Everyone likes to talk about “The Cloud” these days, and with good reason.
Businesses are increasingly finding value in using incredibly powerful cloud computing systems at monthly prices that are so low it almost defies belief.
Why is cloud computing so powerful, yet so cheap? Cloud services use powerful computers that makes lots of calculations and stores lots of data, at a scale that you couldn’t do if you had to buy and run everything that was required yourself. You are renting a small part of that system along with millions of other users, which is why the computing and data storage is so cheap.
I would like to share with you how we are using this type of technology to run and grow our own business.
We run a South African-based accounting practice called Sentera Business Partners. We provide monthly outsourced accounting services to our clients and we use Xero Accounting (a cloud system) as our weapon of choice.
By implementing Xero (and a range of other cloud applications that integrate with Xero) we consider ourselves at the forefront of the cloud revolution, migrating businesses from isolated desktop systems to integrated cloud solutions.
As Xero evangelists we are constantly telling other businesses to move to the cloud, but we can hardly expect to convert others if we don’t practice what we preach, right?
So, in the interest of transparency (and to put our money where our mouths are), here are the systems that we use daily to run Sentera.
- Xero Accounting
We’ve connected our online banking profile to Xero via a live bank feed, which automatically imports all bank transactions. Through a combination of machine learning and bank rules we’ve automated about 70% of our daily bank recon.
Our clients love using Xero almost as much as we do, because of its accessibility and ease of use.
- Receipt Bank for Bookkeeping
This means that we take a photo of the slip each time we have a meeting at a coffee shop. When we receive invoices from our suppliers via email we forward those to Receipt Bank for processing.
All we need to do is review that Receipt Bank has captured the invoices correctly and publish it to Xero. You can even set recurring supplier invoices to publish automatically to the accounting system, without any human intervention.
Once the payment reflects on our bank feed, Xero automatically matches the payment to the Receipt Bank invoice.
Bank recon in Xero: the system recognizes the creditor invoice that was paid and suggests a match
Paid using your personal card? No problem – Receipt Bank will publish it straight to your expense claim in Xero.
- Practice Ignition for Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
The sign-up portal on our website is linked directly to Practice Ignition (PI). We receive a notification when someone signs up, which is typically followed by a phone call to clarify and customize our service offering.
The “sales funnel” of potential and converted leads is therefore tracked in PI.
Using PI we can then create an engagement letter (i.e. our sales contract) from our pre-populated list of services, whether it is for once-off or for recurring services.
The engagement letter is emailed to the client, who can easily accept the contract with an electronic signature. The process is therefore completely paperless.
PI creates invoices as and when required in terms of the contract, which seamlessly appear in Xero. We will then invoice the client (usually monthly) from Xero.
- Karbon for Task Management
One of the hardest parts of running an accounting practice is keeping track of everything that needs to be done for each client, whether it is daily bookkeeping, monthly SARS submissions, filing annual returns with the CIPC, etc.
Karbon is a tool to manage your entire firm’s to-do list, across all clients, by assigning tasks to your entire workforce in one integrated platform.
The system forced us to document our processes early on, something that even established businesses often neglect to do. The result is a project management platform second to none, including massive improvements to new client & staff onboarding.
- SimplePay for Payroll
We run our internal payroll on SimplePay and we also use it for our clients’ payrolls.
It sends a payroll journal to Xero, which is matched to individual salary payments on our bank statement.
- Spotlight Reporting
Many clients prefer visual reporting packs for their monthly board meetings, including highly specialized, custom reports on specific areas of the business, for example detailed reports on Cost of Sales.
The beauty of Xero is that it allows you to tailor an incredibly powerful “enterprise” system at a fraction of the cost of traditional ERP systems like SAP and Oracle.
Cloud software is usually sold on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis, which means that you rent the technology from month-to-month without any long-term commitments. At Sentera we are constantly testing new apps that could help us improve our clients’ and our own business
The question is not whether you can afford to move your business to cloud. The question is if you can afford not to?