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Professional Services Automation: Increase Competitiveness by Going Paperless

A key to Professional Services organizations' success (Accounting Firms, Law Firms, Engineers, Public Relations, Industry Consultants, etc.) is the individuals that make up the business. For this blog, we'll focus on not the people themselves, but the margin of the services provided by those individuals.

As described in the “Going Paperless Introduction,” this last year has brought an ever-increasing pressure to be competitive and retain the margin that pays salaries and powers growth. One outlet to maintain and increase competitiveness is the reduction of paper processes and increasing the use of technology. Across Advisory, Tax and Audit, our experts have been working with clients on professional services automation to go paperless in some of these areas.

Time Tracking & Expense Reporting

Two critical processes to the margin of a Professional Services organization are time tracking and expense reporting. Individuals understand the importance of both processes but do not make either consistent or detailed in their everyday work. Completing these actions at the end of the week or a few weeks after a trip creates inaccuracies and can result in revenue loss. Between following up with individuals, reviewing for accuracy and processing paper forms, more time is wasted and is not tracked.

Surprisingly, many organizations already have technology at their fingertips to remove paper and automate the entire process. Imagine an individual entering their time or expenses every day and their manager or executive being able to review the submittals right away. This capability enables accurate planning, budgeting and makes end-of-month close-outs much simpler. During the pandemic, one organization gained hours of productivity by allowing virtual expense approvals. No copying, no pasting, and easy access via any device.

Accounts Payable/ Receivable

The office is closed. Do you know where your checks are? Need the purchase order number, accurate address, or payment information and no one answers the phone? Remote work does not easily support these traditional paper processes. Even with dedicated personnel, time is consistently wasted following up, discussing accuracy, and enforcing the timeliness of these paper-based processes. We won’t even describe the end-of-year efforts required to generate end-of-year 1099 reports!

Frequently, systems that are already in use (like QuickBooks) or easy to integrate add-ons can stop the printing and scanning tasks to support these processes. When moving into a system, you not only distribute the invoice but also automate reminders and can even directly receive payment. This allows you to ensure checks are never lost, money is received in a timelier fashion, and individuals can spend more time providing services to your clients.

Data Processing

It’s hard to quantify the amount of data entry required for each individual within an organization. Starting with the hiring process, during onboarding and monthly payroll, there are essential pieces of data and many opportunities for error. Many organizations have paper, or static, forms that are filled out and then re-typed into a separate system.

There are now many opportunities in professional services automation to create digital forms that gather information and automatically connect to the appropriate systems. Maybe adding Stripe or Shopify allows you to directly connect to your bank, payroll and accounting systems simultaneously. There’s even technology that can replace an individual typing data from one system to the next.

We know this data and documentation are relied on for both year-end financial audits or tax preparation, but it also affects each individual in an organization and the time they can spend focused on delivering services compared to administrative tasks. These are only a few processes that can be automated – don’t be the organization that has lost documents because they are downloaded on a personal computer, in a home office, or just lost in the shuffle of everyday work.

Authors: Adam Levithan, Principal | alevithan@withum.com, Laura Whitman | lwhitman@withum.com

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