We live in an age when each new software product has an “API” or application programming interface that allows connectivity with other devices and systems. The API concept powers the latest home and consumer electronics features that we love such as remote control of NEST thermostats, online exercise tracking like FitBit bands, and a host of functions on smart TVs. Likewise, modern accounting systems utilize their APIs to communicate with “connected services” that extend the functionality of the core products.
The demand for cloud computing in business is said to be driven by several factors. One such factor is that organizations are seeking to focus on their core competencies and “out-service” the functions that are better performed by outside agents. For some time, we’ve received inquiries from companies about moving to cloud-based accounting software, and we are also now beginning to see interest in moving some of the high volume accounting activities to connected services.
For example, we recently assisted a client implement an integration to their bank’s payment services, which eliminated their daily check runs. This small “out-servicing” will free up perhaps 1-2 hours per day of a key staff member’s time, allowing them to perform much higher value activities during that time.
Services such as Bill.com provide an out-servicing of much of the time-consulting activities related to accounts payable and accounts receivable. The service provider connects to several on-premise and cloud-based accounting systems, such as Intacct. Bill.com’s users can scan, fax or email their vendor invoices to the service, which will in-turn, post the invoices to the accounts payables module of their accounting system. Further, Bill.com will automatically pay vendors according the vendor’s terms. The time saved in data entry and payment processing can be significant.
Some connected services like DocAssist (check out our recorded webinar featuring DocAssist) promise possibly greater productivity gains by automating document workflows. The paperless office has been an elusive goal for decades, and the high cost of document management systems has been a deterrent to adoption. However, DocAssist combines document approval workflow with automated transaction processing, speeding up the time required to approve a purchase request, effect a salary change, or process any other document based transaction. Further, cloud-based document management provides a “pay-as-you-go” approach as well as the capability to interact with a number of accounting, HRMS, and CRM systems.
Connected services now provide many common accounting department activities, including payroll, employee expense management, payment processing, sales tax compliance, and federal/state tax preparation. The connected services industry is still in its infancy, so we can likely expect that many new services to appear in the future. The role of accounting departments will likely never be diminished, but its nature could well change by eliminating many high volume, low value functions, enabling a greater focus on providing high value activities such as decision support and performance management.
If you are considering connected services to provide greater productivity for your accounting staff, be sure to contact us!