Accounting For Mobility

By Stephanie Blanchard, Assistant Editor, and Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — August 13, 2013

As mobility changes the way companies do business, the solutions themselves adapt, especially when it comes to anything regulated like matters of accounting—billing, expense management, time tracking—which require compliance above and beyond typical mobile security. Manual processes lack the workflow control that technology can enable to meet requirements.

“A lot of businesses squawk about the added level of compliance,” said Steve Birchfield, CEO, Automation Centre, in an interview with Mobile Enterprise. “If you are willing to put in a thoughtfully implemented financial control system using today’s technology, you can end up with a very high performing system that easily complies with today’s regulations.”

Automation Centre’s solution for smartphones, TrackerSuite.Net, gives iPhone and Android users the ability to access mobile forms, such as purchase orders, check requests, expense reports, etc., which are integrated with existing accounting systems.

Other vendor offerings span the gamut. Aruba Networks, for example, has just added seven new financial apps to its Aruba WorkSpace Partner Program.

Who’s On First
Apps are not meant to replace entire legacy applications or systems. The best app takes a single task and does it well. The next generation of apps also extends the business process through action, such as a financial approval for example.

If an individual needs to spend $100 to $500 on a business expense, the employee’s immediate manager can sign off. If $20,000 is needed, a different approval route can be required.

And this can be accomplished through a mobile solution regardless of who is actually at the office. If someone is out, the process is not interrupted as it would be during a manual workflow. (Bob is out on vacation, Fred is out for coffee, and Linda is available to sign but is unsure what the expenditure even is.) The workflow remains constant. “You will always be able to approve your transactions,” Birchfield said.

It sounds rather easy to implement, but with large corporations, it’s similar to coaching baseball, Birchfield noted. When young kids are just starting out, no one knows who’s pitching, catching, or where to run when a ball is in play. When they grow, so does maturity, and players more easily grasp the rules of the game.

“Take a company through the workflow, it’s a lot like Little League. Not everyone understands their roles and who signs off on what,” Birchfield said. However, once the system is in place, it runs efficiently.

How It Works
When someone submits a request, the system sends an alert for approval. Conversely processing purchases for 25 cents is a ridiculous waste of time, one an automated system can prevent.

While this type of mobile accounting is not replacing larger accounting systems anytime soon, like many other mobile solutions, it’s taking tasks — whether it’s tracking time, billing, check processing  or generating expense reports — and speeding up the process as well as providing real-time access for a variety of stakeholders.

For example, according to Automation Centre’s customer stories,  the Producers Assistance Corporation (PAC), which provides operations and maintenance support services for the oil and gas industry, was using a  paper-based system for time and billing. This manual system proved to be overwhelming.

PAC decided to look for an automated system and decided on TrackerSuite.Net  for “the integrated nature of the product modules, the speed and flexibility of its Web forms, and its ability to integrate with mobile tools including iPhones and BlackBerry devices.”

After a successful pilot, PAC decided to move forward with rolling out all the modules of the solution to a larger group of users and contractors.  Beyond simplifying their time reporting process, the product suite offered PAC “other useful features and benefits as well, including project dashboards for at-a-glance reviews of customer projects, their status and progress. Timesheet compliance reports…and helped improve their overall time reporting processes and increased timesheet submission rates.”

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