10 time-saving accounting automation ideas

Increased efficiency, simpler management of remote teams, and increased value for your clients—these are just some of the benefits workflow automation will bring to your accounting firm.

What is accounting automation?

Accounting automation leverages software to automate different processes that accountants perform. It’s used by accounting teams of all sizes to save time and focus on their most valuable work.

By automating manual and repetitive tasks, you unlock opportunities to upskill your team, diversify your offerings, save time, fill the labor shortage gap, and build stronger client relationships.

For most, this knowledge is nothing new. You know that you can and should automate more. But what exactly you should automate and how to do it is another story.

Thanks to accounting automation, some firms are saving over two hours each week per employee just by automating low-value admin tasks.

But implementing automation at your firm isn’t a perfect science. There are certain risks you should avoid:

  • Incorrect setup: Often, you’ll only get out what you put in. Look for accounting automation tools that offer guided implementation options, resources, and plenty of free support content to help you set up and make the most of your automation.

  • Assuming correct results: Don’t assume the automation output is correct every time. It’s important to test and review the automation’s actions regularly to ensure it’s working as planned.

  • Automating tasks that should not be automated: Not all tasks are easily automated. Sinking too much time into automating a high-complexity task might not be worth the effort you’re putting in.

  • Overdependence on automation: Too much automation may actually build barriers between you and your clients.

What is accounting automation?

Accounting automation leverages software to automate different processes that accountants perform. It’s used by accounting teams of all sizes to save time and focus on their most valuable work.

Automated accounting systems use artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning and robotic process automation to help accounting professionals streamline their processes.

10 time-saving accounting automation ideas

Here are 10 accounting automation ideas and use cases to help grow your firm, and streamline your processes:

1. Automated expense processing

More often than not, automating the most basic processes will give you the most ROI. And expense processing is ripe for automation.

By using systems like Dext Prepare and Hubdoc, you’ll eliminate manual receipt data entry entirely. You can then divert your resources to high-value, output-focused tasks.

Automated expense processing works like this:

  1. Your client downloads the relevant app to their smartphone

  2. When they receive receipts, they take photos of them via the app

  3. The images are processed in the app and the relevant data is extracted to your cloud accounting software

A diagram of a 3-step overview of the key parts of automated expense processing.
An overview of automated expense processing

2. Automated accounts payable and accounts receivable

Accounts payable and receivable can be some of the most complex business processes for finance teams to manage. The sheer amount of paperwork, coupled with the disastrous overflow effects of errors and data discrepancies makes them appealing automation candidates.

Automating accounting tasks that involve expense reports, invoice processing, and purchase orders will save time, help with cash flow, forecasting, financial reporting, and decision-making.

AP and AR automation software is key in realizing these benefits.

3. Month-end close

Month-end close is a crucial and common bookkeeping process. But it can be time-consuming. 

Bank statement, credit card and bank account reconciliation, journal entry reviews and recording data in the general ledger, adjustments—if done manually, take time and are at risk of error.

By automating your month-end close process, you’ll spend less time cross-referencing spreadsheets and more time doing what matters most to you.

Month-end close software will help automate and accelerate certain aspects of your month-end close. 

In addition to software, an organized and standardized month-end close process will help you complete each step correctly.

That's where the Month-End Close workflow template comes in. It’s designed to guide you through a best practice process for month-end close, helping you close out the month in time.

An example of the month-end close template for accountants looks like when used in Karbon practice management.
The Month-End Close template from the Karbon Template Library

👉 Download the Month-End Close workflow template

4. Automated payroll

Payroll is a series of repetitive steps that recur periodically—a prime function to automate. On top of that, payroll is a complex process, with many associated obligations including taxes and overtime rates.

By automating payroll, you eliminate complexity, reduce errors, and free up your time.

Tools like Gusto and Wagepoint automate payroll processing and include time tracking, automated reminders, and leave requests.

Recommended reading: Payroll best practices checklist

5. Automated client onboarding

Your client onboarding process is all about gathering the necessary information from your client, as well as training them on your systems, and setting clear expectations around roles and communication styles.

Having an automated workflow for this purpose will ensure each step is covered every single time. 

Tools like Karbon can help you automate your onboarding process.

Karbon AI can be used to automate the email creation process. Using artificial intelligence, it will compose emails from accounting workflow tasks, draft emails based on a few prompts, and summarize emails and comments.

And you can integrate Karbon with GoProposal, Ignition, and Summa Tech to create a seamless client onboarding process, automate key steps, and free up your team’s time to focus on high-value activities—without any wasted time or the risk of tasks falling through the cracks.

You can also use Karbon’s Client Onboarding Best Practice Checklist template for a pre-built structure that you can customize for your firm.

Client Onboarding template for accounting firms
The Client Onboarding Best Practice Checklist template from the Karbon Template Library

👉 Download the Client Onboarding Best Practice Checklist template

Automating this process means you’re not getting stuck on low-value tasks. And the quicker you complete the onboarding, the quicker you can service your clients.

6. Automated staff member onboarding

Just like onboarding a new client, staff onboarding involves a high degree of information-sharing, traditionally viewed as a very manual process. You need to collect information from them, they need to be set up on multiple systems, and there are a lot of forms for them to complete.

Collecting this information can be automated by using a few tools that integrate with each other. For example, you can collect new employee information using Typeform, which can then automatically push that information over to Xero for payroll, either directly or via Zapier.

Plus, this process can be standardized in a staff onboarding workflow template that uses automation to ensure every step is completed for every new employee.

The staff onboarding template for accounting firms.
The Staff Onboarding workflow template from the Karbon Template Library

👉 Download the Staff Onboarding template

And by automating the staff onboarding process, you’re able to ensure each new hire has the same experience—consistency and clarity shouldn’t be overlooked during this stage.

7. Banking automation

Client banking is an ongoing pain point for accounting firms with broken feeds, siloed data, and access challenges. 

Transitioning your clients to connected, collaborative banking such as Relay Financial can allow you to automate part of this process and save time for every client. 

Benefits of using a collaborative banking platform include a single portal to access all your clients’ banking, reliable bank feeds that integrate with your ledger, less back and forth with your clients, higher quality data to support new services, and more scalability for existing workflows.

8. Automatic client reminders

The client chase is real. It's time-consuming and manual, often involving many emails back and forth between you and your clients to share information and collect documentation.

By automating specific client interactions with tools like Karbon, you’ll keep your inbox clear, and you’ll have the right documents exactly where you need them. On top of that, you can automate client emails and follow-up reminders on a customizable schedule.

This is a significant time-saver.

9. Automated workflow updates

Some projects require a lot of tasks and subtasks, but that doesn’t mean you physically need to check off each task. Having visibility over the tasks that are in progress or overdue is a great way to manage workloads, but the physical step of marking them as ‘In Progress’ or ‘Overdue’ is time wasted. This can be automated.

If you’re already using Karbon, you can implement automators, which are small ‘if this, then that’ rules to keep your workflows ticking away, giving you clarity across all that you’re working on, end-to-end.

For example, if you’re collaborating with a colleague on a project and you’ve completed your preliminary tasks and can’t move on until they complete theirs, you can create an automator that will mark the work as ‘Waiting’. And it will stay that way until your colleague checks off their tasks—then it will revert back to ‘In Progress’ or any other customized status you create.

Recommended reading: 6 essential recipes to automate your workflows in Karbon

10. Automated sales processes

Sales automation deals with the time-consuming tasks performed by your Sales team. These might occur periodically or they might be triggered by a specific event. Either way, steps need to be taken to follow up, touch base, book meetings, etc.

By automating these steps, you increase efficiency and productivity. This frees up your Sales team’s time to continue chasing leads and closing deals.

Many accounting firms are automating almost their entire sales process, from managing leads at the top of their funnel to onboarding new clients. This frees up their staff responsible for sales and business development to actually have meaningful conversations with prospects.

Consider this example of an automated sales process:

  1. On your website, you create a form using Typeform to collect information from a prospect. 

  2. The information entered into the form is then sent via Zapier to Karbon where they can be created as a contact

  3. The information is also sent to Mailchimp where they can be sent an automated email. 

  4. That email can include a Calendly link to book time for a Zoom meeting. 

  5. After the call takes place, a proposal can be sent using GoProposal or Ignition.

  6. When that is signed, the workflow can automatically be triggered to begin in Karbon.

Work is created and completed in Karbon, and your new client sets up autopay in Karbon so you can automatically collect payment from them.

A diagram that illustrates an automated sales process for accounting firms using integrations between Karbon, Zapier, Typeform, Mailchimp, Calendly, Zoom, GoProposal, Ignition, Xero, Quickbooks.
An automated sales process example for accounting professionals

Time is saved by automating the manual processes in each of these steps, allowing your Sales team to do what matters most—building client relationships.

Manual accounting challenges

Automation might seem overwhelming. There are endless possibilities with many variables, not to mention your other mounting priorities. But consider the implications of not leveraging automation.

Manual accounting is risky for these reasons:

  • Prone to error: Manual accounting processes are prone to human error. And in an industry that is as reliant on real-time and accurate data as accounting, human error can be expensive.

  • Time-consuming: How can you give your clients the attention they deserve if you spend too much time on repetitive tasks?

  • Information falls through the cracks: Using too much brain power on manual tasks means you’re distracted from your value-driving work. As a result, work can fall through the cracks, deadlines are missed, communication breaks down, and scope creep sets in.

  • Poor data security: The biggest security risk to your firm is your staff. Human error accounts for 88% of security breaches. The more you can automate, the more you can reduce that risk.

Benefits of accounting automation

There’s a reason why automation is set to reach $9 billion USD by 2026 (29% annual growth rate).

Australian firm, DigitPro, saves 8 hours per week through automation. Learn more about their story.

Here are some benefits of automating your manual processes with accounting automation software:

  • Saves time: Automation can save you hours every week and improve your team’s productivity by reducing manual data entry.

  • Reduces errors: Automation reduces errors by removing—or minimizing—the human element. It ensures consistent and accurate work.

  • Enables you to focus on high-value work: Automation enables you to focus on  revenue-driving work. Time saved can be spent on growing your firm, hiring, advisory, or more time with your family.

  • Standardizes and streamlines your processes: Because automation relies on structure, you will be forced to standardize your processes (and as a result, streamline them).

  • Improves security: Accounting firms are one of the biggest cyber attack targets. By automating your accounting processes and storing confidential and sensitive client data in encrypted online systems, you protect your firm and clients against the consequences of security breaches.

Automate common, time-consuming tasks with Karbon

Karbon is an accounting practice management tool that is designed to automate common, time-consuming tasks that allows your team to provide higher-quality service to clients.

With Karbon, your team can easily automate processes like client and staff onboarding, client chasing, monthly accounting, and more.

On average, accounting firms using Karbon save:

  • Overall: 16.5 hours each week, per employee.

  • Automating low-value tasks: 2.1 hours each week, per employee.

  • Chasing clients: 3.2 hours each week, per employee.

Accounting firms using Karbon for practice management save an average of 16.5 hours per employee each week.
Thousands of accounting firms across the globe are saving hours through Karbon’s accounting automation features

Book a demo or start a free trial to learn how Karbon can save your firm time and money.

Save time with accounting automation

Optimizing your team’s time is crucial in making sure your accounting firm can grow. By using these accounting automation ideas, you’re enabling them to maximize their efforts. 

Not all these suggestions will be relevant to your practice right now. Consider an automation roadmap so you can implement these optimizations over time to help your firm reach its full potential.