How long does that task take….? Not very long!

The question is akin to asking how long is a piece of string? The response above is generally the answer given to the question when posed. I really do hate this response with a passion!

How many working practices continue year in, year out in the same old way until someone is brave enough to raise their head above a parapet and suggest a different way! In an ideal world, surely we would like everyone to think in this manner? If we can shave a few minutes here, a few minutes there and avoid or reduce the risk of error, this would benefit everyone?

Those that may not benefit are those doing the repetitive task in the same way, protecting their jobs. Bookkeepers, for years and years, have been entering purchase invoices into ledgers; by writing the details in the “old” days, and by typing those details into software nowadays.

The new software on the block now extracts all the relevant data, codes it to the same account every time, updates the ledgers and can mark the invoice as paid without anyone even touching it!

Not all bookkeepers take to the new ways of working – and will throw every objection under the sun into protecting their jobs. I have seen it – and been on the receiving end of those objections!

Does anyone actually calculate a personal tax liability manually these days? Would you actually be able to do so? The software does it all - in seconds. HMRC does provide worksheets for those that still want to file on paper and calculate their tax manually-but this can get incredibly complex and time consuming. How long does that take?

Automation of processes reduces the time taken to perform tasks. My frequent train trips invariably see travellers processing expense claims – a large envelope full of receipts, another envelope to put the processed claims in,  and a laptop with Excel open to key in all the details. When it is complete, someone then checks it and posts the totals into the software. With the various expenses apps available to download, prepaid debit cards etc. which link direct to the accounting software, this is a classic example of a process that can be automated.

Do you find the time to look at processes, methodologies and procedures in your business, and do you encourage staff to challenge the status quo too?

A fresh pair of eyes is often useful - whether this is internal or getting in a “consultant” from outside of the firm.

Has an outside consultant worked for you in identifying areas of potential improvement and changes of processes?

Are staff actively encouraged to identify similar outcomes?