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How can you improve your accounting workflow?

March 1st, 2019

accounting, accountant, workflow, process

Companies today strive to continuously improve their workflow so they can increase efficiency and reduce costs. There are many ways firms can do this thanks to the developments of technology in professional services. With the right technology, accounting firms can begin automating their workflows with customised checkpoints. The digitisation of processes can help streamline workflows and firms can spend their time on more productive work that can drive value for their business.

What is workflow?

Workflow involves organising your processes and resources in a way that enables the company to increase efficiency and productivity. Like business activities, there are also many different types of workflows; this includes, sales, marketing and administration.

Good workflow systems are essential to companies, especially accounting firms. Not only are they important to deliver high-quality services to the clients but they also need to be profitable. Therefore, whether your workflow involves completing the assigned work or delegating the tasks to others, it needs to be optimised in a way that the work is completed in an efficient and timely manner while not compromising on the quality.

In today’s versatile accounting industry, there are many ways firms can improve their accounting workflow process:

1. Identify and map out the critical processes

Before digitising your accounting workflow, you need to do an in-depth study of the accounting workflow diagram in your firm and document the results. This requires knowledge of the primary services of the firm, the scope of the processes and which of these processes has the biggest impact on the firm. This accounting workflow diagram is important because you don’t need to optimise all the processes in the firm, just the important ones.

Once you identify the important accounting workflow processes, the next step is to map out the current processes. This involves collecting details on how many people are involved in the workflow process, the client touch points within the workflow, the key deliverables in each step and any inefficiencies identified in the processes.

Mapping out the current accounting workflow process helps you identify the most crucial steps in the workflow process allowing for improvements to efficiency and an understanding of what technology to implement. You can use technology to integrate systems for a double entry process so that the information syncs automatically.

2. Measure your current process

In order to improve the efficiency of future processes, you need to measure your existing workflow so you can determine how to add or increase the workflow process. This could include metrics such as the time taken to complete the end-to-end process, the costs associated with the current process and the reliability of the data. While these metrics may seem mundane, they are important to get the ‘before’ picture and can be used as a comparison after the efficiencies have been added to the accounting workflow process.

3. Conduct automation audits

Accountants who value their current processes will need to run regular audits to ensure that they are compliant with the regulations and also identify areas where they can use digitisation to improve processes. Companies need to keep up with the ever-changing innovations in technology and avail Cloud-based and Subscription-based Opex models in their business and conduct an audit on the automation processes.

A study conducted by PWC estimates that over $2 trillion could be saved in workforce costs globally if automation was implemented by companies in an optimal way. This statistic means that firms can cut back on costs and increase efficiency by investing in the latest tools to improve accounting workflow process. You can have your IT team conduct regular audits to make sure that the company is digitising processes in the most efficient way possible.

4. Use artificial intelligence

In recent years, Artificial Intelligence has made large contributions to the business landscape, especially in accounting where it improves existing processes. It helps reduce the chance of human error and increase the efficiency of the organisation while providing useful analytics.

Artificial Intelligence can be used to automate routine bookkeeping services such as bank reconciliation and data entry which can increase the efficiency of the accounting workflow process and give employees the chance to put their resources towards something more useful like building client relationships.

Routine bookkeeping services involve handling large amounts of data and can always result in human error such as deleting custom formulas or overriding data. Robotic process automation, bots with machine-learning capabilities, can help reduce these errors by using human inputs to categorise the data into the right accounts. AI also allows for automated coding which can help streamline the data with no manual entry.

Alternatively, AI can also be used to analyse data and make predictions. Using the current financial data, AI tools can be used to make predictions for the next financial year.

5. Invest in human capital as well

Investing in technology such as AI is important to improve the accounting workflow process but it is important for businesses to focus on human capital as well. Improving the accounting workflow process also involves helping your employees use their time effectively so that they don’t waste time on mundane tasks. One of the most important elements of a good accounting firm is its relationship with its clients and automating processes like payroll and bookkeeping can help employees focus their time and energy towards business development and strengthening relationships with existing clients.

Improving your workflow can also include giving your employees more time to focus on current tasks and pumping more money into existing projects rather than expanding into new ones. Employee training programs are worth the extra costs as they can improve the skills of the workers and can optimise the workflow over time.

Introducing technology into your accounting workflow process is important but it will not solve all your efficiency problems. You need to monitor and measure the results of the processes implemented. Depending on workflows, the roll-out of the process can take longer than expected but it is still important to implement efficient workflows.

Adopting a new accounting workflow process is a continuous process and is essential for future-proofing your accounting firm. Reducing or eliminating efficiencies in the workflow can improve relationships with your clients and lead your firm to success. As you streamline your workflow process with the help of an accounting workflow diagram it becomes more stable and costs less over time. It also provides useful information that helps your firm make important decisions.

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