Blair Morrison, CEO

First, we just want to say that we love automation. We also want to say that while we know a lot about accounting and finance, we haven’t tried every tool out there. So if you have a tool that you think does an amazing job of automating finance or accounting, we would love to hear about it.

So. What does automation in finance and accounting mean? It basically means doing less work to get more information. And by less work, we mean for individual employees who are collecting data as well as the accounting and finance team who is processing that data.

Any company that we get excited about has a few key qualities:

1. Ease of integration

If it takes six months to integrate the tool, it’s not easy. If you have to hire a specialist for $$ to do it, it’s not easy. Easy integration means that a person who knows a bit about accounting (and the accounting of your particular company) and has reasonable technical skills can implement the tool.

2. Easy and useful reporting

If I have to put in a special symbol or some other complicated hack to get basic reporting out of a tool, no thank you. The information that the person who is managing the tool needs to run the tool efficiently and effectively, needs to be straightforward and easy to access.

3. Easy for any end-users to use

If those entering data into the system have too hard of a time entering that information, they’re not going to do it consistently. If you have any change in staff, the new employee may not do it the same way or as consistently as the last. For it to be effortless for any end-user to use, data collection must be easy and straightforward to ensure good data collection.

What Are Our Favorite Automation Tools Right Now?

For expense management we like Expensify

Expensify is relatively easy to set up. In order to sync it with your QuickBooks you just select the sync link and turn on whichever items you want your employees (the end-users) to be able to add expenses to. The reporting, user management and ease of seeing which expense reports were in the process allows the administrator to keep expenses being processed in a timely manner. Photos of receipts can be taken by the end-user (employees) and loaded into the system via your cell phone, making it relatively easy to submit expense reports. You can make certain categories mandatory so that all the information your accounting team requires gets collected by the employee and there isn’t a lot of back-and-forth on who did what and why.

Our favorite small business payroll company is currently Gusto

Gusto makes payroll fun! At least that seems to be their goal, with cute characters and really straightforward reporting analytics and tools. Payroll suddenly becomes less intimidating and much more straightforward to complete. Taxes are automatically withheld, 401(k)s can be integrated into the system and quarterly filings can be automatically done for you. They even started offering a healthcare solution that, for really small businesses, can make life a lot easier.

Our choice between QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online is probably obvious… QuickBooks Online

We decided to only integrate our software with QuickBooks Online and there is good reason for this. It wasn’t just that it was easier to integrate. It was that this tool is in the cloud and we can pull real-time data from it. The way the tool is set up with linked bank accounts makes updating the information more frequently way easier. Also, QuickBooks Desktop has version control issues with multiple users which can be a big issue. With QuickBooks Online, more real-time data can be pulled into our software. Fast-paced businesses (really all businesses) need current data to make decisions. As a fractional CFO, I always push my companies to move to QuickBooks Online.

There are lots of other automation tools out there, especially plug-ins for QuickBooks Online to make things quick and easy. Automation isn’t just the way of the future, it is the way small business owners are going to get better data so they can run their businesses smarter and spend less time heading in the wrong direction.