Is Your Accounting Workflow Painful or Delightful? (Probably Not the Latter!)
In our recent webinar, “The Future of Outsourced Accounting and Accounting Technology,” attendees were asked to describe the nature of their daily workflows. Were they fully automated? Were they painstakingly manual?
While thankfully, no one claimed their workflows were embarrassingly manual, it was also that no attendee said their workflow was highly automated, or they were already enabling their workflow by using artificial intelligence (AI). That left our attendees falling into one of two categories:
- the 67% who felt their workflow was “kind of/sort of” automated, and
- the 33% who acknowledged that their workflows were “manual and labor-intensive” (essentially, total drudgery).
However, as a competitive necessity, it’s time to start thinking about automated accounting not as just a technology upgrade but as a better way to provide faster, more efficient service, and better margins to your clients.
Outsourced Accounting Means Being Available 24/7
When you are considering your workflow, start by evaluating the flow of information that's coming into your practice, as well as the speed at which that information is coming into your practice. We live in a digital-first world now. More than likely, your firm has some kind of 24/7 presence, and you are probably working with clients that have 24/7 expectations. Everyone expects everything to be on-demand and instantaneous, just like in the consumer areas of our lives.
These days, there's really no such thing as a business being “closed”. If someone wants to look something up on your website or ask a question on social media or start researching the CARES Act or something else that's relevant to their business, then they'll head over to Google or LinkedIn and start their search. It could be two o'clock on a Sunday afternoon; it could be two o'clock in the morning; it could be a holiday weekend.
How AI Adds Context to Your Workflows
Unfortunately, a continuous flow of information also means a continuous flow of documents. And one of the things you’ll need (from a workflow standpoint) is technology to help you figure out all this documentation. Has an invoice already been paid? Does it look normal? Does it look fraudulent? Does it make sense? Who's authorized to approve it? Does the client have cash-on-hand to pay this?
The more the technology can assist you on the processing front, the faster you can move your firm up the value chain to provide truly outsourced CFO services. Remember that when it comes to outsourced accounting or fractional CFO services, it’s more valuable to operate like a trusted advisor, as opposed to just someone who processes and encodes transactions.
AI Makes for Happier Strategic Accountants
Additionally, AI is an optimal way to address many job satisfaction challenges that most of your team members are experiencing. AI primarily encourages you to be more productive—particularly, within the work-from-home environment the world is currently operating in.
But AI also combats boredom! AI helps accountants stay focused by handling the more menial tasks and eliminating the need to multitask. At the end of the day, it makes your workflow more efficient.
Outsourced Accounting Gets an Extra Resource
So, how does it work? The goal of all this is that AI will eventually become the “little genius”. Once you train it, it will become an additional resource. When you hire an assistant, during their first couple of weeks on the job, they may ask you a ton of questions. But a month or two later, they ask fewer questions, and a few months after that, they’re probably totally self-sufficient.
It's the same thing with AI. As you begin onboarding it, it takes a little bit of time to train itself by looking at your data history and going back a couple of years within your historical backlog of transactions. And then, during the first couple of weeks, it will ask you questions like, “I understood 95% of this bill, but I’m not totally sure of the bank account number. Can you check it out and let me know?” Once you answer the AI, it will no longer need to ask you about that particular item because you corrected it and helped it improve over time.
Let’s face it: Your time is valuable, and you’re not getting more of it—unless you can find an additional helping hand. AI is that helping hand and if you take it, your workflow will suddenly look a lot less tedious. (I mean, “manual”.)
Have you automated your daily workflow yet? If so, share your comments on what worked for your accounting practice.
If you want your team to increase the productivity of their workflow, then check out the on-demand webinar, “The Future of Outsourced Accounting and Accounting Technology.”