Top 11 accounting technology productivity features

By Ken Garen, CPA

Whether you are a solo practitioner or an office of 100 employees, the ability to substantially increase your annual revenue without adding employees defines productivity. If you can improve your earnings or profit by adopting technology with the productivity features that matter, it is an obvious and sensible approach.
 
Demand the top 11 productivity features in your accounting software and give your practice the opportunity to grow and multiply revenue.
 
Accounting software that grows with you. Whether you serve the basic accounting needs of 25 clients or the highly complex needs of thousands, there is peace of mind in knowing your accounting software will grow with your business for decades into the future.
 
The ability of accounting software to grow with your practice, known as software scalability, makes this possible. Highly scalable software that works at the same speed regardless of whether a single employee or several hundred employees are accessing the system at the same time is critical for long-term growth.
 
As a practice grows, multiple operating systems may be in use within the firm. When this happens, being able to run the same exact data file from multiple operating systems without as-is requiring conversion matters greatly.
 
The option to operate in heads-down data entry or a mouse-driven mode. Highly productive software will allow you to work in a heads-down data entry mode or in a drop-down mouse-driven mode. In heads-down data entry mode, a few keystrokes will bring the operator directly into the desired program. In mouse-driven operation, the operator clicks the mouse to pull down and search a menu, which pulls down another menu, from which the mouse-driven operator then selects the program. Accounting software that offers the option of heads-down data entry allows operators to increase productivity quite dramatically.
 
Import and Export transactions from QuickBooks and other software. Having your accounting software integrate well with mass market client-oriented accounting programs like QuickBooks is critical to productivity. It allows the bookkeeper to import and export so you can send and receive information to and from other software programs with no re-keying needed. In a multi-vendor or mixed software environment, be sure to run a series of compatibility tests.
 
Integration with tax preparation software. Accounting software should not hold your business hostage to a single vendor’s tax software. The ability to integrate with multiple vendors’ tax preparation software means having the flexibility and capability to shift from one vendor’s tax software to another, or work with multiple programs on a client-by-client basis.
 
Direct import of bank-cleared transactions.  The ability to import cleared transactions from the bank instead of having to hand-enter transactions increases accuracy and saves a lot of time. The speed of import is also critical to productivity; cleared transactions must import in the blink of an eye rather than watching an hourglass on your screen.
 
General ledger auto-fill and auto-populate features. Description, account number, and dollar amount auto-fill and auto-populate features help accountants ensure compliance with the forthcoming 1099 requirements by providing consistent account coding and data descriptions. These features improve accuracy and significantly reduce typing keystrokes for the bookkeeper. This productivity feature will ensure seamless compliance with the new 1099 requirements scheduled to become mandatory in the 2012 calendar tax year.
 
Customizable reports. You'll need software that allows insight and visibility into key areas through the generation of reports on these operations. The best accounting software products allow custom report criteria to be set. For example, reports can be generated that cover a specific type of employee – falling into a particular type of tax category – over a certain number of years. Software that allows you to easily customize reports or serve multiple client needs (i.e. allowing for prefixing and suffixing for multi-department and multi-location/product line consolidations) adds value to your services and increases client loyalty.
 
Accounting software customizable reports should also support multi-level consolidations. For example, a business might desire customized reports for three different partners, each with their own section of work, with earnings based on these three levels. Businesses with multi-level consolidations would be interested in reviewing a report including partner consolidation level and the consolidation level for the company.
 
Reporting flexibility.
  • The ability to have multiple years of budget capability.
  • The ability to automatically allocate partnership and year-end profits.
  • The ability to share financial statement design amongst different client IDs.
  • The ability to transform a chart of accounts by remembering or merging accounts, consolidating accounts, and taking multiples and merging them.
  • The handling consolidations should be easy.
  • The creation of automated professional-grade compilation letters. The ability to create compilation letters on plain paper or in PDF files that already have your corporate letterhead and accountant’s letterhead and the signature of the accountant.
 
Direct delivery of reports in real time. Direct delivery of reports automatically via e-mail to the client ensures the accountant and client have instant access to the information as soon as it is available. Reports that are generated and automatically delivered in real time [via e-mail] ensure uniformity and eliminate human error, such as developing reports that are not needed.
 
The direct delivery of reports via e-mail defines real time and is vastly superior to notifying parties the information is viewable on the portal which can present significant security risks not present in e-mail. The process of portal delivery does not immediately deliver a report to the client; rather, it requires additional steps taken by the client to access the report, thus diminishing the real-time delivery.
 
The ability to automate processes whenever you need or want them to be automated. A key to productivity and getting it right in an accounting practice is having accounting software that will require only one step to run a predefined series of reports on one or multiple clients, with the option of automatically e-mailing of the reports to the client. It also is very important to be able to run a report (such as a trial balance) across some grouping of your clients, instead of having to go in to each client to tell the software you want to print the report, which can save an accountant what could be days of administrative work.
 
Cloud friendly. The ability to work in the cloud will become an absolute must in the coming years. The cloud will allow you to take advantage of significant productivity multipliers and make you a leader in client/prospect mindset perception. Be sure that your software provider is moving in a cloud friendly direction.
 
About the author:
Ken Garen, CPA, is the cofounder and president of Universal Business Computing Company, a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology. To stay current on technology issues and breaking technology news, subscribe to Ken’s Blog http://ubcckengaren.blogspot.com/ and follow Ken’s Tweets http://twitter.com/ubcckengaren. Contact Ken at ubcc@ubcc.com or call (800) 762-8222.

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