So many of us have learned a number of things about ourselves over the last two months. In addition to personal learnings, organizations are also learning many things about themselves. Everything from the importance of remote access to your company’s business systems to making sure contact info is up to date for all employees, to figuring out how to deposit checks that arrive at the office when nobody is there. When this all passes and we get back to “normal”, many organizations will quickly forget these challenges and go back to where they were. But forward-looking organizations can and should take this opportunity to rethink their systems and processes to be better prepared for the next time something like this occurs.
It is with this as the backdrop that it seems now is a good time to talk about implementing efficiencies in your Accounting department. While most of the focus right now is on sales and operations, it is the back office Accounting team that keeps organizations moving forward, and making sure these teams can run as smoothly and efficiently as possible in good times will help ensure that they will continue function smoothly when disasters such as this strike. With this in mind, I offer the following three areas for improving the efficiency of your Accounting team.
#1) Get to the Cloud
Moving business systems to the cloud has been an ongoing theme for a number of years, but this epidemic and associated “shelter at home” orders have really brought “the cloud” to the forefront. Obviously, the first thing needed for your Accounting team to function efficiently when working from home is to have access to your business systems. While many organizations felt they were already “in the cloud” with their legacy on-premise solutions and VPN, many quickly learned that while this worked for a few people accessing remotely, their infrastructure was not in place to support the entire company accessing remotely. Having an ERP solution that is built from the ground up for the cloud ensures you will have real-time direct access from anywhere you have internet connectivity, with a back-end infrastructure built to handle any volume. You can read more about the NetSuite cloud infrastructure at https://www.netsuite.com/portal/platform/infrastructure.shtml. Throughout this ordeal, while both our team and our NetSuite customers have had to adjust to working from home, one thing we did not have to worry about was accessing our business systems, as NetSuite was ready to run from the office, from home, or wherever someone might be staying. I will add that while this ability for anyone on the team to access remotely is critical during this time, this same capability brings significant efficiencies even during “normal” times, as staff can do things like approve bills or review an entry quickly and easily from their home or on the road. This allows the team to continue to function rather than wait for someone to make it back to the office.
#2) Document Procedures
One of the most common things we hear when we start working with a new client and reviewing their existing processes is “that is how we have always done it”. We challenge our clients on that notion, as our push is always to move towards best practices. Why do we push best practices so hard? Because these are tried and true processes that ensure organizations do not have pockets of knowledge that get lost or exceptions that require manual intervention. When fully deployed, they actually reduce the workload of staff and certainly reduce the number of mistakes or things that “fall through the cracks”. It also forces teams to rethink their current processes and ask “why” when thinking these through. The Journal Of Accountancy has an old but good article that I have referred many clients to at https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/issues/2010/dec/20103366.html. It includes multiple steps for improving efficiencies, but most importantly, it includes sample questions to review as you document your processes.
#2) Automate, Automate, Automate
We continually see way too many Accounting teams that spend too much of their time being “clerks” instead of “accountants”. What we mean by that is having staff on the Accounting team focused on things that lend themselves well for automation. On the Accounts Receivable side of the house, this means things like collections, invoice re-print/email, credit card updates, invoice payments, profile updates, etc. All of these things can and should be automated as much as possible to free up time from the team so that they can focus on more important “value add” functions, such as analysis and reporting. This is true in good times, but even more so in the current environment. By implementing automated collections processes and customer self-service portals, you can eliminate significant manual, menial work from your Accounting team. For NetSuite customers, we have developed the KES A/R Toolkit and KES Customer Portal to address these areas. We recently offered a webinar on how to take advantage of these to improve your A/R Efficiencies, and a recording of this can be found here.
There are similar costs on the Accounts Payable side of the house. While we are not a big proponent of outsourcing the A/P function, we do believe in making it more efficient. This includes eliminating paper copies of vendor bills, automating bill coding (especially for intercompany expenses), automating the approval process for incoming bills, and streamlining or outsourcing the actual payment process through the use of ACH or bank generated checks. Our KES A/P Toolkit can assist with much of this automation. More information on all of our SuiteApps that we offer can be found at https://kraftenterprise.com/kes-suiteapps/.
These are unprecedented times that are forcing many organizations to rethink their systems, their processes, and their staff. Hopefully the three areas outlined above will provide some guidance and insight for you and your Accounting organization as you look to become an efficient machine.
If you have any questions or would like to speak with an expert, please email us at or book a meeting with us here.