As we transition to a post-pandemic world, accountants are better placed than many to adapt to the ‘new normal’ of remote working.
Accounting software started shifting to the cloud more than a decade ago, and so accountants have been able to work from almost anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection and laptop.
Over the last few years, many app add-ons for core cloud accounting software have also been developed. Now, accountants are able to complete most of their workflows on the cloud remotely, with time saved from automation - enabling them to focus on advisory work and deliver better customer service.
Here’s five of the main features and benefits of working in the cloud for accountants.
1. Automation features in cloud accounting software
Core cloud accounting software (such as Xero, Quickbooks, and Sage 50cloud Accounts) include a number of automation features, removing the need to complete everyday tasks manually with them being completed faster and with the risk of human error removed.
Automation features include setting up auto-matching on bank feeds so that transactions with specific keywords or supplier names are taken to their relevant category in the chart of accounts. For example, accountants can set up a rule for all bank transactions with the keyword Uber to be taken to the travel category.
Another significant time-saving feature is the ability to post monthly recurring journals automatically. These include releasing prepayments from annual contracts (such as software subscriptions) so that these costs are smoothed out over the year.
2. Receipt scanning tools
Receipt scanning cloud app add-ons are taking the grunt work out of bookkeeping by allowing accountants to receive receipts and invoices digitally. Tools like Dext, AutoEntry, and Hubdoc use OCR technology to automatically extract bookkeeping data and send it to the correct account in core cloud accounting software, with VAT being split correctly.
These tools empower accountants to work in the cloud as they no longer have to handle shoeboxes full of receipts at short notice when VAT returns or annual accounts are due. The old way of doing things would have been particularly testing during the height of the pandemic when there would have been delays to clients delivering physical documents.
As well as time being saved from accountants not having to manually key in data themselves, in most cases, receipt scanning tools extract data instantly, meaning that even if receipts are submitted shortly before a critical deadline, they are processed instantly.
3. Payments add-ons and software
A more recent development in cloud accounting technology is payments automation. Payments are not value-adding but are a critical workflow for accountants as it can be damaging for business relationships and supply chains if client suppliers are not paid accurately or on time.
Payments automation tools like the Modulr Payments Dashboard allow accountants to transact on behalf of their clients securely with two-step authentication, without the need to handle physical bank security devices.
This means all accounting team members can make payments remotely, rather than relying on specific team members who carry bank devices.
Additionally, these cloud automation tools create a centralised workflow meaning that data can be transferred from core accounting software to bank platforms, speeding up payment runs and overcoming the risk of mistakes related to manually entering data.
4. Cloud-based communications tools
Most accounting firms now utilise a range of cloud-based communications tools rather than relying on traditional landline telephones in offices.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology and video conferencing software allow accountants to work remotely and receive incoming calls from clients, irrespective of their location, and provide a consistent client experience while saving time from not having to travel to client meetings.
More recently, instant messaging tools like Teams and Slack provide unparalleled opportunities for accountants to collaborate, with them being untethered to a specific location and conventional working hours.
5. Advisory services and a stronger customer focus
The shift to remote working and in the cloud is leading to accountants providing higher value advisory led services, with many compliance-based tasks (bookkeeping, VAT submissions, annual accounts) taking advantage of automation. As a result, accountants are spending less time on them overall, with their input into these tasks shifting into a review role checking the accuracy of automation.
Instead, this saved time is being used to nurture client relationships, with accountants becoming more embedded within companies to provide input and strategic advice related to growth, raising capital, and optimising business performance.
Mass adoption of cloud software has put accountants in a good position to incorporate remote working, and as a profession, they are likely to deal with this change better than most. The rollout of Making Tax Digital will further accelerate cloud adoption and remote working.