I find many businesses I start to work with still manually input their sales and purchase ledger or detailed general journal transactions. With most accounts packages (even the smaller ones) having the ability to import transactions from spreadsheets or directly from another system, there is very little need to spend hours on manual inputting directly into your system.
Some of the reasons/excuses businesses don’t import their transactions:
- No one knows how to do the imports. Once a template has been established, most imports are very simple to do and require minimal training.
- They believe it’s quicker to input directly as they don’t need to look up the accounts seperately. Very simple formulae in a spreadsheet could help with this. It’s easier to see from a spreadsheet whether the totals are correct and reduces the time taken to drill down into multiple screens on each transaction.
- By the time they’ve set up the template, they could’ve input it already. This is usually true of the first time but when staff members get used to processing this way, they are able to get a handle on it’s further potential uses and like anything, the time taken to do this reduces.
There are many reasons why I believe businesses should consider importing their transactions, here are some:
- Most transactions within accounts are repetative on a daily, monthly or quarterly basis. By having import templates ready to edit not only acts as a checklist of which entries are needed but will (after the initial set up) save time and improve accuracy of the data.
- Having information on a spreadsheet allows quicker reviews and clarity on what’s being input without the need to ‘drill down’ into the transactions.
- Importing saves manual processing time allowing staff to do more value added activities. By having more detailed information in your accounts system it vastly improves the information you’re able to then get out of it for management reporting and budgeting.
- The quality of data will improve as you’re likely to have more fields completed if you import due to the copy/paste function within spreadsheets and having all fields on one line rather than different screens.
- The accuracy of the data improves due to the ability to set up checks within the template file that let you know if something is incorrect. Transposition errors are less likely.
- If you link your accounts system to another database e.g. CRM system or Project Management software, then it can remove duplication of the data entry. A lot of accounts systems now allow you to import or link directly to your banking software which is a huge benefit as often bank reconciliations can be done daily which helps monitor cashflow.
Some examples of what can be set up to import (system dependent) and be of value to your business:
- Detailed payroll journals (by department) – Payroll is often the largest cost to a business yet often the one most overlooked in terms of reporting. You can improve a potentially complicated journal by setting up a template to import to a higher level of detail.
- Bank Statement Imports – By importing your bank statements from the data downloaded from your online banking, you eradicate the all too common transposition errors or possible duplication if you have multiple transactions of the same value. Some accounts software now has the facility of ‘bank feeds’ which imports transactions directly for you on a daily basis e.g. Xero.
- Sales invoicing especially when periodic – For example one of my clients was a group of private schools which had complicated discount structure based on age of each child and sibling discounts. This processing went from several weeks of manual inputting each term (with a high chance of errors and lots of disputes/complaints) down to 3 hours and a far greater level of accuracy. Checks were put in place on the import preparation spreadsheet to ensure that family invoices were grouped together and that all children had been accounted for and the correct discounts applied.
- Prepayments & other month end general ledger journals – Full descriptions on each line with each value seperated and not grouped together. This provides clearer transactional analysis and helps greatly when it comes to budgetting and cashflow forecasting.
- Customer/Supplier Records – updating or adding. If you have a lot of fields to complete often they’re omited with manual entry, by using a spreadsheet to complete the data it is likely to contain more consistent information as you can copy/paste or fill down on certain fields.
- Budgets – Depending on your reporting software, this could streamline your management pack by utilising functionality already available in the system without the needfor further processing in spreadsheets.
If you’re still not convinced of the value to your business by utilising data imports, consider this:
Saving just 1 day of processing time per month for a £25k employee is a saving of approximately £1,580pa* to your business. Use the ‘saved’ time on producing more timely, informative management information and KPIs (which you can now get as the transactional level data is of better quality).
Better business information leads to better business decisions and ultimately to better business profits.
*Taking into account ER NI/Pension.