From XU Magazine, 
Issue 18

Process automation: Is it really a game-changer for accountants?

Wondering where the next boost of productivity for the profession will come from? Rob Cameron outlines FYI, a process automation engine with inbuilt document management and CRM, developed specifically for accountants…
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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What is Process Automation?

Process Automation is an emerging technology that enables practices to automate their repetitive compliance and administration processes.

For example, rather than have your team to manually retrieve, file, compare and then communicate tax assessments daily, Process Automation will do this for you automatically.

Process Automation is designed to make our lives easier. In this article, we’ll explore what this means for accountants.

The unique requirements of accountants

Due to our unique requirements, accountants will be one of the greatest beneficiaries of this technology.

Think about your daily compliance and administration tasks. To deliver these functions across your practice, your team undertake a series of processes that can be best described as:

  • Simple and short: Each process has a short number of steps and involves relatively simple actions such as capturing or creating documents, filing, naming, performing comparisons and notifications.
  • Repetitive and time-consuming: Around 40 well-defined processes are used repetitively from period to period, across the vast majority of your clients. By our analysis, these processes make up approximately 50% of your compliance and administration time cost.
  • Highly predictable: Most of these processes follow a single course of action and reach their end successfully. They’re not complex, branched or collaborative processes; there is a high probability that each process achieves a specific outcome.

By way of summary, such short, repetitive, linear processes like these are the perfect candidate for automation.

Your time is valuable

The accounting industry has already witnessed incredible improvements in productivity in recent years.

We’ve led the way in cloud-based technology. This move online for client accounting, tax preparation, and practice management has been a step change in both ease and efficiency. But with the average time taken to complete a job for a typical family group being 23 hours, we have to ask ourselves: where’s this time going?

Our benchmark study shows that over 60% of the time currently being spent on compliance jobs relate to managing documents. This includes email correspondence, scanning and storing images, cross-linking and associated collaboration (internal and external).

When deconstructed, Process Automation has the potential to cut the time spent on these document management functions in half.

So, the next frontier for increasing efficiency is to rethink the way we capture, file, and process our documents and information.

Think about it. How different would your team’s day be if:

  • Key documents required to substantiate a workpaper were identified as missing
  • They were located in the client’s cloud storage
  • They were imported, filed, and named consistently following practice-wide rules
  • The associated workpaper was cross-linked to the source document • The amount in the workpaper was compared and validated

And imagine if all of this happened automatically, operating silently in the background across emails, attachments, cloud storage, and more.

Streamlining the capture of client information and automating repetitive tasks like these means all your documents would move effortlessly through the practice, supported by templates, electronic workflows, and approvals.

No more time spent chasing documents. No more time filing. No more errors.

With processes streamlined for efficiency, PA removes human error from the equation and achieves a level of consistency that’s much harder for humans to reach, enabling better and more accurate compliance practices.

Furthermore, it frees your time from low-value, high-volume work, allowing you to be more efficient and spend more time working in an advisory capacity.

FYI is designed for accountants

Process Automation technology is here, and it’s set to bring about fundamental changes to the accounting industry.

We created FYI to help accountants save time by automating compliance processes. Here are just a few examples of how FYI will free up your time:

  • Automatically capture and file client emails from every team member
  • Automate the creation of sophisticated templates and documents
  • Import tax assessments daily including automatically filed and sent to clients
  • Access information in seconds, using metadata and text searching, and file documents using tags, rather than folders
  • Automatically import client meetings from your team’s Outlook calendars
  • Create and delegate tasks, on the back of a client email, providing context via a document link
  • Batch-create, import, and auto-file consistently-named sets of client reports from their Xero ledger with one click
  • Avoid losing an A-grade client with partners receiving automatic alerts of negative client emails

Get your practice ready for the future

Document management is becoming a battleground. So, if you’re considering a new document management solution for your practice then you need to look for solutions that do more than simply manage files. You need to think with the future in mind.

Making the wrong decision now will have costly, long-term impacts when it comes to future change management.

The good news is that FYI will set you up for the future.

With FYI you can be set up in minutes and begin configuring automated processes to start seeing significant time savings for your entire practice. The core feature set of FYI is already generating time savings of up to 20%, with our Process Automation taking these productivity gains to another level entirely.

And we won’t stop here. We’re working with partners across the industry to broaden our scope, to increase your automation capabilities in your practice for the long-term.

Why leave it there?

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