Article:

Automation Could Unleash the Power of Your Small Business

30 July 2020

Michael Flynn |

Automation is no longer a luxury reserved for the world’s biggest corporations. In fact, finance automation is even more important for small family or closely held businesses, which are more sensitive to minor disruptions. Increasingly, finance automation is empowering small businesses to maximise their resources and position themselves well for future growth. Learn more below.

 

What is finance process automation?

Finance process automation is the use of software to automate key finance-related tasks, such as accounts reconciliation, journal entries, and financial statements, with minimal human intervention. This reduces the need for business owners to manually intervene, frees up manpower to maximise productivity and output, and limits double handling, all while minimising the risk of human error. Automated accounting also completes processes in a fraction of the time, making valuable financial information available almost immediately.

 

Why your business should consider automation

Time is the most valuable resource at your disposal to grow your business. In fact, small businesses with less overall manpower and narrower margins stand to benefit from automation the most, as they can put more time toward the fundamentals of their business. Furthermore, you’ll reduce the risk of bottlenecked workloads, crossed wires, and lapses in memory.

Financial accounting, CRM, and workflow management are all key business functions where automation can have a major impact, particularly on small businesses that can’t afford to hire an in-house accountant to manage these functions full-time. Of course, automation does not replace the need for knowledge and experience in these areas. If you need help maximising the effectiveness and efficiency of automated business functions, speak with a BDO adviser today.

 

Automation can take your business to new heights

Some facets of your business will benefit more from automation software than others. Below are some of the core business functions most frequently automated by small and large businesses alike.


Creating meaningful customer experiences

Onboarding new clients and maintaining contact with existing customers can require hundreds—even thousands—of emails and enough hours to justify a full-time employee. CRM automation programs like Hubspot and Mailchimp allow you to create professional-looking emails and set them to send and reply automatically. This allows you to provide a fluid, convenient, and polished CRM process without lifting a finger.


Streamlining debtor management

The biggest benefit of automated debtor management is the time saved on manual input and verification of payments. This creates more time for follow-up and collection, if necessary. Automated debt collection also benefits your customers. Payment gateways like GoCardless, Paypal, and Stripe can allow direct debit or credit card transactions, making payments faster and easier while speeding up cashflow. These payments can be exported and logged automatically, speeding up your reporting as well.


Expanding document management

Automation streamlines the creation, capture and approval of business documents such as engagement letter, supplier invoices and employee expense claims. Many of these documents will need to be managed or approved by different parties or pass through different workflows, so automation is a great way to prevent double handling. For example, FYI Docs or SuiteFiles can automatically file emails and link correspondence directly with clients in your system, so you don’t have to worry about losing documents again.


Improving jobs management

The delegation and tracking of jobs and tasks within your business is a time-consuming process when managed manually. Xero Projects and WorkflowMax are great examples of cloud based jobs management tools that can help you move away from tedious manual logbooks or workbooks.

 

Automation programs to consider for your small business

Numerous automated programs are available for any of your business’s core financial functions. BDO’s experienced business advisers can help you develop an automation strategy that works for your business, integrate your existing business processes, and ensure your updated processes are compliant with tax law and regulations.


Accounting systems

  • Xero and MYOB are both integrated with bank rules and feeds and can provide payment reminders. With a single, easy-to-use ledger, your accountant and business can view the same, consolidated source.


Accounts payable and document management

  • Hubdoc. With Hubdoc, you can automate your bills to process straight to Xero and take images on the go. You’ll no longer need to sift through those shoeboxes of old records.

  • ApprovalMax. Alternatively, ApprovalMax helps you move away from paper signatures on payables. Owners can instead approve bills for payment whilst on the go and away from the office.

  • Xero or MYOB. Create batch payments and avoid the need to enter bank payments twice.


Payroll

  • Cloud Payroll Solutions. Cloud Payroll solutions allow staff to complete timesheets in the cloud, reducing double or manual entry. These solutions link with your ledger, so you won’t need to code entries. Cloud Payroll solutions, such as Xero Payroll, Paysauce and iPayroll can also be automated to link with myIR and IRD.


Cashflow & KPI reporting

  • Use reports inbuilt in your accounting system and move away from Excel templates that require double handling. Consider deeper and more versatile reporting if necessary, from tools such as Float, Spotlight Reporting, Futrli, and others.


Client Relationship Management (CRM)

  • Use inbuilt Xero functionality to create smart lists. Your existing information will make it easier to send marketing emails as well.

 

What often prevents small business owners from embracing automation

Automation gets plenty of bad press and is often blamed for declines in available middle-class jobs, but the truth is that it is merely shifting jobs into different areas of business processes. Small business owners also remain hesitant when considering automation because they fear losing control over the processes they once handled with their own two hands.

The initial investment costs of automation software can also be cause for hesitation. However, it’s worth considering not just the financial value of the time saved over the coming years, but also the extra time spent with family and friends, exploring other hobbies and interests, and bettering yourself and your business. We can’t put a price tag on everything.

Other business owners do understand the value and impact automation could provide, but don’t take the plunge for no other reason than because they’re set in their ways. This is very common and entirely understandable. Change isn’t always easy, but it’s worth remembering that your competitors will eventually take advantage of these opportunities. Will you be left behind?

 

BDO provides the insights and support you need to grow your business

BDO has helped countless small businesses identify shortcomings and inefficiencies in their financial processes and develop the strategies necessary to grow. If you’re struggling to make the most of your business’s manpower, BDO’s Business Review Program can help you identify key areas of your business where inefficiency consumes valuable time. Get in touch with BDO business advisers today to see what we can do for you.