We often get questions about the Accounting Process Reviews. What is it? Why is it important? What does it uncover? How frequently is it done? Why is it a healthy thing to do?
What is an Accounting Process Review (APR)?
When we do this service for our clients, we use it to uncover gaps and inefficiencies in accounting flows in their business. Accounting and bookkeeping systems are analyzed with an eye toward making the function more accurate or discovering ways to save time by automating a system that is currently done manually.
Why is an APR important?
A couple of words come to mind. First, the review provides clarity for the management team. It lets them know the starting point of their existing accounting process to see what changes would yield measurable results. Measurement is the other word. An example might be to see how much time could be saved if an automated system could review payables through an electronic system of checks and balances rather than having each one handled separately. Moreover, when an outsider does the review, it’s less likely to let “confirmation bias” slip in, which might come from a place of “it’s working fine, so let’s not try to fix it.”
What does the review uncover?
Mostly, the analysis is a way to find out if there’s a better method of doing everything from simple tasks (bookkeeping entries) to weightier accounting requirements (i.e., P & Ls, tax returns). More importantly, it can often suggest ways in which the company is being limited by spending too much time on accounting and not enough time on marketing, sales, and R & D.
Who performs the review?
It’s best if an outside CPA firm does the assessment. They are experts, have education and experience behind them, and have to keep up with the latest and greatest accounting software and IRS rulings. Large or small, your organization may have a controller or an accounting department head that wears more than one hat. Additionally, outside perspectives can help in any department, not just accounting.
What About Existing Staff?
This question is a biggie. Some people think that if accounting is automated or outsourced, the accounting staff will be reduced. That is not the point. The point is to make everyone’s job easier, less stressful, and more accurate. Reports are done on time, and everyone enjoys a culture of continuous improvement. A shared vision from the owner/C-suite filters down. They have confidence in reporting and decision-making, and their employees, vendors, and customers can feel it.
The Accounting Process Review is not a once and done. Nor do companies need to do it more than once every two years, depending on internal and external events. It’s a fluid review that might be like a scheduled medical exam. Usually, it’s good for two years, but if a new diagnostic test comes out in between, or if you’re experiencing an “uh-oh,” you move the appointment closer. If the government changes a tax ruling, or if QuickBooks Online comes out with hot new automation, you might want to request an off-cycle APR. Here’s why: If you’re into continuous improvement, or if you’re looking for verification of a decision to expand, say, you’ll want to make sure your systems are in tip-top shape. If you were flying to the moon, you’d want your rocket ship at peak performance with all the latest technology.
Accounting Process Reviews can be compared to your annual checkup. You’re feeling okay. But you didn’t know that your cholesterol could be 20% lower. Your accounting systems are working, but you didn’t realize your accounts receivables department could be processing receivables 20% faster and enhancing cash flow! You build a long-term relationship with your doctor and with your CPA. Someone once quipped that your CPA and your doctor are the two people who know you inside and out. We believe that.
In the same way that your health can limit your ability to enjoy life, your accounting systems can limit the company’s growth and employee morale. Accounting touches every department, from marketing to production to sales, vendors, and even customers. Sometimes having a better accounting system means inventory is received in a timelier fashion, production works more smoothly, shipping is quicker, and customers are more satisfied. No single department is more important than any other, but accounting touches everything.
Interested in an Accounting Process Review for your business? Contact your LSL advisor to talk about it.