All of the technologies to kill off the bookkeeper mostly exist and it’s only a matter of time before someone takes the industry out to the back paddock and shoots it.
Let’s think about what they would need to do:
Technologies such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) have existed for decades and there’s no real technical reason why, in our API driven world, a simpler version could not be created.
Since it can be done, it will be done. It won’t be long before these systems talk to each other – either directly, via an add-on developed by someone like me – or via government mandate that they must. If we have to wait for the government we’ll be zombies ourselves – and so I suppose it’s more likely a commercial imperative will be the trigger.
The world now belongs to API’S
In this newly imagined world, my Purchase Order becomes your Sales Order, and this will happen automatically. Your Invoice becomes my Supplier Bill, and my payment becomes your remittance advice. This could all be done relatively cheaply, from a technology perspective, and completely automatically.
There’s no separate admin role needed – a salesperson or purchasing officer simply doing their job generates the needed PO (which becomes a sale) or invoice (which becomes a bill) and there’s no reason why a customer or supplier paying a bill couldn’t send an automated remittance which could be logged and correctly allocated.
Check payment has actually arrived before we actually apply it. The happy benefit of this reduces common errors like “I applied this payment to invoice ABCD, but you applied it to invoice XYZ”. Businesses have an ABN – so there’s our central lookup key, thoughtfully maintained by the government.
Even payments can be mostly matched auto magically (I do this already in our app, and it only took a few hours to write) but it would be much, much easier with some nice API-driven interconnection.
This easily could be automated away with apps, and portals – and almost certainly will be. I bought this pencil sharpener. Which client was it for? Which project? Thank you, your expense claim will be approved by your boss (and then go into accounting system automatically).
What does that leave us? Bank Rec? If our data is right – that should be 99% automatic and could then be simplified for an admin person.
I’ll give you that payroll is potentially complex, but for most it should be easy and specialist apps will take care of the rest as they do with Xero and complex inventory. I imagine that companies like Deputy may take that on.
The BAS should essentially be automatic if you have all the right data in the system.
Obviously more complex cases like foreign purchases, exchanges and exchange movements need to be taken into account – however, I’d see that a lot of this would be taken care of with clever user-interfaces and one-off setup by an accountant.
So – what did I miss? The obvious flaw is that while this works conceptually for B2B transactions, B2C would require a little bit more thought to solve it. I’ll leave that for someone else to work out.