Being in business means being highly dependent on input from other people. Healthy, thriving businesses are built around effective cooperation, with everybody pulling in the same direction according to expertise and experience.
But for this to be effective, all your stakeholders – including colleagues and customers/clients – need to be able to access relevant financial data. This has the added benefit of taking some of the burden off the person or team responsible for the accounts.
Businesses are efficient when colleagues and technology work perfectly in sync. People feel empowered once this happens too and feel better able to do their work.
Here’s six ways that you can open your business for this happen, so your business finance data works for the benefit of everybody.
1. Rethink the way you input data
You can cut down on the time you spend manually inputting numbers and chasing invoices, receipts and expense reports by having colleagues and customers enter their own information into the system.
The classic example of this is remote staff being able to input details of a sale or service at the client/customer premises – and even being able to issue invoices at that time.
Introducing this doesn’t mean losing control of your finances or letting people see information that they shouldn’t.
Instead, the right accounting software will allow individuals to upload, download and edit the data they need at any time, without letting them access or change anything they shouldn’t.
If, for example, your sales team needs to check that an invoice has been sent to a client, they can see that information without getting complete access to the company’s entire financial and invoicing records.
By doing this, you’ll reduce duplication of effort (such as when someone fills in numbers on an expense form and then the finance team has to re-input the same numbers into their financial system) and free up time for more valuable financial tasks that add value to the business.
2. Rethink the way you grab data
How many hours a week do you spend attending to requests for financial information? Every time a customer wants to update an invoice, or someone on a business trip needs to access some figures, you’re forced to spend time locating, downloading and emailing data to the relevant person.
With a cloud-based accounting solution, your data isn’t stuck on a server in your office. You can access it on the go or from your desk, pulling data from your different systems together on to one central dashboard.
All you need to do is grant an individual online access to that dashboard and they’ll be able to see the data they need quickly, easily and in a format that’s easy to understand and analyse.
This is particularly valuable for your leadership team. Instead of waiting for you to pass on information, they’ll be able to instantly access the dashboards and analytical reports they need whenever they need them, so they’re always in the loop.
That means you spend less time passing on information and more time conducting the in-depth analysis that helps you drive the business forward.
It’s no wonder that, according to Sage research, 67% of accounting professionals prefer cloud accounting – the convenience and flexibility it offers can be key to remaining competitive.
Even better is the fact that, as your team grows, you’ll be able to collaborate with others in the business, even if they’re travelling or working from home.
3. Automate manual data entry across the business
Manually inputting data or transferring it between systems may seem relatively simple, compared to some of the complex, high-value financial tasks you’ll need to perform in order to run a small business.
But it’s often dull and certainly time consuming. When you’re spending hours manually entering data into a system, you’re likely to become less motivated and make mistakes.
More importantly, you could be spending that time on important strategic tasks instead.
The good news is that these repetitive tasks can be easily automated. By using technology to input and transfer data, you can cut down significantly on your admin time and boost your own productivity for other important tasks in the process.
It’s possible to automate the entirety of your manual data entry – everything from sales and purchase invoices to bank statements and employee expenses.
With the right technology, a process that takes hours to complete manually can now be sorted within minutes, cutting down on laborious admin. You’ll also reduce the time spent correcting mistakes, as there’s less opportunity for human error.
Real-world reports from people who’ve integrated automation say that weeks of work each month can be reduced down to hours with the intelligent use of automation.
4. Integrate spreadsheets with your accounting software
Many small businesses start their accounts on spreadsheets before moving to more sophisticated accounting software, or are still reliant on it for some accounting processes.
If you’re in this position, you probably spend a frustrating amount of time transferring data between one programme and another.
Don’t get us wrong. The spreadsheet is a useful business invention. It just shouldn’t be used for everything and, in these days of data protection, it lacks the sophisticated features required to be compliant in a modern workplace.
In short, use spreadsheets when you have no option – and this can range from simple to complex requirements.
But whenever you can, use dedicated software that’s been created with modern working in mind and which ticks all the compliance boxes without you even having to think about it.
The good news is that lots of software providers now allow you to import data from spreadsheets and back again, without any manual re-keying.
That’s one big frustration cut out of your day.
5. Automatically adjust to regulatory requirements and changes
There’s a huge burden on bookkeepers and accounts teams to keep the company compliant. With regulations constantly evolving and new rules introduced, that’s another task to add to your already crammed list of daily duties.
But you don’t have to do it all alone.
If your accounting software comes with built-in compliance measures, it will help you perform many of the checks required to ensure you’re compliant, such as calculating taxes.
The best software will auto-update to keep up with the latest regulations, as long as you keep implementing the suggested updates. Cloud software will update without the need for you to do anything.
And don’t forget automation here. Just like other admin, manually reconciling your bank transactions with your accounting lines is time consuming, labour intensive and open to human error.
By automating this process, you’ll cut out the delay between transactions occurring and transactions showing up in your accounting software.
That means you’ll have access to an up-to-date, accurate picture of your financial situation.
6. Implement automated bank feeds and set up rules
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get an accurate and timely view of your business finances and save hours of manual reconciliation?
Connecting your accounting software directly to your business bank account means never having to enter a payment or receipt again.
Your bank transactions will flow securely and automatically into your accounts. You simply just confirm what you want to be posted.
You can set bank rules to help categorise your income and expenses, and match bank transactions with invoices, without having to spend hours combing through your banking data.
If a potential error crops up, such as the amount paid not matching the amount specified on your invoice, your accounting solution can highlight that too, so you can identify and fix the problem faster than ever.
If your business isn’t using bank reconciliation, you won’t be using your staff’s time productively.
A business needs to be open for business – in more senses than one. Creating an open philosophy within the company where the right data can be shared among the correct people is one way of supercharging its growth and progress.
Technology might just be one part of this but it’s an important part. Ensuring you have the very best tools at your disposal isn’t hard, nor is it necessarily expensive.
It simply requires a mindset where you’re always looking to improve your business and are prepared to examine the options to make this happen.