The easiest way to automate a task: don’t do it in the first place

Joakim Kyllönen Wed Sep 13 2023

It is easy to get caught up in the process of automating recurring manual tasks without questioning whether these manual tasks provide any relevant value in the first place. Simplicity is key when working to reduce the manual time required to complete recurring bookkeeping tasks and few solutions are simpler than having to do nothing at all. So why do our processes contain manual tasks which provide no value? Here are a few examples:

Example 1: Invoices by mobile service providers

Ten years ago, mobile phone and data transfer costs were allocated to separate bookkeeping accounts. Today, there is little reason to do so. However, it is still fairly common that this separation is manually done for mobile service provider costs simply for the reason that it has always been done like this. The solution here is simple: Allocate the costs for these vendors by default to either bookkeeping account and decide to do nothing manually.

Example 2: Controlling every invoice

It is fairly common for our customers to reach a point where over half of their invoices are processed automatically with a 99%+ accuracy. Is it worth to check through 100 invoices to find the single one where the automation has made an error or could we simply decide to do nothing for these invoices? Instead, check whether the income statement and balance sheet seem to look right for the month. If nothing significant pops out, does the possibility for a single error really matter?

Example 3: The principle of materiality

Every cent doesn’t have to be allocated correctly - at least according to the customer or the authorities. However, I frequently see actions such as:

  • Manually splitting small expenses across multiple months
  • The account being manually changed from rounding errors to something else for invoice lines which have a sum of 0.01€
  • Plastic cups bought for 4€ manually allocated to office supplies on a 1000€ invoice where the remaining 20 invoice lines are allocated to construction materials

What if one just decided to do nothing in these instances considering that the end customer nor the authorities care?

Moving from doing something to doing nothing is challenging even when it is possible. It requires changes in internal or external processes which inevitably leads to differences in opinion amongst relevant stakeholders. There are two crucial factors, in my experience, that enable organizations to increasingly do nothing instead of something:

  • An individual or team which is backed by management and tasked with reducing recurring manual work across the entire accounting process
  • Data of when, where and how much manual work is occurring within your organization

Here is a simple chart to navigate automation challenges:

Accode is a platform that enables organizations to consistently and effectively reduce manual work across the entire accounting process. With Accode, users can identify the greatest sources of manual work, address these with solutions that are easy to maintain while providing understandable reporting to relevant stakeholders

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