What does accounting automation mean to your accounting business? From one perspective, you might mourn the loss of business related to simple accounting that your clients can now handle on their own thanks to automation. No longer are most business clients in need of basic services such as data entry, basic bookkeeping or preparing simple tax returns.

Here are just a few of the lower value accounting services that accounting automation now enables clients to handle on their own:

  • Maintaining a database of customers and vendors
  • Tracking customers’ accounts
  • Maintaining a database of items in inventory
  • Creating sales and purchase forms
  • Assigning sales tax to transactions
  • Calculating paychecks and payroll taxes
  • Running company or personal spending reports

But looking only at the downside of accounting automation is a shortsighted perspective. In fact, the use of accounting automation by your clients and in your own business gives you the freedom to focus on more complicated tasks that can grow your practice. Most likely your business has already gone beyond producing simple sales sheets and handling repetitive bookkeeping. As clients become more and more sophisticated about their financial well-being, you need to offer more sophisticated accounting services.

Today, your role as an accountant is to look to the future, stay abreast of the latest laws and trends in the finance world, and help clients keep pace. Accounting automation is helping accounting professionals become proactive, rather than reactive, in their client relationships. In other words, the ball is in your court when it comes to suggesting services that can benefit your clients.

Accounting Automation Means a New Role for Accountants

Accountants are now required to think more creatively than before. No longer are you just a paper pusher with a pencil and calculator. Instead, your customers expect your new role to be primarily advisory and analytical.

Using accounting automation makes day-to-day accounting processes easier and less time-consuming—but that’s only the beginning of their value. The bigger benefit for both you and your clients is that automation enables you to gather better-quality financial data, slice and dice it in multiple ways, and use that information to suggest ways your client can run a better business.

If you have a client starting a new business, for example, imagine being able to offer them added value by providing guidance in such areas as choosing a business structure, registering a business name, and other compliance issues related to startup. This type of service will go far in convincing prospects and customers you’re more than just an ordinary accountant. If you want the additional revenue without the additional overhead, you can also partner up with other business services like the CorpNet Partner program. CorpNet acts as your “silent partner” and takes care of business formation, plus maintains their business filings and corporate compliance.

Or perhaps you have a client that wants to grow their business globally. In addition to calculating whether or not the business has the capital it needs in order to expand, you can offer your clients your expert insights on how to manage inventory costs, the best employee compensation options, and the financial impact different methods of distribution will have on the business. Of course, international sales also involves a whole new slew of business regulations, tax laws, and trademark issues that your client will have to deal with in order to expand. These are areas where automation can’t help, but your professional expertise can.

The rise of big data in accounting creates new uses for accounting automation. Big data has four characteristics:

  • Volume: Automation is producing more data compared to traditional data sources.
  • Variety: The data originates from multiple sources, including both technology and individuals.
  • Velocity: Data is being created at a rapid pace.
  • Veracity: Since big data comes from a variety of places, the data’s quality and veracity must be evaluated before it’s used.

Clients need you to make sense of their big data—and you need accounting automation to help you organize that data into meaningful form so you can gain insights and draw conclusions. Automation can also help you keep pace with the sheer amount of data available to your clients. By using your expertise to analyze the numbers and evaluate trends you’ll provide extra value to your clients.

Accounting Automation Tools

The more you automate your accounting practice, the more time you will have to build relationships with your customers.

Here are some automation tools you may not know about that can help:

  • QuickBooks Accountant Tools: A newly designed client dashboard shows you all your daily tasks on one screen. Clients’ books are easy to access, and items that need your attention are clearly designated. Use the Accountant Toolbox to organize journal entries, reclassify invoices and more. You can also request and store important documents from clients using the dashboard.
  • FreshBooks: Automating your accounting practice’s invoicing is a great way to save yourself time and eliminate tedious manual work. FreshBooks offers a simple solution that makes your invoicing easy by automating recurring invoices, billing for hours, automatically sending reminders when payment is due, and enabling team collaboration. If you have trouble estimating how much a client project will cost so you can give them a quote, FreshBooks can help with that too.
  • Xero: Are you looking for an accounting system with your (or your client’s) industry in mind? Xero has more than 600 tools to help with managing inventory, invoicing, time tracking and more. Whether your clients are in retail, e-commerce, tourism or even farming, Xero has industry-specific tools to streamline your accounting processes. Also, check out Xero’s automated accounts payable feature. You can offer to set this up for your clients to automatically remind them when their payables are due, reducing errors and giving them more time to spend on growing their businesses.
  • Entryless: Entryless is a fully automated bill paying solution “created by accountants, for accountants.” The cloud-based solution lets small and mid-sized businesses automate their accounts payable and pay vendors and suppliers online. This can be a valuable added service to offer your clients. (Learn more about making bill pay profitable for your firm.) Use Entryless to manage all your clients from one dashboard and view their cash flow status at any time.

Are you ready for the new world of accounting automation? Use it wisely, and watch your accounting business grow.