Every aspect of our lives is continuously evolving, and the rate of change is continuously increasing. Accounting systems are not an exception. Nowadays, accounting firms use different technologies than several years ago.

Some fear this change. Some fear robots and artificial intelligence are coming to take over our jobs. Others embrace the technology trends.

Whatever your position on artificial intelligence or technology trends, we have outlined 5 of the biggest advances in accounting software technology for small businesses in Ireland which could save you time & money:

1. Cloud Accounting Software

In short, cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing services – from applications to storage and processing power. The traditional accounting model whereby accountants or accounting firms have in-house accounting software, and small businesses only see their numbers at periodic meetings with their accountant is changing to cloud-based accounting systems. With the advancement of cloud-based accounting software over the last 15 years, small business owners in Ireland can have much better real-time visibility of their accounts and the performance of their business strategy throughout the year thanks to cloud computing.

Most of the top cloud-based accounting packages (Xero, Quickbooks, Surf Accounts, Kashflow, SageOne, SortMyBooks) come with a nice dashboard giving users a glance view as to how their business is performing. There is also a growing base of add-on developer apps that provide additional functionality including easy-to-use payroll software, add-ins to allow Point-of-Sale integration and a wide range of other smart features which can improve the process of bookkeeping automation and cut out the mundane manual work that is traditionally associated with keeping your books in order.

2. Receipt & Invoice Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Technology

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology is a hardware/software tool that changes the way of real-time data entry by taking a paper document, usually an invoice, scans and “reads” it and turns it into data that can be used to populate fields in your accounting software. Both the software element (Cloud OCR providers) and the hardware element (any smartphone can be used as a scanner) have greatly improved since OCR technology was first developed – and given a majority of people already have a smartphone there is no significant set up cost.

Receipt-Bank & AutoEntry are two of the top software providers for small businesses in this field. They allow you to share access with your accountant, will store your scanned images for 7 years in cloud computing, and it ultimately means that all you need to do is to snap your invoices/receipts as you get them and they are automatically shared with your cloud accounting software and your accountant.

3. Online Banking

Gone are the days of cash, cheques and bank drafts. Online banking has taken over, and now most of the top cloud-based accountancy software packages directly integrate with banks in Ireland – Xero cloud accounting software for example has the functionality to pull in your bank transactions once it is paired with your banking online set-up – it works with AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank & Permanent TSB.

The accounting software will match your bank feed to the invoices which you have loaded using the OCR software – and as a result, the reconciliation process can be more automated and less onerous if set up right.

4. Revolut & Digital Banking

The rise of online-only banks means there is more choice for small businesses owners. Opening an account only takes a few minutes, and you can set one up directly from your phone. Revolut is one such “Digital Bank”. It recently has been approved for a European banking licence – meaning over the next 18 months we are likely to see a full banking service offered to small businesses with low fees and strong integration with the latest technologies available.

Revolut sells itself on being able to provide the inter-banking fx rate to its customers – meaning if you are a small business in Ireland with significant overseas business, you can avail of the FX rates which in the past only banks and large financial institutions would have had access to.  Revolut also offers easy payment solutions, automatic expense analysis (see at a glance where your money is being spent each month) and the ability to use “virtual” cards i.e. a debit card that exists on your phone.

5. LinkedFinance, Swoop & Other Crowdfunding Providers

There has never been more choice when it comes to funding options to raise start-up capital for new business in Ireland. LinkedFinance is a peer to peer (P2P) lending platform, which specialises in SME Business Lending – they sell themselves on the basis that they offer affordable rates, credit assessments within 24 hours & funds transfer to your business account within 7 days. It takes only a few minutes to apply and can be an attractive alternative to more traditional bank lending options on offer which may have more onerous loan application processes.

Another interesting company in this sphere is one called “Swoop Funding” – swoop is a relatively new venture, and again it targets the SME market in Ireland. Swoop looks to integrate with your accounting software, pull publicly available financial information automatically from the companies registry office and use that financial information as a single application to ALL of the funding options on offer given your specific circumstances – it is effectively using technology so that you make one application, and see every funding option available to you.

The Role of the Accountant

The role of the accountant is ever-changing for accounting firms: improved accounting technology means that your accountant can spend less time processing your books and more time providing insight and advice on ways to effectively steward your business. Hiring an accountant for a small business or using accounting software for your business will save you a lot of time and stress. Contact us today if you have any questions on the above, or if you would like to discuss how technology could support your small business.