20th March 2019

Accounting Technology: simplify and grow

Running a fast-growth startup comes with a raft of responsibilities and a whole wardrobe of hats. When your skills and energy are focussed on getting your aspirations to market, company accounts can become neglected - to the detriment of future growth.

Manual accounting can take up precious time and without a good view of your cash flow, or a true awareness of your burn-rate, you could run out of money before you realise. Ideally, you need to spot bottlenecks and pinch points before they happen, giving you enough time to take the appropriate action.

The recent Making Tax Digital movement has made this painfully apparent to those relying on spreadsheets and manual reporting. Mistakes can be harder to spot and paperwork can become unmanageable, affecting your ability to make accurate reports and projections - and that’s why the industry has moved strongly in favour of accounting technology. Accounting apps and tools not only take care of the day-to-day leg work, they also provide a holistic, proactive view of your business, letting you react rapidly to a constantly changing marketplace and reducing the manual hours you spend managing your books.

Finding the right accounting technology for your business is essential for sustainable growth and scalability. Whilst it’s easy to get overwhelmed by what’s out there, the key is identifying your objectives. There is a range of applications that will help you understand how your business is performing, how to react to challenges, identify opportunities and report accurately to investors and partners. Even for the less tech-savvy, accounting apps can and will make life easier, allowing your business to reach the next level.

To pinpoint what’s best for your company, you need to establish clear KPIs in line with your objectives - measurable values that make sense of how your business is doing - so you can clearly understand what you want to achieve. For businesses to scale up, this data needs to be properly analysed: not something everyone is comfortable doing manually, but that good apps will do automatically. Some apps also combine financial and non-financial data to measure more complex KPI’s.

Laura Leon from the Propel Technology team says, ‘Using a few key apps, or bringing everything onto an accounting dashboard, is useful for businesses and their investors to get a clearer understanding of what is working and what isn’t. It helps to spot risks and identify problems that could otherwise be missed. When reporting to investors, you need to give them the bigger picture plus all the important details. Now you can tailor and automate your reports by using tech that does all the analysis for you.’

For small businesses who want to grow and succeed there are 3 key considerations: Cashflow, Costs and Revenue. There are apps that can connect to your bank account and accounting package in a very simple way. Within few minutes of set up, you are able to access your business’ financial information in real time - and thanks to the AI behind the scenes, you are able to track and measure the KPI’s that are most important to your business.

Medium size businesses are often looking to automate processes that otherwise require a large amount of manual input, take a lot of time and lack consistency. Organisations of this size are usually working with KPI’s that include high complexity variables and might require integrations with apps that enhance and compliment their current technology systems.

What accounting tech would work hardest for me?

Don’t be tempted to use too many accounting apps at the same time. If you want to solve multiple issues in your business, give priority to what supports your objectives, or what’s causing you the biggest headache - you may find that a single tool will solve this, and by doing so iron out the smaller problems too.

There is some great accounting tech on the market, tailored for different types of start-ups and small businesses. Identifying what you want to achieve for your business is the most important step towards finding the best apps to help you monitor, report and drive towards that growth.

Propel’s Top 10

Xero

Probably one of the most complete accounting packages, with great features and functionality that will help you with invoicing, inventory, project time and expenses tracking. Also features their latest HMRC compatible VAT Returns online submission.

Expensify

For larger businesses that want to fully automate their expense reporting into an accounting package. Expensify's OCR technology, SmartScan, matches receipts to imported credit card data to automatically create expense reports, eliminating all manual data entry. Approval rules can be built in too.

GoCardless

Completely simplifies the way you collect payments from your clients. Allows you to collect payments on time via direct debits, debit and credit cards - decreasing your debtors, improving client relationships and significantly reducing time spent chasing payments.

ApprovalMax

Create your own approval workflows, adding multi-step and multi-level approvals. Features automated notifications, reporting and integration with main accounting softwares. This tool is good for businesses that require multiple levels of internal approval for purchase orders, invoices and other documents. Easy to use, with visibility of the full process and approvers can do it all from their mobiles.

FreeAgent

Great accounting software for small businesses that need a simple tool to manage their finances. With great features that make life easier, including VAT Returns submission that’s compatible with HMRC and Corporate Tax Returns.

Pleo

This is a new form of corporate credit card where employers have better control over employees’ expenses by giving them a monthly allowance and other useful flexibilities. Expenses are linked to an accounting system which managers can review and control from their mobile phone, transactions can be reconciled directly into the cloud accounting package and paper receipts are a thing of the past.

Futrli

A useful tool for building a cashflow forecast for your business. You can input the information manually using your last year’s actuals, or use information from your accounting package - including your balance sheet, P&L and cashflow statement. Ideal for getting an overall view of how your business is performing and track complex KPI’s.

Receipt Bank

Instant receipt scanning tool that, with just one snap of your receipt, will extract the data automatically, so that you can then review and post it directly onto your accounting package. The OCR technology is accurate and the tool easily integrates to different accounting softwares, mile tracking apps and workflow approval apps. Saves time and keeps all your receipts in the cloud for easy access.

Unleashed

Ideal for manufacturing and wholesale businesses looking to track goods from purchase through manufacturing and to finished goods. This is cloud-based inventory management solution that will help solve many of the issues related with tracking inventory in your business. It provides real time information, accessible anywhere, and with open API means you can create custom workflows that interact with your internal systems and inventory management tools. Integrates with main accounting packages, Salesforce and other useful apps.

Propel Technology Dashboard

The key to pulling performance insights out of your data is what’s called a “Business Intelligence” (BI) platform. Of course we’d recommend ours (our clients like it too!) - but it’s worth doing some research into what apps will be most useful for your business, and which BI platform is best suited to your needs.

Propel’s Technology Dashboard features an AI chat-bot, the ability to predict future revenue/analyse past performance and real time business alerts. You can find out more about our dashboard here.

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