ABC Solutions

Cool Tech Tools: Zoom

More and more small businesses are finding virtual meetings useful. Virtual meetings have many advantages:

  • No travel time is needed for participants, so you’ll save on gas and auto maintenance.
  • They create an ability to visually connect with remote employees, customers, vendors, partners, job candidates, and other stakeholders.
  • They are better than a phone call because of the visual element.

Before you climb into the car or book a flight, think about whether a virtual meeting could save you time and deliver the same result. It’s a very big change in habit to get used to, but when you do, you’ll find it saves you time and money.

To hold a virtual meeting, you’ll need a software app that works in your browser. There are many choices available, and one popular one is called Zoom. You can find them at https://zoom.us/.

It’s easier than you might think to hold a virtual meeting. The learning curve is more psychological than any skill or equipment needed. You’ll need a computer, and you can use your phone or your computer for audio. If you use your computer for audio, you’ll need a microphone and speakers.

For best results, you should also have a webcam built in to your computer, or you can purchase one separately and connect it. Everyone is camera-shy, or webcam-shy, but don’t let that stop you! You can always host a meeting without video.

Zoom has a free account that you can use to try out virtual meetings. Once you’ve set up your account, you can schedule a meeting or host a meeting on the fly. Setup choices include whether you’ll use computer or phone audio, whether you want the video to be on or off, and whether you want to record the session, which can be very handy. You can also mute and unmute participants, so that it can be used for classes as well as meetings.

Here are a few tips to make sure your virtual meetings go off without a hitch:

  1. Treat a virtual meeting with the same importance as a face-to-face one: be on time, have an agenda, and make sure everyone is heard.
  2. Audio quality is probably more important than visual quality. If you are new to the software, do a test run before you start inviting clients to meetings so you can get through any learning curve. Consider using a microphone headset for higher quality sound. Apple EarPods work great if you have an iPhone.
  3. For good video results, face a window or light source so that your face is not in shadow. The brighter the better; everyone looks better with more lighting because the light erases wrinkles! If possible, the webcam lens should be at eye level or above. You can use books under your computer to raise it if you need to.

Try virtual meetings in your business, and invite us to your next meeting.

How AI Is Changing Accounting

Artificial intelligence (AI) has arrived in the accounting profession in a big way. The good news is it’s streamlining accounting tasks, finding patterns in data you can take action on, and generally making things better. Here are just a few places we’re seeing AI and machine learning impact accounting.

Transaction Coding

Most systems have incorporated some form of machine learning into transaction coding. When bank feeds are imported, each transaction needs to be coded to add the account code in the chart of accounts.  Class, tracking codes, and other custom data may need to be added as well. Rules can be set so that the accounting application can pre-code the transactions; in this case the accountant simply approves or corrects the entry.

Invoice Fetching

It starts with a picture of a receipt. Invoice fetching applications can turn pixels into data using sophisticated OCR (optical character recognition). The data is then turned into a business transaction that can be imported into an accounting system.

Auditing

The books of many government agencies, nonprofits, and large businesses need to be audited on a regular basis. Auditing is an expensive process. Smart programs can review a company’s data and assess where the risks and anomalies are so that the audit program can be modified to focus on the more important parts. This reduces risk and cost for everyone involved. 

Accounts Payable

Artificial intelligence can help to speed up the matching of purchase orders, packing slips, and invoices so that accounts payable tasks are streamlined.  It can also automate approvals and look for duplicate invoices to avoid overpayments. 

Accounting Tasks That Are Clerical

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a platform that allows users to create automation without involving the IT department. Think Excel macros or Zapier on steroids. Any workflow with a mind-numbing set of clerical steps is a candidate for RPA. 

AI allows accountants to spend less time on routine tasks and more time on higher-level analysis work. As AI becomes more affordable for small businesses, everyone will benefit from this long-term trend.

Defining Blockchain

Blockchain is a term that has been bantered about quite a bit when referring to the future of accounting technology. While its impacts are primarily long term in nature, let’s take a brief look to see what everyone is talking about.

Blockchain is a technology that can store transactions. Some people have referred to it as a digital ledger. Unlike your current accounting books, transactions recorded using blockchain technology are public. This digital spreadsheet of transactions or records is copied across thousands of servers so that there is no single point of failure. It’s a decentralized, distributed, and public digital ledger.

The blockchain ledgers are updated constantly as new records are added. They are also reconciled constantly. Once added, the records cannot be altered retroactively.  This feature has many implications for auditing in that many records won’t need to be validated the old-fashioned way because blockchain is self-auditing.  Auditors will still need to validate the non-digital components of a transaction such as physical inventory counts.

Prior to 2016, blockchain was originally referred to as block chain, where the blocks are the list of records or transactions.  While the records are public, they are protected through cryptography.  Each block includes cryptographic code from the previous block that keeps the entire chain of data safe and verified.

Blockchain is then a way for two parties to safely record their transaction permanently and with verification.  While bitcoin is the most common current use of blockchain technology, many developers are working on new applications. Development started heavily in 2017, so it remains to be seen which applications will take off and which will die.

Blockchain’s uses in the future will be many:

  • Banking is the most obvious application, and right now the focus is on international transfers.
  • Stock trading.
  • Smart contracts. This concept is a huge part of what blockchain could be used for. Smart contracts are economic actions using blockchain that can be recorded without human interaction. They could initiate bill payments after goods have been received and after checking that there are funds available.
  • Elections.
  • Legal transactions, such as land titles.
  • Medical records, so that there is no more filling out of forms in each doctor’s office.

Blockchain in the future may eliminate the double-entry bookkeeping system that we have now.  Instead of each person keeping their own set of records, companies will write their transactions into a public blockchain ledger. This will reduce the cost of bookkeeping in the long term. But for this to happen, much development must be done to standardize and optimize the financial system. Many accounting professionals are working today toward that goal, which is many years away.  

For now, the biggest implication to realize for a blockchain future is that personal reputation will become incredibly important.  Blockchain systems eliminate the intermediary so that you are doing business with other people in a peer-to-peer environment. Identity protection as well as reputation will become essential.  Blockchain is also likely to take off first in countries where there is a lot of corruption and/or corporations are not trusted.

Blockchain may not impact your life today, but it’s definitely something to watch on the horizon.

Cool Apps: Accounting System Add-ons

Accounting software continues to evolve decade after decade. It started out as one big massive complicated set of programs that only large companies could afford. Today, cloud accounting is the modern solution, and today’s accounting systems are designed to meet the core requirements of most businesses rather than doing everything.

Enter apps. Apps are the add-ons to accounting systems that can enhance functionality, and there are now literally thousands of them. In this article, we’ll look at some of the major categories of apps in the accounting marketplace.

Payroll

Probably the most common add-on to accounting systems is payroll. There are many payroll providers in the U.S. and Canada, including Intuit, ADP, Insperity, Paychex, Ceridian, and Nethris. In the small business space, Intuit, ADP, Paychex, SurePayroll, and Gusto are names you’ll see.

The payroll space includes other related offerings, including support for human resources functions, where you have Gusto and Zenefits, related payroll functions such as workers compensation, where you have AP Intego, and time tracking, where you have TSheets and many more options.

Selling, Collections, and Invoicing

Retail and other businesses will likely have a separate point of sale system consisting of a cash register to ring up sales and a payment collection process to take credit cards, cash, and other forms of payment.

Ecommerce businesses will have an online shopping cart connected to a gateway and a payment processor, and in turn, your bank.

Field service businesses may have a mobile point of sale system connected to a field service system like Jobber or ServiceTrade that lets them create quotes, present invoices, and collect payments.

Service businesses may use an invoicing system that may or may not be connected to time tracking if hourly billing is used. A calendar system might be connected in the case of coaches, hair stylists, massage therapists, and the like.

There are micro apps such as one that will connect your accounting system to Stripe, and major systems that do several of the above functions.

Cash Flow

There is a multitude of cash flow and accounts receivable collection apps that hep you get paid faster or start collection processes when you don’t. This category also contains lending apps in case you need a business loan.

Accounts Payable and Expense Management

On the expense side, there are apps to help you with entering, matching purchase orders, invoices, and shipping documents, approving, and paying bills. For businesses with a large volume of expense reports submitted by employees that need approval and payment, apps like Expensify, Concur, and Tallie are available.

Inventory

For businesses with inventory, there are several inventory apps that will manage the inventory and ordering process. Other apps will help with bar code functions, labels, and shipping.

Data Entry and Document Management

Apps like AutoEntry, ReceiptBank, and HubDoc will transform a cell phone photo of a receipt into a transaction in your accounting system with very little human intervention. Document management apps will help you stay compliant with the document requirements of the IRS, CRA, and other tax authorities.

Other apps like ScanWriter and Transaction Pro Importer can bring transactions into your accounting system from paper documents and other files.

Connectors

Apps like Zapier are available simply to connect one accounting app to another. For example, A2X brings Amazon data into QuickBooks.

Reporting

Dozens of apps are available to help you enhance your reporting, create a dashboard of metrics, plan a budget, or present a graphical view of your financial and non-financial key performance indicators. These include Fathom, Corelytics, LivePlan, Spotlight Reporting, and Qvinci, to name a few.

If you have a function in mind that you wonder if your accounting system can meet, give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options. There’s an app for just about anything these days.

Cool Apps: Food Delivery Options

If you haven’t looked recently, there is a whole new world out there designed for our convenience. One of these conveniences is food delivery. This industry has changed so much that it deserves a fresh look.

No longer do you need to go out for lunch if you are having a busy day or just need to stay in the office for any reason. You can simply order lunch on your cell phone, and it will be delivered approximately 45 minutes later to your door.

There’s an app for that

It used to be that you could only get pizza or Chinese food delivered, but those days are over. Some restaurants will deliver directly, but there is an easier way. Food delivery apps such as GrubHub will let you order from hundreds of different restaurants in your area while they send a driver to collect it and deliver it to your door.

How much will it cost me?

First, ask yourself how much you are worth per hour to your company. Or, if you will get home earlier because you don’t have to go out for lunch, ask yourself what the value of spending more time at home or with your family is worth to you.

Besides the cost of food, you’ll pay a delivery fee of $0 to $5 and a tip for the driver. When you factor in the cost of your time, gasoline, and wear and tear on your vehicle, using a food delivery company is a no-brainer. Not only will you be helping yourself, you’ll be helping a hard-working driver, too.

What are my options?

The specific options in your location will vary, but some of the companies that are offering food delivery services include:

  • GrubHub and Seamless
  • DoorDash
  • Eat24
  • Postmates
  • Caviar
  • UberEats
  • Delivery.com
  • Amazon Prime Now

All you need to do is download the app, set up an account, choose a restaurant, and order your food. You can also order from your PC or Mac using a browser and visiting their website.

Try these food delivery apps, and while you’re at it, treat the entire office to a meal.