Next time you call an accounting staff person a “bean counter,” know this: You’re WRONG! The term is actually derived from the German word “Erbsenzähler,” which means “pea counter.” In German, it means someone who is overly nitpicky, a perfectionist. Here, it’s a pejorative name for someone who fusses over the books, a person who spends all day reconciling a two-cent discrepancy in the general ledger.

The truth is, you’re actually doubly wrong. Not only does he or she count peas, not beans, an accounting person is simply trying to get an important job done—a job that’s detailed by its very nature. However, there are ways to make accounting more modern and efficient.

Modernizing Accounting

The fundamentals of accounting have not changed much in a couple of centuries. Lately, the accounting process has gotten more burdensome as tax laws grow more complex and accountants need to worry about compliance on top of everything else. The difficulty is that accounting tends to be resistant to productivity improvements.

While many other areas of business operations have leveraged technology to become more efficient, accounting has remained stuck, more or less, in the eye shade wearing, bean counter past. That is now changing. Here are four ways you can modernize your accounting function with better software:

Move to the cloud

Businesses today have their pick of impressive cloud-based accounting software packages. Some of them are standalone accounting and financial management solutions. Others are modules inside extended Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) suites. Cloud accounting software offers a number of benefits and chances to modernize, including:

  • Get rid of on-premises accounting systems and save on the CapEx and the OpEx it takes to maintain them, e.g. IT staff resources, facilities space, utilities, etc.
  • Stop using software clients and switch to browser-based software access. This saves on administrative overhead and invariably gives accounting staffers a more modern user interface (UI) that helps them work more productively.
  • Make accounting mobile. Cloud-based accounting software usually provides mobile editions that enable accounting workers and other stakeholders to access the system from any location on virtually any device.

Automate accounting workflows

Modern accounting software provides workflow automation capabilities. Older systems did this as well, but new, cloud-based systems make automation easier and faster to achieve. With automation, accounting staffers can connect previously separate, manual steps in account processes, e.g. hand offs between invoice approvals and check requests.

Integrate accounting with other systems

Accounting software does not need to be a silo. It can connect with other systems like warehouse management, HR and so forth. Again, this is not a new concept, but modern integration technologies like standards-based APIs make it a lot simpler and less expensive to achieve. Integration can work with automation, so workflows can span more than one piece of software, e.g. a shipping confirmation in a warehouse management system automatically matches up with a Purchase Order, which triggers an invoice approval task.

Use data to work smarter and make accounting a strategic part of the business

Reporting and data visualization features in modern, cloud-based accounting systems are significantly more advanced than their precursors in legacy accounting packages. It is now possible to create highly sophisticated, detailed reports more or less instantly. Some solutions offer analytics and visualization capabilities that enable accounting to make contributions to strategic management decisions.

Accounting is moving forward to a more advanced, modern mode of business. Cloud-based accounting software is key success factor in the realization of this goal.