Covid and remote work have created new challenges for accounting departments. Business owners have come face to face with questions of timely reporting, efficiency and the biggest one of them all controls. In the face of changing work environment how do you ensure that the financials are accurate and that assets are secure? How do you fight fraud and help create an efficient system at the same time?
Finding efficiencies in accounting is about finding that perfect triangle of maximizing staff time, maintaining a strong accounting process, and employing successful technology. It’s a task we examine in Client Advisory Services (CAS) every day.
On a client implementation last year, our CAS team stepped in to assume controller responsibilities and provide back-office accounting services for a Non-Profit Foundation. The client complained that with their remote staff, it was hard to get bills processed timely…. not to mention the tracking of mail, proper approvals of expenditures, and the chasing down of signatures on checks as other concerns. Frankly, it’s a story we hear often post-Covid. Did I mention that most fraud schemes involve fraudulent disbursements?
To create efficiency in the disbursement process we implemented BILL, a cloud-based A/P software. Our team uses this software to automate the A/P process from end to end. Invoices can be received electronically from vendors or scanned to a digital inbox. Data recognition helps with the creation of a new bill which can be routed electronically for approval as well as track comments within the actual bill itself. Once approved, the bill can be paid via check or ACH. Bills are synced to the accounting system so while the approvals are processing, the accounting ledgers stay up to date. This technology saves time on duplicate data entry and reduces the chance of manual entry errors. Additionally, we found that having a digital A/P Workflow also allowed for a greater segregation of duties, which is a powerful tool to mitigate fraud in accounting.
In this scenario, the intersection of people, process, and technology made for a happy client. When the technology works as expected, the accounting professionals who use it can extract insights from the data. With the automation, analysis, visualization, and other advanced capabilities built into these accounting technologies, the accounting staff can be insightful, strategic, and tactical rather than data processors.
I know these efficiencies can be found in other areas. To find them, you must first understand the process clearly, document the steps taken, and then find where you can insert a technology component that either automates it or eliminates manual steps completely. I like to think of the use of technology in accounting as this simple image… It’s like you walked into the IKEA display warehouse and got to jump from the opening escalator to the checkout line without getting lost in the maze of furniture in between.