Editor’s note: To mark the end of 2018, we asked some of the most influential voices in accounting, bookkeeping and technology to share their view of the past 12 months. Today, we hear from small-business advisor BlueRock.
By Ryan Kagan, BlueRock
Whether or not we admit it, automation is changing our world. Behind the scenes, machines are already pouring our lattes, flipping our burgers and packaging up those wireless headphones we ordered from Amazon. We also talk to machines more than we realise, whether it’s to smartphones or digital assistants in our homes.
It’s nothing to lose sleep over – unless you fail to embrace automation in your own business. In that case, you should be fretting. We’ve reached a turning point in the last 12 months, and businesses that aren’t jumping aboard the automation train risk being left behind.
It sounds dramatic, and it is. If you’re not automating your business systems, you’re squandering time and money and missing the chance to truly scale your business.
So, what’s changed in the last 12 months?
In 2018, we found that business owners were more educated, aware and open to app adoption than ever. This was especially evident in reporting, business intelligence and job management.
A growing number of app integrations allow businesses to combine systems and create tailored solutions. These include combinations of Xero (accounting and financial reporting), Deputy (workforce management), DEAR Inventory, Kounta (point of sale), WorkflowMax (project management), Spotlight Reporting, Microsoft PowerBI (business intelligence) and Hubspot (customer relationship management and marketing automation).
Our clients love that these platforms talk to each other to generate efficiencies and data insights. According to a recent Xero report, “there is a strong relationship between connected app use and better business performance.” Xero found that businesses with apps grew revenue by 5.5 percent. That compares with revenue growth of just 3.6 percent for firms on Xero with no connected apps.
Small businesses are even requesting that app advisors build bespoke systems. Product development is no longer just for the big end of town.
For example, in response to industry feedback, we’re developing a product called Settlement Discounts, which will integrate with Xero to automate customer discounts for early payment. This app should save businesses a huge amount of manual labour.
Why we’ve moved beyond accounting
As app advisors to small and medium businesses, we often find accounting is where people feel most comfortable introducing digital efficiencies. That’s when Xero enters the picture.
Further growth comes when businesses look afield. They ask how else can they save time, take more holidays and, above all else, increase their revenue. Our experience in the last 12 months has shown us the answer is usually more apps.
We recently worked with a catering company that was struggling to manage cash flow and accurately schedule and forecast. By converting them to Xero and integrating Tanda (a workforce management solution) with their job management solution, we were able to not only automate the flow of information, but also offer managers nearly real-time insight on job performance and, more critically, profitability.
Another client, a Melbourne-based content and publisher in the adventure market, wanted to transform its old system into a leaner one. By combining Xero, Shopify (e-commerce), DEAR Inventory and Zapier (automated workflows), the business has automated the shopper’s journey from placing an order through to delivery and getting paid. Much of the business is now on autopilot.
For many businesses in 2018, a high-value first step into automation was combining the WorkflowMax app for job management with Xero for accounting and reporting. We’ve done it ourselves at BlueRock and have watched our firm’s productivity, performance and revenue climb.
As more businesses climb onto the automation train, they gain confidence in their operations and quality of data. This frees them to expand their mindset from one driven by compliance into one focused on the next phase of growth. All aboard in 2019!
Ryan Kagan, a director of the digital team at Melbourne-based BlueRock, brings over nine years of professional services experience from his time at Deloitte. He specialises in digital consulting, development, strategy, commercial growth and all things online to help clients in any industry seize opportunities for growth.
This article reflects the author’s views, which should not be taken as the opinions of Xero nor as taxation, financial, investment or legal advice. Xero recommends that readers always obtain specific and detailed professional advice about any business decisions.