The One Thing That Can Increase Productivity
Our product designers at Intuit regularly gain insights from customers by talking to them in their unique environments. This is done in order to understand their daily challenges. This time around, we went in to our meeting with CA Manoj Kumar with our set of questions but were stopped short by his phone conversation.
Manoj was requesting a client to share information on the Debit Notes they’d raised to complete their GST Return filing process. As he hung up and sat down to chat with us, we could sense his frustration at having to constantly remind clients to share their data in a timely fashion.
Manoj’s frustration was not unique. Our product design teams have met several such accountants across the length and breadth of the country with similar issues. As we all know, an accountant is usually a certified CA who offers services such as book-keeping, auditing and GST filing to clients. Many CAs are also independent book-keepers or tax consultants who help businesses manage their accounts and records.
This blog is a journal of our ethnographic encounters with CAs like Manoj. We took the time to understand their key pain points in depth. The endeavor is to immerse ourselves in their world so that we may resolve their issues and help them do their job better.
Do read, and let us know – do you face similar issues? What are the workarounds you’ve built for such pain points?
Manual Data Entry – The Time Gobbler
Clients need to maintain accurate and up-to-date accounts and tax records. This helps the Chartered Accountant to analyse and take concrete decisions. Further, an Accountant needs to ensure that all the relevant data is entered into the accounting system. So, let us take a look at some instances illustrating how manual data entry is an unavoidable time gobbler.
Duplication of Work
Firstly, a company raises invoices, bills and vouchers, debit and credit notes in order to track its income and expenditure. All this is done manually. Later, as a book-keeper, the accountant spends time entering these details. These details are entered either in the accounting system or the spread-sheet used by the company to maintain its accounts. This is certainly duplication of work. Thus, time is first spent in raising the invoice or bills and then in entering all the details in the accounting system.
Another harrowing exercise for an accountant is to translate entries from hard copies or PDF statements received from the Bank or Credit Card company. This is both time consuming and prone to errors. The accountant has to identify spends and debit the correct expense account or asset account. Similarly, he needs to check and account for receipts and show them against the correct customer or specific account. Thus, accountants repeat this activity for all their clients. So, greater the number of clients, more will be the time spent on this type of manual data entry.
As book-keepers, accountants also spend a good amount of time in reconciling statements like the Bank Reconciliation Statement (BRS), Tax credit statements, etc.
Suppose, a company maintains its accounts as per the mercantile system. Under this system, the transactions are recognized as and when they take place. They are not recorded on payment/receipt basis. Hence, an accountant has to prepare a Bank Reconciliation Statement in order to reconcile transactions with the bank statement.
Thus, time is spent in not only posting the entries but also in cross-checking them with the bank statement. This is done to reconcile the bank balance as shown by the bank statement and the balance maintained in the accounting system.
Chasing Clients For Information
One of the accountants we spoke to said that chasing the client for information was one of his major tasks! In fact, more time is spent on following up for information than in the actual completion of work in some instances. One has to request for information and send repeated reminders to the client both through mail and by phone. Moreover, the threat of a looming ‘due date’ does the trick!
Therefore, some key issues with information sharing are:
- Often the client shares incomplete information regarding sales invoices, purchases, spends, tax deduction details and such. It is only after several rounds of back and forth that the necessary details are made available.
- There are instances where the data back-up shared by the client is corrupt. This could lead to additional waste of time and effort. Sadly, this happens every now and then.
- Then, there are instances where the client may add some more entries at his end after the data has been shared with the accountant. This might lead to a lot of confusion if the accountant is not aware of these additions. Thus, the reports generated with such a data contain incorrect information.
- Further, the accountant spends several hours to verify the audit trail and the correctness of entries manually.
- Also, the accountant manually enters the data in the system in cases where he maintains his client’s books. This is done only after he receives all the detailed accounting records from his client. Thus, a task of this nature is very time consuming and often performed under tremendous time pressure.
The problems discussed above are a few basic pain-points that accountants face on a regular basis. Mr. Manoj Kumar and other Chartered Accountants we spoke to told us that they would be happy to spend time on actual work rather than on unproductive/repetitive tasks. Thus, cutting down time spent in data entry and /or in client collaboration will translate into a number of benefits. It will lead to a reduction in costs and improvement in productivity, which will eventually lead to increased revenue.
What are these issues pointing to? How can we help the CAs so that they can do better? The answers seem to center around one word: Time! Stay tuned as we explore the stories of CAs and time more in our next blog.