Automation: Opportunity or threat?

By May 14, 2018 NPP

What does automation mean for accountants and bookkeepers of the future?

By Robin Beauchamp, CEO, Integrated Payment Technologies (InPayTech).

Accounting and finance professionals not only handle money matters but business strategy and planning. That’s why many chief executives started out as accountants. They understand the importance of the bottom line and appreciate the impact of efficiency gains throughout business operations.

The role of the modern accountant and bookkeeper will inevitably progress beyond the balance sheet and ledger, to provide strategic business insights as automation replaces many of the core tasks they do. Indeed, accountants and bookkeepers are high on the list of service jobs that are being reconfigured by automation.

The flipside of automation is that it frees up time for bookkeepers and accountants to do more of the strategic thinking and business planning that organisations require. Such skills will be increasingly in demand by business leaders who will expect their staff to undertake more sophisticated roles as automation replaces their existing core activities.

That’s why accountants and bookkeepers are investing in their education, acquiring more sophisticated financial and technical skills, and improving their prospects.

According to the 2017 Bookkeeping Business Benchmark Report, conducted by the Australian Bookkeepers Network, bookkeepers are diversifying their service offerings, with a substantial increase in bookkeepers offering more services in management reporting, cash flow statements and budgeting, as well as software analysis and installation.

That has led to profit benefits, with bookkeepers lifting their charge rates in 2017 as they have offered more diverse and sophisticated services than traditional book entry, according to the 2017 report. One of these services is providing software training to clients, which is a service that 62% of bookkeepers now offer to their clients. And as more software is developed, demand for such services will likely grow. That compares to 10 years ago when software training wasn’t a core function of bookkeepers, rather of IT professionals.

So, while automation may initially seem like a threat to accountants and bookkeepers, it can in fact open other opportunities for career progression and service diversification. In this case, it has enabled bookkeepers to increase their charge rates as they diversify into more sophisticated offerings.

Software that has been launched in recent times to help bookkeepers includes PayVu, which bridges the gap between accounting, payroll and banking systems. Software such as this is good news for bookkeepers and accountants as it frees up their time for these significant value-add activities.

And this time saving is important for accountants and bookkeepers. The 2017 Bookkeeping Business Benchmark Report reveals obtaining timely and accurate data from clients and time management are the top two challenges that bookkeepers face. Automation is helping to overcome these constraints.

Marketing and sourcing new clients is another major challenge. Again, automation can help here as it will free up bookkeepers’ time to engage in business development, rather than manual book entry.

PayVu is designed for bookkeepers and accountants and can reduce the time they spend on administration. PayVu features instant display of all due payments from the client accounting system. Payments are selected and sent to business owners via their smart phone for approval or rejection.  Approved payments are immediately sent to internet banking systems and paid.

PayVu’s ability to automate all software and banking logins via secure multi-factor authentication can save a huge amount of time for bookkeepers, who, like every other person on the planet, struggle to remember their log-ins and passwords.

PayVu also links to accounting systems such as Xero, MYOB and Quickbooks and alerts suppliers once payment has been received. PayVu updates and reconciles payments in real time to allow both bookkeepers, their clients and suppliers to avoid any delays in payments.  Payments are processed with two factor authentication security along with full straight-through-processing (STP). This means bookkeepers can stop constantly chasing clients for approvals and feedback.

PayVu is just one example of software that is making life easier for bookkeepers and accountants and freeing them up to add value elsewhere in organisations.