The way small businesses keep the books is rapidly changing as mobile technology expands. Paper ledgers are an ancient artifact and even desktop software is starting to look dated compared with smartphone applications that let business owners keep track of expenditures and payments on the go.
As the technology improves, so, too, do the business uses for it.
When choosing an accounting package that's right for you, look for programs that are specifically tailored to fit the business needs of different industries, says Doug Sleeter, president of accounting software consultants The Sleeter Group. For example, accounting software publisher Sage50 has four different industry-specific solutions, including one for construction firms and another for non-profits.
"As I look around at new innovations, new venture capital investments and new successes in the market," Sleeter says, "I'm becoming more and more convinced that over the next few years there will be significant changes for those of us in the business of accounting software consulting (or teaching), bookkeeping, accounting, or tax preparation,"
The trick is harnessing that new technology in a way that will pay off for your business. Here are four innovative ways to use technology for your small business bookkeeping.
1. Touch the cloud. Cloud computing allows your employees to access or input the business' data from anywhere. Software applications that use cloud storage also routinely back up data to avoid losing valuable work.
"In this new world, cloud computing provides the perfect platform for both accountants and clients to work collaboratively on the same data at the same time from anywhere in the world," Sleeter says.
2. SAAS solutions. Web-based applications, or software as a service (SAAS), are a second way to harness the power of technology to enhance your business' record keeping. Both her clients and Carol Snyder, owner of CTAS Accounting Services of Pennsylvania, feed information into online software services.
She says businesses tend to favor website applications for their business records over smartphone apps because of security concerns. In fact, Verizon's 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report showed 2011 was the second highest year for data loss from computer hackers since the report started keeping track in 2004. Last year, 174 million records were compromised—much of it was personal contact information.
3. Helpful hardware. Card-swipe readers allow an employee to complete transactions in the field by collecting the information directly from the customer and sending it to the business' office. Payment processing becomes easier and faster, eliminating the extra step of calling the business office, Snyder says.
Similar applications use are used in electronic banking to handle electronic deposits.
"It's tough to get to the bank to deposit each day, so a swipe in a box gets it there faster," she says.
4. Who needs a keyboard? By using tablets throughout various stages in your business processes, you can dramatically cut down on your paperwork. Consider tablet applications that can track inventory, process sales and create invoices.
By streamlining your business' bookkeeping, you can redirect your focus away from the paperwork and back into growing your company.
Linda Doell is an award-winning journalist with more than more than 20 years' experience as a reporter, editor and blogger. Linda blogs via Contently.com.