[IMGCAP(1)]Disruptive technologies are adding urgency across all industries, accounting included, with clients and staff alike held to greater expectations regarding the quality and timeliness of services and products.

With emerging technologies continuing to make their way into the accounting industry, managers need to understand how they can best leverage these technologies to benefit their organization, staff and clients.

In the past, bookkeeping was a labor-intensive process, with a large amount of time spent entering transactions and reconciling bank statements. Today, new technologies in accounting have disrupted the traditional role of the bookkeeper, giving them the opportunity to become an invaluable source of insights, analytics and best practices throughout the organization.

Below are strategies for how bookkeepers can leverage the advances in technology to make their role more efficient and data driven.

Trust in Cloud Computing
The term “cloud computing” is often used when discussing the future of accounting, but cloud computing is already here. Whether it’s downloading a bank statement from the bank’s website or a web-based email server, cloud computing is widely utilized in the industry, helping to reduce bookkeeping turnaround time.

Services are available to help bookkeepers stay ahead with real-time information. For example, some services can extract key data from receipts that are scanned throughout the month, automatically pull bills and statements into one secure hub and then publish the data into cloud-based accounting software.

With more resources providing real-time information, it’s now possible to have most accounts reconciled daily and the books closed within a day or two after month end. Managers should work with their staff to determine which cloud-based software would be the best resource for the firm and how bookkeepers can work in conjunction with the software to ensure efficiency.

Customize Software
Gone are the days of the one-size-fits-all approach. It’s important for bookkeepers to understand how they can make software work specifically for the firm. Today, cloud-based accounting platforms are compatible with hundreds of third-party applications that add new features and functionality.

Application programming interfaces, which allow several pieces of software to communicate and share data, are able to integrate point of sale (POS), online and mobile payments systems, customer loyalty programs and email marketing, as well as tools for scheduling, logistics, merchant services and reporting. With these applications, the POS system can update the accounting system with customer details and split sales figures by products at the same time as the payroll system posts gross wages and payroll tax liabilities.

With endless options for customization, bookkeepers have the opportunity to develop niches within certain industries. With experience in different industry-specific add-ons, bookkeepers can position themselves as an expert source to help the company or client select the best combination of apps and platforms for their business.

Expand Project Management Tools
Beyond reconciling accounts and preparing a set of financial statements, today’s bookkeepers need to know how to interpret the numbers and provide insights and recommendations to key stakeholders. Technology is crucial in helping bookkeepers do this.

Time tracking and project management reporting tools allow bookkeepers to uncover inefficiencies in workflow or personnel, or see which customers generate the most revenue. Inventory management tools can help bring data together to answer questions such as how often vendors deliver on-time or whether the cost of goods is within budget. It can also provide an analysis of customers by geography, industry or products purchased. This adds to a bookkeeper’s arsenal of tools that enable them to provide critical information that could influence the bottom line.

While bank reconciliations, balance sheets, and profit and loss statements are always going to be required, advances in technology allow bookkeepers to quickly produce these documents, keep the work streamlined and provide actionable insights to key stakeholders. By embracing and leveraging these technologies, bookkeepers can establish themselves as critical resources for business analytics, reporting and innovation.

Kathy Gans is senior vice president at the recruiting company Accounting Principals.

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