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Common Reasons Why Automation in Accounting Can Fail

Written on Mar 22, 2023
Common Reasons Why Automation in Accounting Can Fail

               (Mikhail Nilov / pexels)

Just the word “automation” can bring about a mixed bag of feelings for accountants. On one hand, automation brings many benefits. For example, it relieves accountants of repetitive tasks, giving them time to focus on more strategic, value-creating efforts with faster turnaround times and more inclusive data.

On the other hand, it may trigger fears of reduced job security as automation takes over many responsibilities (cue vintage ads of the Maytag repairman being "the loneliest guy in town”). There’s also the fear of losing, destroying or tarnishing crucial data in the move to automation.

Some worry that efforts to automate will fail. But once you understand the common pitfalls of making the switch, you’ll have the confidence and ability to introduce it more wisely and avoid frustration and wasted time.

Five common automation mistakes to avoid

While we can sing the praises of automation all day, we understand that switching from manual to tech has left some with less-than-optimal results (and a splitting headache). Once we uncover why automation can go sideways, we can learn from those mistakes and avoid repeating them.

Common pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Too much or not enough planning – Avoid getting stuck in “analysis paralysis.” At the opposite end of the spectrum, insufficient planning can lead to investments in tech that don’t offer the solutions your business needs. Pick a few candidates that best align with your requirements and run trials until you have a clear winner for your tasks and budget.
  2. Lack of understanding – You and your team need proper training to use your technology effectively. If there’s no IT department at your company to oversee the purchase and implementation of new software, then it's up to you to learn the ins and outs, run tests and train others. Use the software’s customer support (sometimes called “customer success”) department for demonstrations, use cases and training.
  3. Insufficient training – You and your team need training from your IT department or the software’s customer support team. Software developers want you to be successful with their tech, so they usually offer a dedicated support staff. Ask for help to avoid missing out on a feature that could be essential for your success.
  4. Siloed decision-making – It takes everyone working together to find solutions that benefit the company. Involve other departments in your search and decision-making.
  5. Failure to consider alternative solutions – Avoid having your blinders on and focusing solely on one solution. Decision-making must include others from different departments within the company.

Ensure automation success

Switching to automation is nothing to fear or avoid. The time it takes to roll out a new service and train employees is a temporary setback for a critical business lifeline. Follow these steps to achieve the smoothest transition possible.

1. Map your process

First, construct a model of your present accounting workflow to help you identify critical steps and make improvements. Diagraming your workflow and pinpointing vital steps in the process is a big part of the journey to automation success.

2. Assess and audit

Second, assess your current workflow and perform automation audits. Outline current bottlenecks or repetitive processes that automation could help with. Identify a software solution that aligns with as many of your company’s specific processes and needs as possible. Start small, then incorporate more services as you and your team get comfortable using what you have. Note the areas where automation is already in use. Determine if your current tech works well or if there’s room for expanding/upgrading to include more accounting functions.

3. Phase your implementation

Knowing what to automate first can be a challenging decision. With endless ideas and possibilities, it can be easy to lose sight of the forest for all the trees. So, the third tip is to identify all use cases and select the one that offers the best return on effort. For example, using artificial intelligence in bank reconciliation and data entry can significantly minimize the possibility of human error and save considerable time. Starting with these one or two functions allows you and your team to make the most out of less complicated adjustments.

4. Refocus employees

Lastly, assist employees in transitioning their attention and energy to business growth. With less time spent on manual data entry and repetitive tasks, accountants can take on more clients due to improved productivity and faster turnaround times. Additionally, they can assist in advisory or counseling duties. Encourage employees to polish human skills no technology can replace, such as communication, analysis, relationship-building and creativity.

Technology and accounting

Technology and accounting are becoming more and more integrated and integral for businesses. Focus on honing your tech and interpersonal skills as accounting shifts away from manual data entry to advisory capacities. You can keep your skills and expertise fresh through an accounting membership organization like The Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA), which offers quality, relevant CPE training courses.

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