If there’s one challenge that resonates with large tax and accounting firms, it’s data visibility. Because most companies use disconnected systems, getting a bird’s-eye view of all data sets can seem next to impossible. However, by incorporating APIs, forward-thinking companies are making data visibility a reality and using it as a competitive advantage.
What are APIs and how do they work?
Application programming interfaces (APIs) are software codes that allow two unrelated systems to access and use each other’s functions or data. From reducing human error to data analytics, APIs are transforming industries by bringing disparate systems together and unleashing endless ways to increase efficiencies.
In fact, 70% of companies that added automation to their accounting processes reported stronger ROI. But how your business applies APIs depends on your specific workflow and solution set. This speaks to the flexible nature of APIs and the need to customize an approach that works best for your business.
In general, API automation allows your business to:
- Automate key processes and reduce hours spent on non-billable work
- Avoid manual data entry to reduce the risk of errors
- Increase visibility into customer needs with connected solutions
- Connect third-party systems that would otherwise be offline
- Gain insights for analysis and decision making
API in action at a major accounting firm
Baker Newman Noyes (BNN) saw the power of APIs firsthand. Founded in 1995, BNN is one of the top 100 US tax, assurance and advisory firms serving clients locally, regionally and globally from offices in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
As the company set out to unite its disparate data systems, it began its journey with an automation consultancy from Thomson Reuters. The Thomson Reuters team held a half-day workshop with BNN’s tax department to go through their processes, step by step, and develop an API roadmap suited to their needs.
The first recommendation was to incorporate PowerBI to pull specific dimensions and items from GoFileRoom and FirmFlow to display data using visualizations. Once the data was made visible, the company was able to identify specific areas that required more time for overall process improvement.
But his journey did not stop there. Using the same API approach, the Thomson Reuters team helped BNN increase the interoperability of other systems used in its workflow to eliminate duplicate data entry. The result was that data moved seamlessly from one system to another, allowing for a single source of truth and a better understanding of your distribution of work.
“We don’t just stay within the confines of GoFileRoom,” says Travis Hersom, chief information officer at Baker Newman Noyes. “We started looking at some of our other systems and by reviewing our workflows and the steps we took, we were able to identify an impressive list of opportunities to leverage those APIs to eliminate even more waste in our processes. We were doing this at the start of the peak season this year, so those quick wins were really welcome.”
The impact of data visibility
Today, BNN uses guidance from its Thomson Reuters automation query to make data-driven decisions backed by PowerBI templates to create visual reports (year-over-year and week-over-week time tracking), enabling the enterprise proactively identify and monitor potential bottlenecks in the engagement workflow.
“Going forward, Baker Newman Noyes will do a lot of data analysis and visualization,” Hersom said. “Our partnership with Thomson Reuters has been really helpful in developing our thinking about how we want to display this data. The GoFileRoom initiative allowed us to show the importance of having this level of visibility and it has been extremely effective for us to shine a light on areas that need a little more attention.”
Custom PowerBI dashboards created by BNN allow the company to compare current year utilization with historical utilization data to forecast whether the company has enough resources to handle the new work. Balancing utilization can help prevent burnout and improve the work-life balance of valuable staff, especially during peak seasons. Managing overhead resources, reducing waste, and reducing duplication of effort are just some of the benefits of automation.
Hersom continued: “With that kind of visibility, we can forecast and make sure we have the right resources to handle whatever load it’s going to be. We also look at the time it takes to complete each step in our process to identify bottlenecks, which gives us an indicator of whether there are any opportunities to improve that process.”
Creating a custom API roadmap for your company
The Baker Newman Noyes case study is just one example of the many ways tax and accounting firms are leveraging automation to improve their operations and stay competitive in an increasingly digital world. A Thomson Reuters Automation Consultation can help your business achieve these transformational benefits by documenting your daily workflow, identifying gaps and inefficiencies, and creating a custom API roadmap.
Typically, your consultation will consist of four two-hour sessions with Thomson Reuters Automation and API Consultants who will delve into all aspects of your business. Sessions are designed to understand the daily work of each job function and evaluate automation opportunities. After compiling a detailed report of their findings, automation consultants will share opportunities, gaps, and recommendations for which automation products and tools would have the greatest impact for your business. From there, they will help you prioritize and implement the recommendations.
One of the most important considerations when creating your automation roadmap [link to infographic?] is to ensure that your systems can communicate with each other. Technology providers that adopt technology from other companies and create APIs that allow disparate systems to work together bring another level of value to accounting firms. Because each company uses tax software and systems in its own way, a personalized consultation and action plan is paramount to ensure that the benefits of APIs are maximized for your company’s specific needs.
Book your Thomson Reuters automation consultation
With a custom automation query, Thomson Reuters can help you unlock data visibility, endless ways to increase efficiencies, and help you better serve your customers.
If you’re ready to unleash the power of APIs, book your Thomson Reuters automation consultation today.