How Automated Are You?

Automation is a bit of a hot topic in the bookkeeping world at the moment, but what does it actually mean and what does it mean for your business?

What is automation?

At it’s core, it’s really just systemising how tasks are carried out, often using software to replace some of the human time and effort needed. Many bookkeepers, including me, use it as a way of reducing time spent on data entry so we can focus on client relationships and business growth. For me it’s about using my time wisely and making sure that I’m delivering as much value as possible to my clients.

How can I use it in my business?

Treat your software as staff! By this I mean using tools such as Zapier to pass information from one piece of software to another, based on certain triggers. The possibilities are endless, but this is an example I use in my own business, the vast majority of which happens behind the scenes with no input at all from me:
  1. Client books a Xero training session using 10to8
  2. Payment is collected via Stripe as part of the booking process
  3. New meeting is set up in Zoom
  4. Zoom link is sent to Slack, ready for me to include in an email to the client
  5. An invoice is created in Xero, ready for me to send
  6. I add the Zoom link to an email, using a template saved in TypeIt4Me, and send to the client
  7. Time is blocked out on my calendar
  8. Task to prepare for the session is added to my to-do list

That all sounds great, but it’s a bit overwhelming

I always like to look for quick wins, you don’t have to automate everything at once. You’ll be surprised at how much time can be freed up by implementing just two things:

Save frequently used phrases/information to text expansion software.

I realise it sounds ridiculous to suggest that you can save much time by typing “aqlmk” rather than “If you have any questions, do just let me know”, but those seconds really do add up! It’s great for the small things like greetings or sign offs, but really comes into its own when used to provide self assessment payment information, etc. My favourite tools are TypeIt4Me and Phrase Express, but you can also achieve a similar thing in Outlook and Gmail.

Reduce data entry.

Software such as AutoEntry or ReceiptBank is a great way of a) getting paperwork from clients and b) getting it into accounts software.

5 tips to get started

  1. Monitor where you spend your time, as this can be a great way of spotting opportunities. If you spend half a day each month asking clients if there are changes to their payroll then that would be a good candidate for automation.
  2. Before you dive in, document your processes and identify where improvements are needed. You don’t want to automate processes that aren’t serving you and your clients well.
  3. Once you’ve identified a process to automate, break it down into all of the different steps. Go into quite a bit of detail with this as it’ll really help late. A good way of starting is by thinking about how many steps go into making a cup of tea:
fill up kettle > boil kettle > get a cup > get a teabag > add teabag to cup > put boiled water in cup > leave to brew > remove bag > add milk.
  1. You don’t need to automate the whole process. Even just removing you from a step or two will save you a lot of time.
  2. Dive in! As with lots of things, the biggest hurdle is in just getting started.

I’m always interested in hearing how people are using technology in their businesses, so I’d love to hear what you automate!


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