Automation is a bit of a hot-button topic right now. Self-driving cars will be commonplace in a few years, and many blue-collar jobs are rapidly changing due to automation in different sectors.
Regardless of how you feel about new industry-wide developments, it’s true that automation—which we can simply define as a process that’s performed without human help—has been around for quite a while. In offices, automation is most commonly used for either the storage, sharing, or management of information. Generally speaking, it reduces friction, saves time, and cuts costs.
For a long time, we’ve all depended on computers and features ranging from slideshows to spell check to email—all forms of automation. In recent years, of course, its potential has seemed to blossom almost exponentially. You probably use tools like smart personal assistants (think Siri, Alexa, or Cortana), voice-to-text word processing, or automatic fraud detection for your bank accounts and credit cards.
Despite all of these advancements, certain functions in professional services firms have remained almost embarrassingly manual to this day. Let’s take a look at three of them.
1. Billing: It’s typical to create invoices every billing period for every project (or engagement, or matter, if you prefer). It’s only after everyone has logged their time and expenses that you can start the invoicing process.
With automation, a huge part of this bottleneck is solved. Advanced project accounting solutions like BQE Core let you set automatic rules for billing, so invoices can be generated whenever you need them. If you want to bill by percentage complete every two weeks, that invoice will simply show up for you to review when it’s time.
2. Time and Expense Tracking: Hopefully you’ve graduated from Excel and other spreadsheet programs, but there are new automations you might not know about. For example, Core’s mobile app has a feature that automatically logs your visits to clients’ offices or project sites. Using geo-tracking, it matches your location to your client’s address, thus tracking how long the visit took. With just one tap, you can finish a time entry that you otherwise may have forgotten to log.
3. Reporting: The completely manual way of generating reports involves gathering numbers and crunching them to find out information about your profitability, utilization, earned value, and so on. The traditional method, in contrast, is to pull numbers from your accounting or project management software and feed them into Excel, setting up complicated formulas in the process.
But automated reporting and dashboards change things. If you use a platform that handles your project, time and expense, billing, and accounting needs all at once, it can automatically calculate all of your key performance indicators (and much more). There’s no downloading and uploading or other data entry—it’s all right there. And even if you still use other software to do your accounting, you can easily integrate it with an advanced cloud solution like Core. That way, there’s no need to input data twice.
With automations like these, you’ll have plenty more time to devote to growing your firm, developing relationships with clients and employees, and maybe even taking a vacation.