
Do you leverage automation to improve client onboarding? Or do you target the marketing process, first? How about payroll, customer support, or bookkeeping? And with so many options, the question of worth is still there.
Will automation make your firm stronger?
More importantly, there’s another question that’s a bit more analytical and leads to a different but important thought process when choosing new tech and automation tools:
Who benefits the most from automation at your firm?
Instead of that sliding scale between value and expense, there are three distinct groups who stand to benefit from automating certain processes:
- The firm itself
Figuring out how each group positively benefits from automation creates a clear path toward making a decision. This article analyzes the benefits for each group specifically through the lens of using an automated bookkeeping and client write-up tool like Botkeeper.
Let’s jump into how automation benefits each of these groups!
How Customers Benefit from Automation
Much of accounting work is more of an unseen benefit when it comes to your clients. You provide reports (i.e., cash flow statements, balance sheets, payroll). What's not seen in the finished product are the hours of reconciling, receipt-checking, and even the report creation itself.
Sometimes the only time clients notice anything is when something isn't quite right with the finished result. For instance, if they haven't received February’s financials within the first week of March, it’s time to scramble. (Cue that deep-belly fear when you realize the mistake!)
3 Ways Customers Benefit
Accuracy: Using an automated bookkeeping and general ledger software means your client’s month-to-month accounting is always clean. No rushing, lower chance of error, and real-time reporting. The way bookkeeping should be!
Reliability: Again, your CPAs have access to a real-time and clean general ledger. Instead of a hassle that must be done before you can do anything else, it's a springboard for creating reports and offering the advice your clients truly need.
Timeliness: With machine learning accuracy and completely up-to-date financials (without the time-suck of manual bookkeeping), your clients can have all the information almost as soon as your team does.
How CPAs and Accountants Benefit from Automation
At times, especially during the busy tax season, accountants often feel overwhelmed by all the work in front of them, and that feeling can be made even worse if they feel like they’re underutilizing their skill set. Hours and hours of new client write-ups and cleaning up an entire year's worth of bookkeeping likely isn’t what drew your staff to accounting in the first place.
3 Ways CPAs Benefit
Less redundancy: Performing the exact same tasks each day, week, and month often bogs down accountants. Burnout is a very real concern in the industry, especially between February and April! Of course, the most tedious tasks are those related to bookkeeping. So an automated tool can relieve a great deal of stress.
Fewer missed deadlines: Busy times often mean missed deadlines, apology emails, and potentially lost clients. Even the best accountants struggle to keep up with demand at times. But when those overwhelming tasks are taken off their to-do lists, their workload is manageable.
Greater fulfillment: Instead of just turning out basic financial statements, your accountants will have the time to better interact with clients. And if you have a good eye on offering advisory services, this will equal greater fulfillment for your CPAs while increasing the average revenue brought in by clients.
How Accounting Firms Benefit from Automation
4 Big Benefits for Accounting Firms
Lower turnover: Finding quality CPAs is difficult, especially if your firm is in a competitive geographic area. If your accountants find the kind of career they'd hoped for, they’ll likely stick around. Lower turnover means less costs for training and onboarding new team members. From a continuity of services perspective, it means your clients deal with the same person, which improves customer satisfaction.
Higher Lifetime value: This benefit is twofold. First, clients receive consistent reporting, on time. This level of service keeps them happy, as opposed to getting things either late or at different times each month/quarter. Secondly, your CPAs offer higher-value services, which increases the dollar amount brought in per client, on average.
Increased capacity: When your firm uses an automation tool for basic bookkeeping, it opens up time and capacity. Basically, it creates room for more clients. So you can get more revenue from current clients while also onboarding more clients than you’ve handled in the past.
New services: Many accounting firms view tax time as their “bread and butter.” But they also want to grow by offering new advisory services to their clients. Imagine all of your client write-ups done by an automated service, freeing you up to quickly prepare taxes without worrying about having to do bookkeeping clean-up first. Your team is then free to discuss new services like tax planning, budgeting, and forecasting for the new year.
It’s a Beneficial Cycle
So who benefits the most?
To say it's a tie isn't accurate (and it would be a cop-out); it's more of a cyclical benefit affecting every aspect of your business.
If your clients are happy and your team is fulfilled—the firm ultimately benefits via profit and stability.
When the firm is doing well, and CPAs are performing well—clients receive the ultimate service and won’t look elsewhere.
And when the clients give great feedback and the company supports them—CPAs create a very satisfied culture, reducing costly turnover and improving quality of work.
After all, a business is something that solves a problem for a specific group of people by empowering it's team to solve that problem well. If an automated tool helps your firm accomplish this mission, it may be difficult to determine who benefits the most.
Ready to Benefit from Automation?
Change is difficult, especially if you can’t readily see the benefits. Hopefully, this article highlights the practical ways automation frees you up to scale growth. (And bookkeeping is only one type of automated solution accountants can utilize.)
If you’re interested to see exactly how Botkeeper can open up your firm to all of these benefits, get in touch with a specialist today for a custom assessment. Or click below to watch our on-demand presentation that will give you greater insight into the power of automation for accounting firms!