There is much debate as to the breadth and depth of what a bookkeeper was, is and should be. There are many claims that, due to the cloud, bookkeeping is dead and we should all be looking for something else to do.
How can that be?
The word “bookkeeper” makes people think of the physical activity of maintaining the accounting ledger. But it’s not what most bookkeepers do today. We spend our time advising, setting up and managing integrated business systems.
Bookkeeping is far from dead. Due to the advancement of technology including cloud software the role of a bookkeeper is not only more obvious, the competence required to do bookkeeping properly is more evident.
As a result the integral role of a bookkeeper in the success of a business (and its compliance) is being appreciated and acknowledged by so many more.
The Australian Tax Office and other government agencies are recognising that bookkeepers can foster well-run businesses. The Federal Treasury have caught on that bookkeepers and BAS agents are preparing and lodging many, many business activity statements (BAS’s).
The better software companies are recognising that, in Australia, it is the bookkeepers who are working very closely with business and who are at the forefront of what technology a business implements. It is the bookkeeper who should lead the charge on changes to software to do with accounting/bookkeeping/compliance/record keeping as it is the bookkeeper who is working with that software “more than once a year”!
Technology is bringing us better solutions and better ways to do business. Technology is changing what we do, it is not removing it.
The implementation of the GST in 2000 brought bookkeepers to light. Someone needed to make sure the business was collecting GST when it should and getting every cent of it back. Someone needed to work closely with the business to change their business processes and comply with the new requirements.
These needs haven’t changed. The advancements in technology has changed the way bookkeepers carry out these tasks. There are changes in the process for nearly every type of responsibility:
- Tracking the ways a business spends money
- Recording and ordering cash payments such as expense receipts
- Recording and reconciling the accounting system with an ordering system
- Receiving, checking and paying supplier invoices
- Paying employees and recording the payment and payroll obligations
- Meeting all employment on-costs and obligations
All these tools make a bookkeeper more effective and more efficient. It should be the bookkeeper who helps the business owner select the best software to manage the back office. A more efficient business system will give a business better visibility of its cash flow and forecasts.
Bookkeeping isn’t just historical processing, just as bookkeepers aren’t just data entry clerks. Bookkeepers need to recognise themselves as business system managers and value themselves accordingly. Once they do this, then their clients and accounting colleagues will too.
A version of this post first appeared in the April newsletter of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers.