27/09/11

By Julian Sayer, Sales & Operations Director at accounting software vendor, bluQube (www.bluQube.co.uk)

Many businesses operate standalone accounting tools and use manual methods of transferring silos of information from one business application to another. Not only is this process time-consuming it can also have an impact on an organisation’s profitability, introduce errors, and delay critical management decisions.

An obvious solution to this dilemma is to integrate your accounts with the rest of your business. However many are put off because they believe that this is an onerous task. Today, using technologies such as cloud computing, integration is quite straightforward and if carried out successfully could be very beneficial to a company leading to quicker billing, reduced administration, enhanced cash flow and improved business intelligence.

Here are 9 areas where integrating your accounts could have a major impact on your business:

1.Improved quality of financial data

Once you adopt a fully integrated finance system it also encourages better discipline across the organisation as each department knows that information will not be requested on a particular date but will be automatically updated. This means there is greater onus on staff to be more careful and enter data more promptly.

2.More accurate reporting & informed management decisions

An end of month report by its definition is out of date by the time it is compiled. Why not rely on daily reporting that can be created by managers themselves? With a joined up finance system it is possible to allow owners, department heads and/or budget holders to see at a glance summary information on a range of subjects, knowing that the facts and figures are based on information that has been gathered in real-time.

Especially during more turbulent times owners or senior managers want the reassurance of knowing exactly what is happening in the business. With more reliable figures you can spot a problem with dwindling sales, outstanding debtors, soaring expenses or even a new sales opportunity, and take action before it is too late.

3.Better budgeting

If all your departmental managers have up to date information on expenditure then there are no excuses for over-spending. Ensuring that budgets are always current means that both managers and finance professionals can keep a closer eye on purchasing, resulting in improved cash-flow and more effective future planning.

4.Reduced administration

Hundreds of man hours per month could be saved if you introduced automatic updating of information to the finance system. Without this, not only do staff need the discipline to remember to copy data from one place to another, it also takes a huge amount of time in re-keying, formatting and checking. It makes far more sense to enter the data once and let technology take care of the rest. With modern integration methods there’s no need to worry about varying file formats; you can simply use what are known as ‘feeders’ to monitor activity in one application and ensure it is replicated instantly in the core accounting system.

5.Elimination of errors

If you have a number of different parties manually manipulating data then it will inevitably result in multiple errors, duplication of records or even lost information. Through integration you can side-step the ‘middle ground’ where mistakes occur, making your finance data more up to date and reliable.

6.Quicker billing

Real-time updating of information means that you can prepare invoicing as soon as a product or service has been sold or delivered. Not only can you get the bills out faster you can also ensure that the figures are accurate and are less likely to be disputed. Taking into account all the latest information from every department also means that no sales are overlooked and you bill for everything you sell.

7.Slicker credit control

Knowing who owes what and when can be crucial if you want to maximise your cash flow and chase outstanding debtors. By integrating the core finance system with other systems such as CRM or stock, you can create high level reports allowing managers or even account managers to spot customers that may be in trouble or identify those that should be given shorter or longer credit terms.

8.Faster & improved customer service

If you want to be more responsive and be aware of customer trends and demands, then linking up all your disparate IT systems with your finance engine can help. At a glance you can give customers updates on orders or pull up their latest statements. The sooner you can dispatch goods or services the happier your customers will be and the sooner you can start the billing process.

9.Save on IT costs

When older legacy or bespoke systems become difficult to extract data from, it may be tempting just to replace them. However, rather than write off the investment, integration tools are capable of monitoring all types of third party applications regardless of the operating systems involved and without needing to involve the original vendor.