As businesses adapt to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, most are looking to drive efficiencies. One way to streamline processes and adapt to new ways of working is to digitise finance systems, says Adam Croney, Director at Thomas Westcott Chartered Accountants.
One stand-out lesson for me from the pandemic has been that those businesses which had already adopted cloud accounting generally fared much better under the restrictions. Though there are many benefits (security, time and cost savings and having access to real-time data), the dramatic move to remote working has perhaps now become the key driver.
If your business has not yet fully embraced cloud accounting, there are a number of small steps you can take to reap some of the benefits.
- Move to a cloud-based finance system
A cloud-based finance system means you can do business from anywhere and monitor everything remotely. This is crucial if your entire staff is working remotely but enabling your finance team to work remotely creates more options if you need to limit the number of employees on site.
- Consider data capture and retrieval tools
There are a growing number of tools that allow you to retrieve data automatically, using optical character recognition. More businesses are now also using data capture tools, which automatically input into the finance system. This relatively cheap technology removes the need to have someone on site inputting supplier invoices, which can be a huge efficiency saving.
- Automate your credit control processes
Getting cash into the business is a priority, but particularly in challenging times. There is a range of digital tools to manage credit control and help prevent late payments. These automated systems are very sophisticated so businesses can send personalised payment reminders.
- Research digital payment processing tools
Many SMEs are now using digital payment processing tools, which fully integrate with cloud accounting systems. Moving to such a system can make it much easier to receive payments and can improve your customers’ experience.
- Track your time and costs digitally
Many service businesses, from solicitors to beauty salons, use systems to track their employees’ time and accurately cost work. Most digital time tracking software can now be integrated with finance systems to accurately track costs. This can provide really insightful data, demonstrating where profit is being made and identifying any losses.
At a time when businesses need, more than ever, to reduce any waste, such a system could help you to understand which products or services are making money and where the growth opportunities are.
- Check the quality of your data
If you want to make important decisions about the future direction of the business based on data, you really need to ensure that data is as accurate as possible. There are a number of cloud-based tools that check the quality of your data, highlighting duplication and other potential errors.
- Digitise staff expenses
Administering staff expenses with a paper-based or email system is a huge time waster, both for the finance team and the employees who are claiming. The move to home working has made these more traditional systems even more cumbersome. Moving to a cloud-based expenses system would be a quick efficiency saving for any business.
- Adopt a cloud-based approach to inventory management
A tight and efficient stock management system is crucial when cash is tight. Having an inventory management and stock reporting system that integrates with the cloud can enable you to constantly track which products are making money for the business.
- Explore integrated payroll and HR systems
With the introduction and evolution of the furlough scheme and the surge in remote working, 2020 has been a difficult year for anyone involved in payroll. Businesses with cloud-based payroll and HR systems have been better able to adapt to changing Government support and to staff being off site.
- Think about what else your staff could be doing
Adopting some or all of these new approaches could significantly free up time within your business. With less administration, could your employees be contributing in a more impactful and meaningful way, working on more value-driven tasks? It is certainly something to think about.