UPDATE – October 12, 2016: Capterra is going to be at Accountex again in 2016 and we’d love to meet you there. I’ll be giving a talk on “How to Develop a System for Selecting Accounting Technology” on Tuesday, November 15th, but we’ll be on the exhibition floor for the duration of the conference. Capterra readers can save on registration by using the code “CAPTERRA” at checkout. Hope to see you there!
Three days of keynotes, demonstrations, focused talks, and business card swapping finally came to an end. SleeterCon 2015 – the last SleeterCon – closed its Vegas doors and packed the whole thing up. It was three days filled with learning and accounting software discussions, and I know I’ll be parsing it all for the next few weeks.
For now, I can talk about the big picture pieces, so here’s a rundown of all the early winners from the show.
Everything you can do, a machine can do better
If there was an overarching theme to this year’s conference, it was the role of automation in the future of accounting. Sometimes this took the form of a discussion on using tools to automate more tasks, while sometimes it was about how accountants can continue to create value for their clients and themselves as the industry changes.
On the automation side of things, the biggest thing to keep on your radar for the next year is going to be optical character recognition (OCR). You may have never heard of OCR, but you’ve seen its effects online. When you open a scanned PDF and you can search the text on screen, that’s because the document was scanned with a program that supported OCR.
OCR basically takes the image from a scanner or photo, and can find the text in it. For accountants, that means employees can take pictures of their receipts and those pictures can be turned into usable text.
Software providers like Hubdoc and Expensify can run that OCR system across your receipts, rip out all of the important information, and then dump it into the system of your choice – like accounting software, for instance. That cuts out the manual entry on the part of your employees, manual entry on the accountant’s part, and then another round of checking as it goes into the accounting software.
Right now, companies are hitting the point where OCR can be run quickly and efficiently, giving accountants plenty of low-cost options to automate this process.
Other winners on the horizon
OCR is, I think, one of the coolest things going on right now, but there’s plenty of automation going on elsewhere. Payroll software that uses GPS to tag where your employees are logging in from, accounting software that alerts you when your account balances drop, and expense software that can pull down your company credit card statements automatically are all just waiting to make your business run more smoothly.
A handful of companies are working to automate the automation. Workato, for instance, is a platform that allows you to connect all of your automated services to even further automate them. Maybe you want to update your CRM and get an email notification whenever an invoice is marked as paid in QuickBooks – Workato can make that a reality. You can get more work out of your data by having that data kick other processes and alerts into action.
Using the data you have
Now that you’re spending less time managing your accounts, what can you do with that time instead? Well here are a few suggestions – analysis, analysis, or analysis. The time you’re spending on paperwork can be replaced with time spent on making your business better.
To do that, you’re going to dive into your books, your contacts, and your results to figure out what’s working and what you need to give up on. Everyone in the industry agrees that accountants need to learn how to be consultants. It’s no longer enough to know the numbers – you need to know what the numbers mean.
New accounting options are trying to give you that insight without making your life hellish. Flare is an as-of-yet unreleased cloud-based accounting solution that goes a long way toward turning the mess of data you currently have into useful, actionable information.
The Flare folks said they hated that we kept looking for insight in spreadsheets, when the human mind is more easily able to digest graphs and images. Their solution is a robust set of reporting tools that provides easy manipulation and reporting of your financial data. It looks incredible and it’s coming soon.
Meeting and greeting
The only reason I know about Flare is because the awesome folks over at the Patriot Payroll booth pointed me in Flare’s direction. The week was full of those happy accidents. SleeterCon is full of the two kinds of people that we love at Capterra – software vendors and software buyers.
Each new session was a chance to discover new pain points in the software buying process and to understand how those points are being overcome. Payroll problems, billing problems, tax issues – they all came up at one time or another.
The accountants in the room had great suggestions for additional tools and the presenters came with a solid bag of new tricks to share. Gene Marks – my new best friend – gave a shout out to Capterra in a couple sessions alongside tips on how to get clients into the cloud and how to increase a small business social media presence without breaking the bank.
I said at the start that this was the last SleeterCon, and that’s technically true. The Sleeter Group was purchased earlier this year by Diversified Communications. Despite its seemingly sinister name – I always imagine that the term “diversified” is code for something horrific – the company’s VP in charge of Sleeter, RD Whitney, came across as an excellent new voice for the conference.
This was my first SleeterCon, and while the name is changing, you can be sure I’ll be back in Vegas next year. Over the next few months, I’ll be diving into the individual lessons learned at the conference and we’ll be featuring some content from the vendors I met while out west.
Until then, have a happy Thanksgiving! See you on the finance blog in December.
Header by Rachel Wille
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