[IMGCAP(1)]Technology offers small businesses the irresistible allure of success through the same tools used by larger companies.

But without knowing how to use the latest technology, or what is most appropriate for small businesses, the promise of time and money saved might not come to fruition.

Accountants have an opportunity to help their small business clients build a better business from the ground up by helping them understand the features and efficiencies they should look for in their business technology solutions. With the right technology solution, small business owners will enjoy a more streamlined, simplified and automated process for managing their business financials, freeing them to stay focused on running their business. Here are three areas where technology can have the biggest impact on a small business.

Small Business Accounting
Software as a service (SaaS) has become increasingly popular and cloud-based accounting programs give even the smallest business owner access to a full suite of accounting services.

While digital accounting might not have been previously considered, due to technical infrastructure issues and cost, the latest developments have made it much more affordable and easy to use.

Traditional accounting systems are often only installed on one computer, as software licenses are an expensive investment for many small businesses. Now, data and software can be stored in the cloud to allow authorized personnel to access the information from virtually anywhere and on any device for easy collaboration between the business owner, team members and business partners.

For a business owner who is short on time, cloud-based accounting programs improve productivity and provide simplified, yet accurate record keeping. Extensive accounting knowledge is not required for accounting systems based in the cloud. Rather, information is entered via an intuitive dashboard, eliminating the need for—and cost of—a specialized accounting or bookkeeping employee. Information can be updated in real time, cutting down on both paperwork and the redundancy traditional software often requires.

Cloud accounting also minimizes the time spent tracking finances, as business owners can also record their income and expenses. Not only does this reduce the amount of paper receipts, but it alleviates incomplete recording surrounding business expenses and customer invoices.

Merchant Services
The number of people carrying cash or checkbooks is quickly fading, and the preferred method of payment is now credit or debit cards. For small business owners, setting up a credit card processing program that fits both technical and budgetary needs is important. Today, business owners and entrepreneurs have the ability to integrate their payment services with other software; features that in the past were only available to large companies with extensive budgets.

By integrating payment services with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, billing software and e-commerce platforms, to name a few, payment-processing activities are tracked seamlessly.

Not only does this allow business owners to easily manage their back office by having all their data working together, but it provides a better customer experience when making a purchase.

Small Business Lending
Recently, there has been a rise in online platforms for securing loans, merging technology and small business lending. These Web sites target small to midsize business owners, offering new ways to provide capital with a faster loan approval process and limited business interruption. When evaluating financial institutions, business owners need to select the option that best aligns with their short- and long-term goals. These small business lending Web sites open the door to more lenders of varying sizes, SBA loans and even loans for specific needs that can be accessed by filling out one application.

Whether a business is in need of real estate, equipment financing, a disaster loan or even loans for veterans, these platforms provide a viable alternative with a faster turnaround time. Companies will be matched based on their unique profile in a safe, efficient and price-transparent environment that allows business owners to make the most advantageous decision.

Leveraging new technologies to replace repetitive, time-consuming, error-prone processes is important for building a successful business. By focusing on these three areas, accountants can help small business owners identify the tools they need to improve business processes and achieve greater success.

Andy Childs is vice president of marketing at Paychex.

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