From XU Magazine, 
Issue 24

How should accounting professionals evolve to deal with the “New Normal”?

Conserve cash, reduce costs and save time to help you focus

Neil Robertson explains how contemporary pressures faced by accounting clients and peers in commerce, can be eased by adopting readily available technology and services.
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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Whether you are working in practice, or for a business, every accountant globally recognises the “New Normal” is going to have a significant impact on the way organisations will work in the future. Business leaders are now looking to them for advice and guidance on what steps they should take to survive and prosper in this new order and it represents a heavy responsibility.

The “New Normal” priorities for almost every CFO are now to conserve cash, control and reduce costs and increase productivity, reflecting their current lack of visibility and confidence in the forward revenue projections. So how can accounting professionals help their clients or business colleagues achieve these priorities?

Online digital applications / WFH

The new Working From Home (WFH) regime has already demonstrated the importance and value  of online digital accounting applications enabling remote access, as many organisations with on-premise accounting / ERP applications are struggling to undertake even basic processing during lockdown.

WFH has also highlighted  weaknesses in accounting processes that still rely on manual activities. WFH is here to stay, so processes need to change to accommodate this.

It is clear that increasing the amount of digital automation is fundamental to the wellbeing of every business, irrespective of size, and accounting professionals need to become familiar with what is possible,and with the significant benefits that are readily available to their clients, or the business they represent.

Invoice capture and accounts payable automation has evolved

Whilst most Xero users are already very familiar with the ability to “capture” their supplier invoices, they are commonly not aware of the limitations of provider offerings and the lost opportunity that represents.

Most of the current offerings utilise OCR technologies which results in delays in processing time with too many inaccuracies in the data provided, both of which are often highlighted as a major area of frustration.

OCR has been replaced with “digital invoice capture” applications, reflecting the 90% adoption of emailed PDF invoices as the primary method of invoice delivery and the ability to access the digital data layer of these PDF’s to extract the key invoice information. Digital invoice capture is considerably faster, more accurate and usually cheaper than using “legacy” OCR technologies.

WFH has also highlighted the problems of a manual invoice approval process. Whilst finance have been innovative, building workarounds for WFH approvals, it has introduced additional work and considerable delays. There are separate applications available that can automate the invoice approval processes, but segregating the invoice capture and approval processes has significant disadvantages, especially with too many errors on the invoice capture process. Combining the invoice capture and approval processes within a single application addresses these challenges, delivering a single and holistic experience for everyone involved.

Every business should be reviewing their current invoice capture and approval processes and taking them fully digital, whether to support their WFH strategy, or simply to ensure they have total oversight of their cashflow requirements, can pay critical suppliers on time, or simply to increase the productivity of everyone involved.

Online and digital purchasing

Lockdown has also driven people to personally buy more online.

The same is true for businesses, especially for day-to-day supplies to support working from home.The problem for finance is this being a disconnected process, lacking any form of oversight and control and often resulting in multiple invoices from a single order, all creating more work.

We individually know the benefits of buying online – convenience, breadth of choice and ability to get “best value” for our own money, being the balance between quality, price and availability. But for businesses, first we have to address the legitimate concerns of finance professionals.

By delivering fully integrated online buying into the accounts payable process, we transform the entire purchasing process for the high volume of low value invoices that “waste” so much time both inside and outside the finance department.

Using Amazon Business (AB) as the example, the user accesses AB through the application, shops in the normal way and with a single click from within AB, creates a requisition. Finance now have full visibility and control over every purchase before the commitment is made and also control the approval processes. On final approval, the digital order is delivered into the AB infrastructure and they “pick and ship” for their great customer experience.

AB automatically delivers a digital invoice which is captured (with line level detail) and matched to the approved order, which can then be automatically coded for the general ledger as well as being sent out for approval, without a touch.

Online buying and purchasing automation are the future for every business for an ever-increasing proportion of spend. It saves time, it saves money, it addresses WFH and most importantly, it enables everyone to focus their saved time on more important work.

Advanced integration

Our strategy has been to automate the entire online buying, purchasing, accounts payable and accounting process into a single seamless experience to save time and save money. This includes automatically passing through the PDF invoice into Xero as part of that integration, but also being able to review every transaction and then access the Xero entry with a single click from within the iCompleat application.


As finance professionals look for better ways to conserve cash, reduce costs and increase productivity, we hope you agree that by combining online buying, purchasing and accounts payable automation, you now have access to the applications and technologies you and your clients need to better achieve these objectives.

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