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[Podcast] Sage Intacct Best Practices with Wade Huseth of Baker Tilly

Posted by The AI in Accounting Podcast on Jul 22, 2020 7:30:00 AM
The AI in Accounting Podcast

Like many of the guests on this podcast, Wade Huseth of Baker Tilly knew he wanted to be an accountant from a very young age. Right out of college from the University of Wisconsin -Whitewater, Wade began his career at a small accounting firm in Madison, Wisconsin. This was at a time when accountants performed both audit and tax works for the same clients.

During this time, Wade benefited from seeing the full picture from the perspective of business owners. As that firm grew, its merger and the changing environment, with greater complexity, led to Wade and his colleagues specializing in a more traditional audit career or tax career.

[Podcast] Sage Intacct Best Practices with Wade Huseth of Baker Tilly

Wade ended up focusing on audits and eventually became an audit partner. More recently, his firm transformed its bookkeeping practice into a more comprehensive client accounting services (CAS) and advisory services practice, Baker Tilly Advantage. With that shift, Wade returned to his roots, bringing his career back full circle, working with smaller clients, and seeing the big picture.

In his role as partner in charge of Baker Tilly’s dedicated outsourced accounting and advisory practice, client accounting services (CAS), Wade has become extremely proficient in Sage Intacct.

In this podcast episode, you'll learn how to:

  • Use keyboard shortcuts, navigate window panes, and create favorites to save you time
  • Set up recurring journal entries and memorized transactions
  • Take advantage of dimensions for reporting so you can slice and dice information
  • Optimize multi-entity reporting with parent(s) and subsidiaries
  • Create a roadmap to stay on top of change management, integrations, process, workflow, and dashboards
  • Tag transactions on entry with the right dimensions to make for better and easier reporting
  • Get bills paid when your labor force is working remotely
  • Automate to take the keystrokes out of accounting
  • Help clients make better decisions

 

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Wade Huseth’s advice on Sage Intacct is also featured in Sage Intacct Best Practices for Outsourced Accounting, Advisory Services, and VARs. Highlights include:

  • Wade spearheaded Baker Tilly’s efforts to “revamp our bookkeeping practice into a true client accounting and advisory services practice.” Sage Intacct has been their system of choice because of its robust features and ability to grow with clients.
  • “Industry verticals are a huge advantage in client accounting services and setting up systems for clients,” says Wade Huseth. “As you work within the same vertical, you can say, ‘I have other clients in your industry who find this dashboard useful. Would you like this, too?’”
  • “We’re seeing more people call and ask questions like, ‘How do I even get a bill paid when my labor force isn’t in the office?’ Simple things like that raise the awareness of a need for cloud accounting,” says Wade Huseth. “I think demand will skyrocket for this service, which means automation will take on new forms, shapes, and sizes for everyone.”
  • While Sage Intacct advertises that implementation can be done in as little as 60 days, a longer roadmap should be considered. “It is very important to have a roadmap of all the things you want to do or improve,” says Wade Huseth. Implementers must consider that change management aspects will be needed. They must also consider the need to integrate with another software, change process workflows, and/or develop robust dashboards. Wade advises, “In our experience, you can’t get there overnight. Use a roadmap. Break it up into phases. Educate your clients. Let them know you’re going to get to the core accounting first, within 90-120 days,” Wade advises. “But it could take a year to get everything else done in subsequent stages.” A roadmap will set expectations and gauge progress.
  • “One of the main reasons we picked Sage Intacct as our tool of choice for our clients was the need for more robust reporting. The number of different ways you can slice and dice your information in Sage Intacct improves the output for the users,” says Wade Huseth. In addition to reporting, dashboards are now a critical feature for business leaders. Wade advises clients, “When choosing a platform, don’t just think in terms of traditional financial statements; think in terms of management dashboards.”
  • Wade Huseth recommends learning the shortcut keys, like moving from cell to cell.
  • “Don’t overlook recurring journal entries, like monthly depreciation. Have the system automatically record it for you. As a cousin to that, you can use memorized transactions if accounts are the same each time you make an entry,” recommends Wade Huseth.
  • As Wade Huseth says, “Technology is the big enabler of handling compliance more efficiently to free up time and become a truly trusted advisor.”
  • “I enjoy having conversations with people who aren’t numbers-people and didn’t want to be an accountant when they were in seventh grade but now find themselves running a business,” says Wade Huseth. “But if the numbers aren’t right to begin with, then it is no good.” He finds that advisory services are greatly needed and growing rapidly: “Every partner in the firm has brought our practice a lead. We’re growing without doing much external marketing. It proves how fast advisory services are taking off.”

 

A lightly-edited transcript follows below:

Wade Huseth (00:00):

My go to’s are to take advantage of the dimensions that it has for reporting. That's one of the main reasons we picked it as our tool of choice for clients that need more robust reporting and the number of ways you can slice and dice your information, as it improves the output for the users of that information. So don't think just in terms of traditional financial statements, but think in terms of management dashboards.

 

Podcast Announcer (00:30):

Welcome to the AI in Accounting Podcast. Now here's your host, Joshua Feinberg of Vic.ai.

 

Joshua Feinberg (00:43):

I'm Joshua Feinberg from the AI in Accounting Podcast, and I'm here with Wade Huseth from Baker Tilly. He runs the Baker Tilly advantage group, and I'm very thrilled to have him with me today. Welcome.

 

Wade Huseth

Joshua, thanks for having me. So thrilled to be here.

 

Joshua Feinberg

It's my pleasure. So, where I usually like to start, when we're having these conversations, is understanding how you got to where you are in your career. Did you always want to be an accountant? What did you do in college? What were the steps that led you to where you are and your current role at Baker Tilly and how you fit in with the rest of your team, how your team fits in with the firm as a whole, and can you just take us kind of through the [inaudible]?

 

Wade Huseth (01:31):

So maybe it's a little bit sad to say that I did know I wanted to be an accountant when I was probably in sixth or seventh grade going way back. It probably is totally different than I imagined it at that time. My career has been sort of that lifelong dream that I've been on. I started a small firm out of college in Madison, Wisconsin, and this is about 27 years ago now. And so it was a time when most staff did both audit and tax work for the same clients. And so it was unique compared to where we are in today's world. I think because we quite literally would go out to a client site, learn their processes and systems, do an audit and prepare their financial statement, and then go back to the office and prepare their tax return.

 

Wade Huseth (02:28):

And so it was a great education to work with the business owners, understand their perspective on both GAAP rules and tax rules, and work with various partners that specialized in tax or audit. And you got to see the full picture. And so I did that for seven or eight years, and at the same time, I also had a few what we would call write-up clients early in my career. So I would close their monthly books. Of course, nothing was in the computer then -- it was a general ledger paper and manual record keeping. A great way to learn there too. And so that was the first part of my career. But as the firm grew and we merged in with another firm about eight years into my career, the environment changed, and the rules became more complex, and we went to a more traditional audit and tax career path for everyone in the firm.

 

Wade Huseth (03:25):

And I went down the audit path then and eventually became an audit partner. So it's very technically involved, preparing financial statements, doing research, writing memos, and that sort of thing. That led up to about three years ago when our firm decided it was time for us and a good time in the industry to revamp our bookkeeping practice into a true client accounting and advisory services practice. And I was asked to participate in leading that. And so I've been doing that for three years. I kind of hung up my audit hat for the most part and moved into this world, which kind of brought my career full circle back to a smaller client size. And seeing the whole picture, all the tools were all new.

 

Wade Huseth (04:15):

And so now I've been immersed in learning how to automate recordkeeping and reporting and still getting to the end of the month with the financial reporting and the dashboarding that we assist clients with. And so our firm has been focused on that for three years. And it's a compliment to all of the other services of auditing, tax services, and consulting that we do with the firm, and the entire firm has bought in. And it's been fantastic. Every partner from around the firm, I swear, has brought us a lead of one or another. And so we're growing without really doing much of any external marketing, just proving how fast this service is taking off in the industry. But that's how I got there. It's been a ride. I've seen a little bit of everything and continue to learn. That's awesome.

 

Wade Huseth (05:12):

It sounds like in a lot of ways, the career path that you ended up taking, I'm sure a lot of it was accidental. It seemed like it was so perfectly lined up to what you'd end up doing at this stage in your career with a broad-based experience and working with a lot of startups and smaller companies that outsource. Yeah. I sometimes joke that I'm not sure if I've done so many things because I'm good at many things or that I'm not good at anything. And I keep jumping to the next one and the next one. I do say that I've just been fortunate to see many different things and have been asked to look into new things for our firms. So, yeah, as I said, full circle. I've enjoyed every aspect of it.

 

Joshua Feinberg (05:59):

That's awesome. So what I wanted to talk with you more about today was Sage Intacct. We're putting together this educational podcast series. And the first place I wanted to start was to understand that when you have someone, either at Baker Tilly or a client you're working with, they're brand new to Sage. What's your favorite tip that you would tell them to keep in mind as they learn the platform?

 

Sage Intacct Tips for Beginners

Wade Huseth (06:51):

When you first start, I believe it's about minimizing your keystrokes. You're probably moving from a world not where I moved from, which was from paper, but from some other accounting program where you're entering in every number that ends up in your general ledger in one shape or another. So looking for ways to minimize your keystrokes is another way of saying, ‘be more efficient.’

 

And so you start by understanding the shortcut keys and beginning to use them like any software. There are shortcuts to move around the date fields and to move from cell to cell when you need to. And so I would encourage people to learn that and also learn how to navigate the various window panes that they’d use. I mean, Sage Intacct is very robust. There are many layers in using it, and that might seem overwhelming at first, but there are ways to ‘favorite’ the screens you use the most. You can star them, and they'll show up on your home menu, and then you can click into them from there. This will get you faster to the things you use most often, further minimizing the amount of time you spend entering things and not overlooking recurring journal entries.

 

Wade Huseth (07:51):

You know, there's no reason to record monthly depreciation entries that are the same every month. You can set it up so that it's going to record for you automatically. The same sort of thing, kind of a cousin to that, would be a memorized transaction where the accounts are all the same each time you make an entry or have to enter some data. And you can't import the numbers into that journal entry template or hand key the numbers in and not have to recreate the entire journal entry. Because that part of it is already memorized for you. So constantly looking for ways to say, ‘Anytime I'm touching the keyboard, what's a way that I could eliminate doing that in the future?’ And then looking into that. I think my final bit of advice for beginners is to take advantage of the training and the community that exists with Sage Intacct.

 

Wade Huseth (08:44):

They've got a fantastic community webpage that's available and a way to reach out there. Just looking at resources that already exist, there’s a monthly phone call to participate in and learn from, and a lot of online short tidbits of video training that you can do, as well as full-scale certifications to gain. So it can again seem overwhelming at first, but as a beginner, just devote yourself to 15 to 30 minutes a week. And if you're able to do that most weeks, you're going to gain a lot of knowledge quickly. And once you start, there's that snowball effect of learning things. Your intuition will take over and say, ‘I bet I can do that here too.’

 

Wade Huseth (09:33):

Or I bet there's another hack that makes this easier than what I'm making it right now. So take that time, and it'll pay off.

 

Joshua Feinberg

So it’s a combination of keyboard shortcuts, understanding what you can pin to the home menus, understanding the window panes that are current recurring journal entries, memorizing transactions, and in general, an overall commitment to getting involved in community, training, and continuous improvement. Assume it can be done faster, and then figure out how to use the software. That's a great approach. Now, what do you tell someone who is at the other extreme? You're at a conference, and they find out that you're an expert on Intacct, and you're kind of one-upping each other and figuring out like, ‘Hey, did you know you could also do this?’ or you're talking to a product manager from Intacct at the Sage Partner Summit.

 

Sage Intacct Power Users Tips

Wade Huseth (10:28):

What’s your favorite power user tip? Well, that kind of conversation could go on forever. Because I don't work for Intacct, but I will be a strong proponent of how much it can do. You could go back and forth between two users and not duplicate each other for a long time. And the number of advanced things it can do. But my go-to’s are to take advantage of the dimensions that it has for reporting. That's one of the main reasons that we picked it as our tool of choice for clients that need more robust reporting. The number of different ways you can slice and dice your information improves the output for the users of that information. So don't think just in terms of traditional financial statements, but think in terms of management dashboards; for those to be the most powerful, make sure you're using all the dimensions that you can think of.

 

Wade Huseth (11:28):

So locations and departments can skew numbers, as well as non-statistical information, like customer counts. For one client, we import weather data daily, since they relate their sales to weather data, and then they can use that information to predict what their demand is going to be based on the weather forecast. And it helps them with their supplies and scheduling and things like that. So think beyond traditional accounting and take advantage of the multiple dimensions that Intacct has to offer. A close second for the accountant in me is making things more efficient. Multi entity reporting and accounting is so much easier when you set things up appropriately, and your due to do forms can be done automatically when setting up correctly.

 

Wade Huseth (12:28):

So due from subsidiaries or due from the parent, if you record the transaction at one level, it will automatically record the reverse at the other level. So obviously you're making one last journal entry and your end of the month, or whenever you're reconciling it, it's automatically reconciled because if you're doing that consistently, your due to has to equal your due from. And so those will automatically be eliminated when you go to consolidate those entities. I could go on and on with the different things that it can do. Those are two that we use in virtually every client situation, and they really save a lot of time, and more importantly, improve what we're giving to our clients. So it seems like dimensions are core, customized, and potentially able to customize the dimensions.

 

Wade Huseth (13:25):

That'll drive a lot of what you're doing with reporting and dashboards and utilizing the due to and due from, which we'll cut out a journal entry because it's taken care of. And reduce your reconciliation time. Those are key benefits of that function.

 

Biggest Mistakes with Sage Intacct

Joshua Feinberg

What do you think is the biggest mistake that you see people making across the board with Intacct, regardless of whether they're new or whether they've been using the ERP platform for a few years?

 

Wade Huseth

Maybe this isn't Intacct specific, but I think the biggest mistake is that because the platform is so robust and that there are so many things you can do with it, that early on, we went too fast, and it's a big element of change management, and we went too quickly on our roadmap. So it's very important to have a roadmap of all the things you want to do and improve, whether that's integrating with another software or changing a process workflow or developing robust dashboards. Those are all great to have on your roadmap, but you can't get there overnight in our experience.

 

Wade Huseth (14:39):

If you go too fast, maybe you can do it, but the client's not ready. Just balancing those things continuously and kind of agree on upfront of what you're going to do, and perfect before you move on to the next phase. Break it up into phases or educate your clients that we're going to get to core accounting in the first 90 to 120 days, but it could take us a year to get everything else done in subsequent stages. Add it all together, slow down, plan it out, and then manage that similar to that. If I could just take a minute and expand on what I said about dimensions, I'm not sure if you can avoid some rework, which would be a mistake.

 

Wade Huseth (15:30):

If you had to do a rework by thinking about all the new ways you might want to report on your information in the future. So most companies that move on to Intacct come from something that isn't giving them this robust reporting framework. They're used to getting their basic financial statements, and that's about it, but they're excited about all the things that it could produce for us. We need to take them through a brainstorming session of, well, how might you want to see your information? At what level of detail do you want it? And let's make sure that we're tagging the transactions on the way into the system with all the right dimensions. So when we want to report out of the system, those things are already there.

 

Wade Huseth (16:21):

And we might not do that. Like I just said, for a yea,r we might not get to that, but we don't want to have to go back and say, wow, we can't get that because we didn't tag those transactions way back here. Thinking that through, and when you feel you're done, think a little bit further and think a little bit further because you may never use it, but if you don't have it set up, you're going to have to rework things to get set up. And that'll cost a lot of time.

 

Joshua Feinberg (16:50):

I imagine that's an especially big issue with smaller companies where you're the outsource solution. And there's nobody internally. That's thinking that far ahead, if you don't bring up these kinds of issues, and I've seen this with outsourcing., you've seen it with outsourced, marketing, outsourced sales, strategy management consultants, and building that roadmap has to have a tremendous amount of value managing their expectations and helping them prioritize.

 

Wade Huseth (17:19):

And admittedly, you can't always think of everything, but this is where you're an advisor to those clients. They're counting on you to think of everything, and they might not even know it. They might not know they want something until you show it to them. And then they can't get all of a sudden live without it. So thinking through, that's where some experience comes into play of working within the same verticals. That will help you be efficient at this and say, here's a dashboard that we have found valuable with other clients. Would you like that too? But even when it's not, maybe it's a new vertical for you, thinking through. This is where you put your business hat on, take your accounting hat off, and say, what information do you need to run your business better? Or what information do your managers need to help you make decisions more quickly? Because they have the right information at their fingertips. It's harder with smaller clients that just don't have that background to think about what they don't know, and it's our job to find it for them.

 

Joshua Feinberg (18:26):

No, that makes total sense. And I imagine too, the more you concentrate on certain verticals, you see a certain amount of muscle memory with knowing what similar businesses have needed.

 

Wade Huseth (18:35):

Yes, absolutely. Verdict industry verticals are a huge advantage in client accounting services and setting up systems for clients. A huge, huge advantage.

 

The Future of Sage Intacct and Client Accounting Services (CAS)

Joshua Feinberg (18:50):

The final area that I want to make sure we touch on today is that you have a unique perspective in heading up a group of large top 100 firms, top 25 firms. Where do you see the future headed? If you're putting on your hat of being almost like a product manager, thinking about what your outsourced clients need the most, where the big investments are being made, and what's going to change the most in the next six to 24 months?

 

Wade Huseth (19:17):

Well, I think that we're going to continue to see demand for this service in the remote work environment that most of the world is in recently. We're seeing more people call and ask questions like, ‘How do I even get a bill paid when my labor force is not in the office?’ and things like that. Such simple things like that are certainly raising the awareness of this. Demand is going to continue to, I think, skyrocket for this service, and then subsequently, it means that automation is going to continue to take on new forms and new shapes and sizes for everyone. New means to get that done with artificial intelligence, however you define that. And however, it's used to enter data for you, integrated systems will take the keystrokes out of accounting.

 

Wade Huseth (20:17):

And that's all a good thing because it does give us the time to have the conversations that we were just talking about having with our clients about how we can turn this into a business tool for you. Accounting is not only meant to be a compliance requirement. It's not just for bankers or auditors or tax preparers. Let's turn it into a business tool for you, but to do that, I think there's a huge advantage for CPAs. We have the right seat at the table, so we can have a conversation with the clients about what information they need to truly run their business better. Help them think through what numbers tell them and how we can combine them to show them differently and make them understandable to them and their employees.

 

Wade Huseth (21:07):

You know, we're not just taking accounting to business owners or boards anymore; we're deploying it to operation managers on their iPad using a Sage Intacct or some other tool to combine the operation information so that they can see the results of their efforts and what they need to do more of, less of, or change or tweak. And they can help direct the employees. So the information is always key, and we're in a spot to get them better information than they've ever had. And if we can educate them on how to use that, they're going to make better decisions, and they're going to have better results. That's the passion that I have, and I think that's the opportunity that we have as an industry to move towards that and away from the core back-office accounting functions.

 

Wade Huseth (22:02):

At the same time, I don't want to diminish those sorts of things because compliance is vital. If the numbers aren't right, they're no good either. So there's always a balance there, but it doesn't have to be an, or it can be an ant. I like balancing those things, and I like having those conversations with people who aren't numbers, people who didn't want to be an accountant when they were in seventh grade, and now find themselves running a business. So it seems like technology is the big enabler of being able to handle the compliance more efficiently to free up the time to be a true, trusted advisor.

 

Wade Huseth (22:43):

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. We have to know the rules as accountants. We have to know what the right answer is, but that doesn't mean we have to enter them with our fingers to be doing accounting, and to be a business advisor is the next step beyond being that back office accountant. And it does enable us to do that. It gives us that time.

 

Joshua Feinberg

That's great. Terrific, terrific advice. Where's the best way for somebody to learn more about you or learn more about Baker Tilly? Social media, LinkedIn, anything like that; any particularly good place if somebody wants to reach out to you or follow you.

 

Wade Huseth (23:11):

Yeah, absolutely. Of course, we have our website; it’s the King of all our information: Bakertilly.com. Baker Tilly has a good social presence on LinkedIn, and it's growing on Twitter. It's going to keep getting better. And then me personally, LinkedIn is the best way to get a hold of me if you want to find me or through our website at Bakertilly.com.

 

Joshua Feinberg (23:46):

Excellent. Thank you Wade for taking the time today to talk with me as part of the AI in Accounting Podcast. You've been listening to Wade Huseth from Baker Tilly, and wish you all the best in growing your practice and heading into the future.

 

Wade Huseth

Thank you, Joshua. I appreciate it. And it was fun to be with you.

 

Podcast Announcer (24:18):

Thanks for listening to this episode of the AI in Accounting Podcast. To subscribe and leave a review, check us out at blog.vic.ai or wherever you like to consume podcast episodes, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and YouTube.

 

 

What's your favorite Sage Intacct tip? And what did you find most valuable from Wade Huseth's podcast interview? Let us know in the Comments section below.

 

And if you're serious about taking your Sage Intacct knowledge to the next level, download the free eBook: Sage Intacct Best Practices for Outsourced Accounting, Advisory Services, and VARs.

 

Sage Intacct Best Practices for Outsourced Accounting, Advisory Services, and VARs [Download the Free eBook]

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