When it comes to using technology, people often like to “think big.” An average user is not going to be impressed by a small change, like saving a few hours on building monthly financial statements, but they will be impressed by an AI service that writes all your month-to-month financial analysis for you. However, sometimes we need to go back to the basics and make improvements there before we start jumping into all the new features technology has to offer.
When it comes to “thinking small,” or going back to the basics, here are three tips that can help you with your day-to-day functionality:
- Use your existing systems to your advantage. Think about how you are performing some of your processes (for example, approving invoices, tracking expense reimbursements, etc.). Are you using your ERP system to complete these tasks or are you using paper or email? Chances are your system has the capability to perform some tasks you are doing manually, especially if it is has been several years since you started using this ERP system. Reach out to your system’s contact and explain some of the processes you are working on and see if any of your procedures can be automated by the software you already have.
- Use existing technology you didn’t know you had. Using your existing ERP system is always the preference, but it might not always work the way you want it to. Before going out and investing in a new system, look at some of the software you’re already paying for; Microsoft has a number of products built in that you may not be using to their full potential, or at all. Power Automate and Power Apps help connect different services together and automate processes in the background. Power BI and Power Query can be used to format your monthly financial data in a way that makes it easy for you to drag in each month, update charts, and focus on what is really important: analyzing your business’ performance.
- Eliminate as much manual work as possible. This can include anything from improving a spreadsheet to creating a template of an email you send regularly. Just because a spreadsheet has always been filled out the same way (by keying numbers in one by one) does not mean it is the best way to do it. Education is an important factor here; learn about different Office add-ins, services like Power Query, or even learning Office Scripts or VBA to help automate different processes. Learning how to directly import your data from your ERP system into an ongoing spreadsheet using Power Query might take some time that first month, but the time savings going forward will make it worth it.
While “thinking small” is usually the way to start out, it doesn’t hurt to think about the big picture either. With all the new technologies in the marketplace right now, it’s hard to know where to start, or if you should.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Know what your existing software can do. Similar to the first tip above, you don’t want to start using new software when you already have the technology available elsewhere. Whether this means semi-regular meetings with your ERP representative or revisiting some of the services you’re using, it’s important to know what you have vs. what you need. As an example, some companies may be paying for a service to send an occasional employee survey, when Microsoft Forms is likely included with their Microsoft subscriptions and has most of the same functionality.
- Keep an eye on what is out there. Attending webinars is a great way to learn about new software (while also getting your CPE hours!). Reading articles comparing different software is another way to learn what’s out there and learn about the features that are considered most important to other users. And finally, don’t be afraid to experiment with using AI. Use ChatGPT, ask it questions, but also remember to factcheck its responses. Just because it was said on the internet, doesn’t make it true.
- Don’t rush into anything. Technology is changing every day, and software companies are trying to keep up. They all say they have the best options out there, but that “best option” might not be what you are looking for. Approach a software demo like you would a used car lot. Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions and know when to walk away. Just because the sales representative is confident their product can work for you, doesn’t mean it is the best fit. The best option for you and your firm may not exist yet, but that doesn’t mean you should be settling. New technology has its quirks, so being the first one to use it is not always a good thing.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss how your company can optimize technology to improve your accounting function, please contact us.