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A calculator with some graphs and charts to measure the financial position of a business. A colourful 3D pie chart sits on top of the reports.

If your business is growing quickly then it can be tricky to deal with the increased accounting transactions you receive as a result of more sales. On the one hand, this sounds like a lovely problem to have, but if you don’t streamline your financial processes then you could end up making mistakes and they could end up being costly. Any increase in profits could be wiped out by inefficiencies so it’s vital to have good systems in place.

Learning how to automate your finance and reporting processes will help your business grow, and you’ll be able to handle more transactions with ease, and more accurately.

Read on to find out exactly which automations will put your mind at rest and ensure the numbers are taken care of!

How do I get started with automation?

The great news is that you don’t need to hire an expensive developer to automate the finance and reporting processes in your business. There are no-code tools which are really easy for anyone to use, and our favourite is Zapier. Zapier now connects more than 6,000 apps so it’s likely that some (if not all) of the systems you use in your business are on that list.

We’ve written a handy guide which is all about how to get started with automation. We have a goldmine of other useful articles too, and our Chief Problem Solver, Kelly Goss, has also written a book about how to get up and running with Zapier, which is perfect for complete beginners as well as people who have been using it for a while. Here are links to Amazon (.co.uk) and Amazon (.com) to get yours if you’d like to learn how to do it properly from day one.

Why should finance processes be automated?

Whether you have a dedicated bookkeeper or accounting team or not, finance processes can often be left to the last minute and it can be harder to track transactions when the system is paper-based.

There are so many options for a paperless system, although with the best will in the world you’ll still receive some physical financial correspondence from suppliers or clients.

Having real-time financial reporting makes so much sense, and cutting back on manual data entry will eliminate human error as well as making sure the information is available when needed. Having a robot to take care of as much as possible is so useful as they don’t take vacations or sick days!

Why should reporting processes be automated?

It’s vital for business owners to know their key metrics are being reported accurately and are up to date. Using automation means that you don’t need to collate data manually, which can be time-consuming and inefficient.

Automating reporting functions means that you can produce management information easily for all stakeholders and identify where improvements can be made.

Which finance applications are ideal for automating?

Many of the leading cloud-based accounting platforms have their own built-in automation functionality, which is great, but adding a tool like Zapier into the mix takes it to a different level.

Software packages like Xero, Sage Accounting, Quickbooks Online, Zoho Books and Freshbooks have pre-built integrations with Zapier, which means you can connect them to other office apps. These could include many standard office and CRM systems including Microsoft Excel, Stripe, Pipedrive and Salesforce.

There are dedicated apps for capturing expenses such as Expensify, and also apps which can read data from paper receipts and send it into other accounting systems, such as Dext. This can really supercharge your finance processes as dealing with receipts manually is extremely time-consuming.

Closeup of a hand using a calculator whilst reviewing expense receipts.

Specialist invoice apps will let you create invoices on the fly and provide tailored dashboards and analytics. Examples include Zoho Invoice, Invoice Ninja and Invoice Berry.

Using Zapier’s line-item feature can take automation to the next level, and it’s supported by many financial apps. This article (LINK TO LINE-ITEM BLOG when it’s published) explains what they are, which apps support them and the types of processes which work well with them.

Visit the Zapier website to see the full range of accounting apps which can be automated using Zapier.

Which finance processes can be automated?

We highly recommend documenting your processes first to discover which are your biggest pain points, which may be those which involve a lot of rekeying data from one app into another. This exercise gives you an opportunity to see whether there are already inefficiencies in your business that you can improve on even before starting with automation.

But once you’ve documented your processes you’re ready to start automating them, and here are some ideas for which ones you could start with.

Invoice management

Businesses with a large volume of sales transactions find that automating the creation of sales invoices is a huge game-changer in terms of reducing bookkeeper time significantly. There are many different options for automating invoicing processes, but here are a few examples.

You could send an invoice when a new appointment is booked in Calendly or Acuity Scheduling.

You could link your e-commerce app with your accounting app and send an invoice when you make a new sale in Woocommerce or Shopify, or a new payment is received by Stripe or Paypal.

You could create a monthly contractor invoice from expense records and email it to them automatically using Gmail or Zapier’s built-in email app, Email by Zapier.

Here is a list of all the invoicing and proposal apps which can be connected via Zapier.

Payment processing

If you’d like customers to pay their invoices quickly then using an online payment solution can speed things up enormously. Examples include Stripe and Paypal, and if you have point-of-sale transactions to manage then SquareUp is a great cloud-based solution.

Examples of payment processes which can be automated include adding new Paypal customers to your email platform such as Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign.

You could add records of sales from Stripe to a Google Sheet or automatically add them to Xero.

There are also apps which manage recurring payments or subscriptions and many of these can be connected to your other software using Zapier. These include Chargebee and Chargify. So if a customer takes out a subscription then you could add a task to Asana, send an email using Microsoft Outlook or send a notification to your team in Slack.

Expense processing

You and your staff will likely deal with paper and electronic receipts and bills for travel, entertainment and other business expenses. These can be processed automated using Zapier, for example by automatically transferring the data into your accounting app.

If you receive receipts by email then you can forward them to an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) app such as Dext or Nanonets OCR which can add them to your accounting app automatically.

You could create the purchase invoices for expenses too, and add the data to a spreadsheet. You can flag particular expenses (for example those over a certain amount) in a Slack channel or via email to a supervisor. You can also save the receipt PDF in Google Drive or in Dropbox.

Other ideas include:

  • Creating expense records automatically if a new row is added to a spreadsheet
  • Create a new project task when a new expense report is received
  • Create an email from an expense report

To get more ideas about which workflows you can automate, click on the apps we mention in this article and you’ll see a list of popular integrations that others configure with Zapier. Even if you don’t use that particular app, you’ll get lots of ideas about what options are open to you.

How can I automate my reporting processes?

It can be extremely time-consuming to collate the data and create bar charts and other graphs by hand. There is also the risk that human error introduces inaccurate data, which can take days or weeks to discover.

Your business apps may produce their own management information and reports, but you will likely need a ‘helicopter view’ across all systems. That’s where automation is key and using no-code tools like Zapier to transfer the data means you can centralise your data warehouse and visualise your KPIs in a single dashboard.

What’s more, Zapier has a range of formatting and spreadsheet-style calculation functions which means that you can manipulate the data as needed for the target system. Formatter by Zapier includes text, date/time and numeric formatting functions which you can use for your reporting and analytics data.

Most businesses maintain spreadsheet reports, and you can send key reporting data from other apps into Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel and Smartsheet automatically using Zapier.

Website analytics are another key reporting metric which is vital for measuring business success. Zapier has an integration for Google Analytics where you can trigger workflows when new goals are added, such as sending a message to a Slack channel. You can run reports automatically and send the data into a spreadsheet. You can create new measurements from webform responses in apps such as Typeform or Ninja Forms.

Business intelligence and dashboards are vital for business owners to oversee their key metrics and you can use automation to collate the data in a dashboard, and refresh it automatically. There are apps which produce fancy dashboards for you but they don’t always integrate with your other systems. That’s where Zapier can help, and examples like Databox, Geckoboard and Zoho Analytics can integrate with your other data sources to pull it all together. Here are some other dashboard apps that can be used with Zapier to automate your reporting processes.

Which other parts of my business can I automate?

We have written plenty of articles about other areas in your business which are ripe for automation.

For example

 

Check out our automation training programme

And finally, if you’re really keen to transform your business using automation, then visit the Solvaa Automation Academy. Our signature training programme, ‘Simple Automation Blueprint: Zero to Hero’ is aimed at anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of business process automation from the experts – a sure-fire way to recession-proof your business.

It’s an 8-week blended learning course with on-demand videos, templates, resources and weekly group coaching sessions. And it’s more than just a Zapier course (although we do show you how to use Zapier like a pro) as you’ll learn about Process Mapping, Business Process Improvement and Business Process Management too – principles that can be applied to other areas of business too! 

Whether you are a complete novice or have been using Zapier for a while, our programme is for you. It’s perfect for individuals and teams in micro, small and medium-sized businesses, including solopreneurs, consultants and freelancers. You’ll have access to our experts and can participate in live calls where you can ask all your burning questions, as well as hands-on workshops to keep you on track with implementing your new skills. We run regular cohorts so there will be an opportunity for everyone to participate.

Our head trainer, Kelly Goss, is a specialist in business systems, process improvement and automation, and one of less than 100 Zapier Certified Experts in the world. Kelly has many years’ experience in optimising systems and processes, and implementing automations for clients and is now passing on her knowledge to students through our trademarked ‘4-Step Solvaa Automation Methodology®‘. 

Find out more via our dedicated Solvaa Automation Academy website.

Read more about how our certified experts use Zapier workflow automations to simplify processes and increase efficiency.

Solvaa is a process and automation consultancy specialising in improving sales, operations and financial administration workflows. We help you to simplify and streamline existing processes, integrate your business tools to make data transfer more efficient and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. We are Zapier Certified Experts, Pipedrive Certified Experts and Xero Certified Advisors. 

Contact us today to discuss how Solvaa can help you simplify, improve and automate all aspects of your business with Zapier to save you time, reduce costs and keep you agile as you grow.

 

 

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