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digital paymentsThere’s no question that technology has changed the landscape of the accounting world. Advancements in digitization, automation, and mobility have allowed firms to transform the way they do business with benefits that reach far beyond enhancing traditional accounting functions. When comparing the challenges of firms that rely on technology and those that don’t, a clear pattern emerges: Technology gives firms a clear advantage.

According to a survey conducted by the AICPA, finding and retaining new staff, bringing in new clients, and transitioning to the role of a trusted advisor are among the top challenges accounting firms are currently struggling with. To help respond to these challenges, accountants are increasingly open to or actively in favor of  incorporating new technological advancements into their practices. 

The shift toward innovation is largely driven by the fact that technology allows firms to accomplish more work with fewer staff. Integrating systems allows for the syncing of data, eliminating extra work and the errors that come from double data entry. Everything from invoice creation to approval workflows can now be automated, saving even more valuable time. Cloud solutions and mobile devices make it possible for staff to work from anywhere, anytime, turning a firm into an efficient virtual operation.

For firms looking to grow, the focus is often on expanding in new niche areas or adding services. For these firms, a lack of resources can stall growth. To combat that, firms are turning to the power of technology to expand their capabilities, particularly in areas like digital business payments. 

In a recent report, accountants explained in detail the main reasons they prefer digital payments. The following is a summary of just a few of the advantages digital payments can offer your firm. 

The Top Five Reasons Accountants Prefer Digital Payments                                                    Digital business payments offer countless benefits for accounting firms, allowing them to boost efficiency while saving on costs. Here are the top five reasons why accountants tell us they have adopted digital business payments.

1.  Speed in Processing and Reconciling Payments                                                                     Staffing is an ongoing challenge for accounting firms. Therefore, efficiency and doing more with less are critical. Time-wasters such as juggling tasks across multiple systems or performing double data entry seem like minor nuisances on their own, but they quickly add up to be substantial roadblocks to productivity.

 By automating AP and AR and syncing those functions across all systems, you can ultimately eliminate data entry altogether and free up resources to focus on more important tasks like onboarding new clients, spearheading client accounting services, or other new initiatives. Automation also significantly reduces other administrative burdens, like printing checks and getting them signed. Imagine the amount of time you can save when your entire approval workflow from bill receipt to payment approval is automated.

2. Better Organization and an Easier-to-Use System                                                                           If you’re still operating with paper-based AP, you’re probably used to asking the same question on a regular basis: “Where is that again?” Even at the most organized firm in the world, lost or misplaced documents are inevitable when you’re working with paper files. When you go digital, you no longer have to deal with files that go missing in a random cabinet or on someone’s desk. Instead, all your clients’ payments, documents, receipts, and communications are in one convenient place, always available at your fingertips.

As you continue to hire new and younger talent, those hires will prefer to operate in a digital world. Why? Because they recognize the benefits of working with the latest technology. When you’re trying to build your team and maximize its productivity, showing that you have an efficient, convenient way to handle AP can be critical to landing and keeping the best talent.

2017 survey of millennial business owners showed that 82 percent require paperless accounting, 56 percent want accounting in the cloud, and 25 percent use their mobile devices for accounting. Anothersurveyfound that 85 percent of young accountants at large accounting firms think technology offers an opportunity to focus on higher-value work. In a thirdsurvey, 71 percent of young accountants agreed that understanding automation and technology is crucial for the future of accounting, while 91 percent believe that understanding technology is as important to their job as understanding accounting.

Easy-to-use systems not only boost your efficiency, they also help attract the next generation of clients and staff you need to take your company into the future.

3. The Freedom of Mobility                                                                                                               Unlike paper-based AP and AR, digital payments can be handled anytime, anywhere. As more accounting firms shift toward virtual operations in order to attract and retain talent, mobile access is taking precedence. Being able to access systems remotely allows your staff to seamlessly serve your clients, no matter where they are. Working via internet-enabled devices, including laptops, smartphones, and tablets, has changed the way accountants do business. Offering your staff the ability to handle AP on their mobile devices ensures that client service will never suffer. 

Another bonus: Your clients also get the opportunity to handle AP and AR on the go. Whether at the airport, in a Lyft or even on a vacation, the ability to hop on a phone and swipe approval for time-sensitive cash flow issues goes a long way to providing a convenient, valuable accounting experience.

4. Automatic Audit Trails                                                                                                       Transparency with clients and everyone working on an account is crucial to maintaining proper records. The process is infinitely easier when you have automatic audit trails that capture every approval, question and payment, making it clear who was involved, when they were involved, and the exact pathway that was followed from payment inception to authorization. This significantly reduces the time and stress involved in an audit, because your auditors will have access to all the data they need to do their job.

That level of transparency is an attractive selling point for prospective clients and goes a long way toward building a solid relationship with your clients and positioning yourself as a trusted advisor. As you’re freeing up staff time to better serve your clients, you’re also altering the landscape of the services you offer, creating more attractive opportunities for potential hires looking for more strategic work.

5. Cost Savings                                                                                                                                  Paying bills with paper checks isn’t just inefficient, it’s expensive. Firms hoping to profit from expanding their services can only do so if they run their operations efficiently and effectively. More often than not, that means leaving paper behind.

Take, for example, a business that pays 500 bills each month. If that company relies solely on paper-based AP, reviewing and paying those bills can cost as much as $24,000 a year* when you add up the cost of check stock, envelopes, postage, and bank fees, plus time spent by staff members. Paper-based AP requires valuable time to be allocated to tasks that add no value, like tracking down reviewers, filing paperwork, printing checks, and contacting signers.

Switching to digital payments allows you to be save money and offer your services at a more attractive price point than you can if you insist on sticking with paper and incurring extra costs.

Become a Trusted Advisor                                                                                                                Digital business payments allow accounting firms to better manage their clients’ overall financial situation and position them for growth. Advising on cash flow management becomes easier, because you always know when digital payments will be deducted (either immediately or on a scheduled date). When you remove the guesswork of payment timing, you have a clearer picture of where your clients’ overall cash flows stand.

Mastering outsourced AP and AR for clients will allow your firm to more comfortably expand into additional client services. Digital business payment systems take you to the next step, offering critical data on AP, AR, payroll, and other business functions that enable you to give sound advice to your clients on mergers and acquisitions, expansion, pricing, and more.

Solving staffing challenges and establishing yourself as a trusted advisor start with adopting technology – specifically digital business payments. To learn more about why accountants increasingly prefer digital business payments, you can download the full reporthere.

Mark Gervase
Mark Gervase, director of product marketing for Bill.com, works with accounting firms and bookkeepers to grow their businesses and achieve efficiencies through automation and cloud technologies. A former CPA, he has a background in financial technology, and holds an MBA and BA in from the University of California, Berkeley.
Last modified on Tuesday, 05 February 2019
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