As an accountant or bookkeeper, you focus on every financial detail. Your job is to track, measure, and report monetary records. And while historically, this has meant entering records into physical books or spreadsheets, times have changed. The advent of accounting and bookkeeping software has made your work more effective and accurate.
How to select the best accounting software
The first step to streamlining operations with accounting software is to pick one. Options abound, from software installed directly on your computer to cloud software stored online. What’s the difference?
The first type of software to consider is installed locally on your computer. With this type of software, you can only access records on the authorized computer. For example, if you are an independent accountant or bookkeeper and only access records at a customer’s business. This reduced access means more security, but it also limits scalability and is best for on-premises.
By contrast, cloud software is accessible on any device, as long as the user has permission. This type of software is more flexible and tends to be more affordable. Cloud software like Xero is a better fit for smaller organizations. Plus, independent bookkeepers and accountants can specialize in specific software as an added benefit. This means that you can take on clients who agree to use that software, making a more streamlined workflow.
Determining which accounting software plug-ins and tools to use
The choice of software is conditional. For some financial professionals, it may be dictated by a business, and for others, it’s their choice. Whatever the software, it’s essential to evaluate if there are additional tools or plug-ins you can use.
What is a plug-in?
A plug-in is a tool that securely accesses your accounting software. Plug-ins help you connect different systems, so you don’t have to download spreadsheets and re-upload.
Together, plug-ins and tools help reduce the amount of time you need for manual work. For example, pretend you work with a business that has a fair amount of travel expenses. You might consider a tool that automatically imports receipts and aggregates them as a single line item.
Or, similarly, imagine you work with a business with an online storefront. It can be painful to reconcile online sales to financial records, especially if you need to report sales tax. A plug-in like BankFeeds helps connect online store records directly into your Xero accounting software.
The result? Faster data reconciliation and less manual work.
Why accounting software it matters
With accounting software, you can make the most of your most precious resource: your time. As a financial professional, your time is literally money. The more efficiently you use your time, the better off you and your clients are.
Accounting software also helps businesses with business continuity and succession planning. Because records aren’t only on paper, they are retained long-term. They can’t be damaged by water or fire, and they can’t be lost. In the case of employee turnover, they remain accessible to those who need it with just a password to the software.
In short: it means more stability for you, your clients, and their businesses.
How to get started with accounting software
Once you’ve selected your software and appropriate plug-ins, it’s time to get started with implementation. This step is the most important–buying new software is like a New Year’s Resolution. It’s easy to buy a new tool but not have a plan for implementing it. Here’s a checklist of things to think about as you plan to use or switch accounting software:
Map a launch timeline
When implementing new software, it’s essential to select a launch date. This date keeps you accountable for using the tool and prevents you from procrastinating. As you choose your go-live date, you’ll want to consider how long you think it will take you to get your data into the system, as well as other projects and priorities happening at the same time. Don’t pick a date that’s unrealistically early, but don’t pick a date too far in the future. The perfect date should be reasonable, yet soon.
Bring in stakeholders
Once you’ve picked your start date, bring in the stakeholders who will also need to know your system. If you share responsibilities with other professionals or require clients to input information into accounting software, you’ll need to train them to do it. Don’t expect them to learn how to use it on their own. Book training sessions with stakeholders, and prepare documentation for reference later. These steps will save you time in the future.
(Pro tip: this is an excellent use of your regular stakeholder meetings with clients.)
Connect to systems
Once you have your system selected, you’ll want to connect it to every tool, report, and data source you need. Because of the intricacies of financial information, there’s a chance that you’ll need to verify your identity or provide security access before you can officially connect. While this may be frustrating, it’s of the utmost importance to keep your data secure. Be sure to build in time for yourself as you connect to systems.
Do a trial run
Once you’re connected and well-versed in your new software, it’s time to do a trial run. A trial run is an idea that you do a day of work in the new system and write down what’s missing or needs improvement before you completely roll it out. You’ll also want to document anything that could be subjective, such as tags, categorization, or naming conventions. Documenting these items during your trial run means that you’ll have a smoother implementation process and future-proof your work.
With these ideas, you’ll be well on your way to streamlining your financial operations with accounting software. And one step closer to a more organized workflow overall.
Already using Xero? Connect to Stripe and Shopify with BankFeeds