SME’s Should Leave Old School Accounting Behind

Struggling through endless data entry and manoeuvring between ledgers and spreadsheets may be a thing of the past just as rare as hailing a cab by the roadside. The daunting tasks of “balancing books” are now taken over by innovative software solutions harnessing the power of automation that warrants not only speed but also precision. These ground-breaking tools provide various functionalities from invoicing and expense tracking to payroll and tax compliance. Furthermore, these tools not only cater to big industries but also cater to the unique needs of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) empowering a transformative shift allowing streamlined operations, enhanced accuracy and unlocking new opportunities for prosperity.

Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of accounting automation is its ability to eliminate human errors. The power of advanced algorithms and machine learning capabilities allows the detection of anomalies and inconsistencies and the subsequent discrepancy reconciliation in real time. Furthermore, real-time valuable data offer valuable insights to SMEs into their financial performance. With customisable dashboards and state-of-the-art reporting features, business owners are afforded a holistic view of their company’s financial health paving the way for informed decision making and strategic planning. Be it the analysis of cash flow trends, assessing profitability margins or projecting future expenditures, access to accurate and up-to-date financial data empowers SMEs towards sustainable growth and profitability.

Moreover, as SMEs grow and evolve, so do their accounting needs and compliance requirements. The scalability of accounting automation makes it an ideal solution for SMEs as they are poised for expansion. Modern automation platforms are designed to adapt with ease and scale alongside their users, accommodating increased transaction volumes, expanding operations, and evolving regulatory requirements. This scalability not only future-proofs SMEs against unforeseen challenges but also ensures that they remain agile and competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace.

Within the current technology-based business landscape, accounting automation also ignites complex debates casting it as friend and foe. While at its core, this transformative technology presents itself as a promise to revolutionise accuracy and efficiency in financial management, there is also a looming concern with regard to “unnecessary cost increase”, workflow disruption and job displacement. SMEs often work with a tight budget compared to larger corporations and the initial investments for implementing automation tools may seem daunting, especially if they are uncertain of the return on investment. Furthermore, the initial integration of new tools may seem a hindrance to their “business as usual” as they may not fully grasp the benefits and capabilities of automation. What’s more, the already lean teams in SMEs may fear that the machine is going to take over their jobs causing resistance towards change.

Yet, despite the apprehension, we witness the emergence of a nuanced perspective, a perspective where accounting automation is recognised not as an adversary but more of a catalyst for human potential.  As SMEs become more familiar with automation, they will be able to witness significant improvement in efficiency and productivity as tasks that once consumed considerable time and resources are completed swiftly. The increased productivity leads competitive advantage as SMEs will be able to offer more competitive pricing and improve customer service as a result of cost reduction and streamlined operations. Once SMEs are able to overcome their initial barriers to automation, they will often have the advantage of being more agile and adaptable compared to larger corporations and stay ahead of the curve.

For the transformative shift to materialise, SMEs need a fundamental shift in mindset. While the initial perception is that accounting automation may be an expensive endeavour that disrupts work and displaces jobs, a deeper understanding reveals its transformative power as a catalyst for growth and sustainability. While there may be initial hefty upfront costs and some inevitable job delays, these should be seen as an investment that ultimately leads to long-term efficiency and cost savings. While there are concerns about ousting human workers, automation has the potential to augment their capabilities, freeing them from mundane tasks to focus on higher-order responsibilities. Leveraging automation to handle routine tasks, professionals can uplift their roles to strategic business advisors who are able to guide their business with actionable insights.

Furthermore, the nature of new technology is the inadvertent opportunity for new skills such as data analysis, software designs and cyber-security. Embracing automation isn’t just about keeping up with the competition; it’s about future-proofing the business and unlocking new opportunities for growth and success. Therefore, SMEs must foster a culture of adaptability and innovation, where automation is embraced as a tool for driving efficiency, agility, and sustainable progress in the digital age.

Dr Firdous Mohd Farouk is a Lecturer for the School of Accounting and Finance at Taylor’s Business School, Faculty of Business and Law, Taylor’s University.

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