From XU Magazine, 
Issue 32

Are you making these bookkeeping automation mistakes?

Common automation mistakes and how to avoid them

This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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Over the past 9 years we have worked closely with our clients to simplify the collection of their accounts payable documents and to automate their invoice data entry and other related bookkeeping tasks. We have seen many great outcomes when using Datamolino with Xero and gained many useful learnings. For some of you, these tips may be old news by now. However, when talking to prospective clients, we often still see these mistakes around, so read on.

Keeping the paper as part of your process

These days, when every document is generated digitally, there is no reason to print and mail it to the customer anymore. Every time you need to handle paper, everybody loses out. It is simply a wasteful process. 

How to break the cycle? Start where the document originates. Can it be sent as a digital PDF instead? We still see a lot of paper being processed, but once you ask your suppliers, they typically are happy to send you your invoices via email. Have these emails automatically forwarded to your data capture software to save one more step in the process.

Not starting from scratch

Adapting old ways of doing things to a digital environment can be tricky. This can be true especially if you try too hard to replicate your processes to exactly what they were in the physical world. Start from scratch and focus on the desired outcome using new digital capabilities. You will find that many steps of the old processes are unnecessary in the digital version, or can be combined in a way that allows you to complete them in one step.

Have your colleagues used to collect all the invoices for you to process in a folder on a shared drive? Invite them to your data capture tool, so they can upload documents directly to the system in which you are working.

Automating everything all at once

It is easy to get excited by all the possibilities of a new technology. However, technical capabilities are only one piece of the puzzle. Bear in mind that trying to change all your existing processes all at once can be extremely overwhelming for your organization. Careless adaptation of automation will not yield the same results as a proper implementation allowing your teams and employees to get familiar with the tool, its benefits and limitations.

In order to ensure smooth implementation, properly train the people involved with the process. Without proper training, your employees will not use the full potential of the new technology you are paying for. Or even worse, they will start to detest the new process. Keep it simple - start with just one workflow. Once you have people fully on board, introduce another process.

Prematurely automating certain processes

Just like trying to automate everything at once, automating a process with minimum efficiency gains is another common mistake. Automating everything just for the sake of it can turn costly and energy draining. 

Evaluate your existing processes and identify those which could benefit from automation the most. Take the time to learn about automation possibilities and results it can bring in the context of your own operations.

Not automating enough

Another trap that you can fall into is not automating enough. After the first successful automation implementation, it can be tempting to tick automation as done on your to do list. Everyday operations tend to get in the way and other priorities can take over. Make sure to periodically review your processes and look for ways to standardize and automate.

Letting entropy kill your efficiency

Entropy is the natural tendency of things to lose order. Left to its own devices, life always becomes less and less structured. In a business context, this means that every person on the team has a tendency to do things in their own way, which can lead to mistakes and inefficiencies. Even common bookkeeping processes can be completed in many different ways, depending on an individual.

Remedy to this? Standardize and document your processes. Keep the documentation up to date. Ensure that your training procedures are in sync with the process documentation. It is a good idea to review each process from time to time to keep the entropy in check. Proper documentation will also help you with onboarding new team members.

Not testing the customer support as integral part of the software solution

Nobody likes to read the manual so make sure to contact the customer support of the software that you are considering. Is the customer support responsive and can it help you with onboarding your team members? Will they be helpful in answering questions that will inevitably arise? This is an often overlooked step in the whole automation journey. 

Down the road you will encounter situations that will require customer support. Interacting with the customer support before you commit to a new solution can give you an insight into how much help you can expect in the future.

Why leave it there?

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