Monday, April 21, 2014 - 11:41

By Julie Lubetkin, VP of Strategic Partners

If you had to choose between a rotary phone and a smartphone, which one would you select? 

Sure, the landline phone has a certain nostalgia. But it does take a minute or so to dial out on it. The smartphone not only calls, but offers an array of apps that make your life decidedly easier. 

So which phone wins? I don’t think there’s much of a guessing game here. 

The point of that exercise is this: Technology makes a difference in your decision-making process. And if it makes a difference to you, it definitely makes a difference to your clients. 

In a study conducted by The Sleeter Group, 85 percent of small business owners surveyed said they want their accountant to help them be more proactive in helping them find and use technologies that can help them be more productive. And 76 percent reported that their current accountant was not being proactive enough. This next metric shouldn’t shock you: 70+ percent reported that they had changed their accounting firm in the past at least in part because the firm only provided responsive services.

The message is clear – paper-based operations and outdated technology won’t bring in new business. In fact, they contribute to negatives such as lapses in communications, a prevalence of labor-intensive, low-value activities and the biggest trespass of all – the inability to perform as a trusted financial advisor who can quickly identify big-picture performance and trends and act accordingly for clients.

Perhaps your system works well for you. But I challenge you to ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I access my clients’ information whenever I need it through any device including PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone? 
  • Can I offer my clients important document management capabilities that reduce paper reliance and create a library of important information for both my firm and my clients? 
  • If a natural disaster wiped out my office, would I still be able to continue business as usual the next day?

If your firm is heavily paper-reliant, then answering yes to these points may not be an option. Additionally, you might not be providing your clients with the service and convenience they deserve. This may lead clients to search for other accounting firms. And conversely, it might prevent businesses from actively seeking out or considering your firm for services. 

However, the transition to more modern operations built on cutting-edge yet easy-to-use technology does not have to be a challenging transition. Careful planning and strategic insight can ensure you adopt firm-elevating technology that will impress your clients and significantly increase the efficiency of your operations.

I invite you to join us for a webinar with Doug Sleeter, founder and president of The Sleeter Group, as he presents Playbook Essentials. Scheduled for Wednesday, April 23 at 11 am PT, the webinar will examine how to: 

•Execute strategic imperatives as outlined in the Strategic Imperatives Matrix, a checklist with tips that can guide you through changing times

•Tailor your service offerings to meet broader client needs

•Plan for uncertainty with nimble strategies

•Prioritize market opportunities and choose clients with sustainable demand

•Understand and identify technology trends and need

Register now. After all, you don’t want to be the rotary phone in a land of smartphones. 

 

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Monday, April 21, 2014 - 11:35

By Julie Lubetkin, VP of Strategic Partners

Between the rigors of growing a customer base, marketing, managing employees, creating partnerships, and planning for the company’s future, business owners often have a very limited pool of time at their disposal. Every iota of their time – plus their employees’ time – should be spent on high-value activities that can support the company’s growth. More sales or customer services. Less administrative work. 

Traditionally, bill payment – which includes tracking and processing purchases, sales, receipts and payments - can be a source of high-labor, high-cost time consumption. This is doubly so if you are rooted in paper-based processes. Issuing and reconciling bills can mean sorting through files (or documents to be filed) for contracts and relevant information. Paper-based invoicing, which depends on printing, stuffing, and adding postage to envelopes, can drag an accounts receivable process into long windows of time.  

Think about the typical 15-step process for running a check. 

1.Employee requests approval on payment.

2.Employee follows up with approvers to review payments.

3.Approvers review requests, discuss discrepancies, and request additional documentation.

4.Employee searches and retrieves files and sends them to approvers.

5.Employee adjusts payments as necessary.

6.Accounting manager checks the approvals before providing final thumbs up on printing the check.

7.Employee sets up accounting system to run checks.

8.Employee retrieves check stock, prepares the printer, performs a test payment run, and corrects misprints.

9.Employee performs the check run.

10.Employee gets signatures on check.

11.Controller reviews checks for accuracy.

12.Employee provides documentation for any controller questions.

13.Employee changes payment amounts in accounting system and re-runs checks as necessary. 

14.Employee stuffs, stamps, and mails the envelopes. 

15.Employee creates positive pay check issue file to send to the bank to prevent check fraud.

And this process doesn’t even include the post-check run which encompasses addressing payment questions, pulling transaction history, and updating the accounting systems. 

Clearly, the entire bill payment process is an area ripe for improvement. The question now is: Is it time to outsource your bill payment? 

Outsourcing in general often offers time and cost savings for businesses while taking routine and process-oriented activities off of an owner’s hands. A survey by KPMG found that half of all businesses are expanding their outsourcing activities in order to save time, money, and strategically move their companies into more value-focused activities. Outsourcing often allows in a higher caliber of talent and experience when compared to keeping a function in-house while oftentimes reducing costs and time spent by employees on low-value activities. Moreover, it can also introduce valuable technology that helps improve and automate processes. 

Outsourcing your bill payment can yield high-priority benefits for accounts payable, accounts receivable, and cash flow management – especially if a cloud-based technology is incorporated. 

For accounts payable, it means you will have the ability to go completely paperless and introduce automation. You’ll be able to schedule your bill payments and upload your bills and paperwork to a centralized, cloud-based repository. Imagine automated notices that remind you of when a payment is due or being able to immediately know the approval and payment status of every bill. It also means you can store contracts with bills for easy access – no more digging through files, no more storing file cabinets. 

For accounts receivable, invoices could be mailed or emailed on your company’s behalf. This eliminates the hassles and charges of printing, postage, and mailing. Migrating payments online would give more payment options including online payments, credit card, or PayPal while reducing your filing and trips to the bank. You can quickly see when a client has reviewed an invoice or scheduled a payment; and clients can get automatic reminders as due dates approach. Most importantly, these process enhancements allow you to collect your receivables approximately two to three times faster than paper-based processes. 

Outsourcing bill payment gives you the strategic insight into your financial performance needed to successfully run a business. You can eliminate bulky spreadsheets in favor of a cloud-based reporting platform that is always up to date. This information allows you to project receivables, payables, and balances months out, revealing potential problems in advance and helping you rapidly visualize alternatives. 

The first step of deciding if outsourcing bill payment is right for you is to determine what your hidden costs are and what potential there is for time and cost savings. This Hidden Cost calculator builds off of your business-specific requirements in order to give you an estimated cost and ROI on outsourcing your bill payment. Input data such as wages, the number of checks processed each month, ACH transactions per month, and the number of bank accounts and payment runs per month. After reviewing the information, it will calculate your current bill payment costs and how much can be saved with outsourcing.

Explore the potential for ROI now to discover what your savings could be.

Also, check out the “Bill Pay + Oursourcing: A Foundation for Future Growth” webinar to learn the benefits of outsourcing and how to sell outsourcing bill payment services to your clients. Live event is scheduled for May 1, 2014 at 1 PM PT. Join us and ask us your questions.

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Monday, April 21, 2014 - 11:30

In April, Bill.com reached out to about 2,000 customers, requesting feedback on new product concepts. Customers who reviewed the new ideas and responded to survey questions were placed in a random drawing for an Amazon Kindle Fire HDX.

 

We are pleased to announce the winner: Wally Griffin, CEO of Red Shift Company, a Colorado-based technology company that develops speech recognition products. Wally is a telecommunications executive with extensive experience with early stage businesses. He was appointed by the Red Shift’s board in July 2009 to refine the company strategy, drive product development, and prepare for commercial launch. His focus now is driving growth and strategic partnerships for the company.

 

Wally GriffinBill.com selected Wally from a random drawing of the 500+ customers who accepted our invitation for feedback. Wally’s perspectives — along with those of the customers who responded — are critical as we make decisions about our future product roadmap. Indeed, we are committed to delivering innovation that meets the needs of our customers.  

 

If you were not selected to participate in the survey and want to be heard, you can always send us your thoughts and suggestions directly. 

 

Incidentally … Wally did not think that the product concepts were relevant for his business. His feedback is just as important for us as the opinions of those who liked the concepts. We value all feedback -- not just the ones that make us feel good!

 

 

 

 

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Friday, April 11, 2014 - 12:32

By Eric Chan, CTO, BIll.com

Rest assured, Bill.com is not affected by the Heartbleed bug. With that news out of the way, we want to share some thoughts and additional information about security.

Every few months data breaches and security flaws become headline news. The general public often experiences them in a familiar pattern: news of the breach splashes across our screens; people worry about the consequences and perhaps take cautionary action; and then, most forget about data security until the next issues crosses the headlines.  

At Bill.com, we take security seriously.  We want our customers to know that we’re always vigilantly paying attention and taking pro-active measures to keep your data and transactions safe.  We follow the latest news in security and quickly analyze how it affects you and our own systems. 

We addressed the Heartbleed Vulnerability, in our latest community post written by our Vice President of Customers, Kathleen Long.   

We invite you to join the conversation, submit your questions or concerns on our community forum. 

 

Original Bill.com Community Post:

What you need to know about Heartbleed and Bill.com

Bill.com's engineering and security team assessed our servers and sites earlier this week.  We are not impacted by the Heartbleed bug and we find no evidence that customer information was in any way compromised.

We are currently in the process of reaching out to all our vendors to ensure that they have taken adequate precautionary measures.  If any vulnerabilities are identified that impact Bill.com customers, we'll definitely reach out and let you know.  Your security is of primary concern to us. 

These kinds of situations are one of the many reasons Bill.com recently implemented additional security (multi-factor authentication) on your account for higher risk account activities.  In the event your credentials are ever compromised for any reason, this provides an extra layer of security for you and your account.

 

To protect yourself more fully, also think about your usernames and passwords.  If you use the same username and password for Bill.com as you do for other services or sites, please change your password immediately.  We provide some tips on selecting a good secure password here: https://answers.bill.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1485

Additionally, you should check with your email provider to ensure that they were not compromised.  If so, part of keeping your information secure is to keep your email secure. Most email services provide multi-factor authentication options.  Your email provider can give you further guidance.

Bill.com will keep you up-to-date as more information is available.

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Friday, April 11, 2014 - 12:25

By René Lacerte, Founder & CEO, BIll.com

This has been a monumental week for Bill.com. We won two prestigious payments industry awards—the NACHA George Mitchell Excellence in Payments Award and the Barlow Research Monarch Innovation Award. In addition, Bank of America Merrill Lynch announced its CashPro® BillPay product, which is provided by the bank through its relationship with Bill.com.

CashPro BillPay helps small- to medium-sized companies and enterprises move to a paper-free payments process that allows more automation, control and precision in payments timing and cash flow. This follows another powerful partnership announced earlier this year with PNC Bank, N.A., to offer additional features to Cash Flow InsightSM, a suite of online tools specifically designed to help small businesses better manage incoming and outgoing funds.

These successes are historic not just for us, but also for the banking industry. They represent the tipping point for online business payments.   

While online consumer bill pay has achieved widespread adoption, online business payments have lagged behind. 80% of transactions between small and medium businesses (SMBs) still involve paper invoices, paper checks or manual reconciliation, according to Aberdeen Research. With 24 million U.S. SMBs, that’s a lot of paper and inefficiency.

What’s held businesses back? Unlike consumer payments, business payments involve more than a simple transaction. As any business owner or CFO will attest, making the payment is only a small part of the overall process. The paper-intensive, manual process that occurs before and after the payment is made is time consuming, error-prone and expensive. Research from RPMG suggests 86% of the cost of a transaction is consumed by the process that occurs before and after the payment is made.  

The cloud is changing everything. The cloud allows disjointed systems and accounts to be harmonized together. Banks offering Bill.com services leverage the cloud to eliminate redundant and manual data entry, as well as social collaboration to speed up financial processes such as approving invoice payments.  Bill.com is the glue that seamlessly ties finance and accounting programs, banks, people and processes together. With Bill.com banks can now move to the heart of a business’ financial operation, instead of just being a transaction facilitator.

 

Technology is ubiquitous. It isn’t just accessible; it’s wearable. And to expect businesses of any size to not join this revolution, to continue using pen and paper seems ludicrous. The cloud is not a fad. It is a solution. And banks are no longer just transaction providers. They are strategic, tech-savvy business partners providing end-to-end financial solutions.  

 

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 12:46

By Natasha Dolginsky, Sr. Marketing Manager, Bill.com

We’re always looking to provide value to our event attendees, whether that event is a tradeshow, panel discussion or a webinar. We host a few webinars each month, with interesting topics, great speakers and even better actionable content.  We’ve covered improving your approval workflow, helping your business go paperless and getting the most out of your accounting software. 

The webinar content isn’t even the best part, it’s the interactive discussion we have with attendees about their business -the Q&A about applying the webinar topic in their specific business and scenario. 

And webinar after webinar our audience wants more of “How does Bill.com work?” And inevitably, “How will it help me?”

Out of those questions and requests the “Bill.com Product Demo Series” was born.

Because there was too much information to cover in one session, we’ve created an overview demo followed by deeper dives into different product functionalities. During each demo we’ll show you what a typical day looks like with Bill.com. Our fictitious company, Pasta Fresca, gets invoice approval from a remote boss, pays bills, gets paid, seamlessly syncs with their accounting software, and much more.

The overview module was a hit, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming demos. Below are replay links to past demos and registration links to upcoming ones. Hope to see you there!

 

P.S. Bring your questions!

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Friday, March 14, 2014 - 14:11

By Julie Carman, Sr. Director, Strategic Partners, Bill.com

A significant component that impacts the accounting profession is the resiliency (or lack of resiliency) to change. One very important variable toward change is the adoption of cloud technology. 

How can cloud technology influence people so that they find comfort and security to change? If you own a smartphone to text, shop online, and/or coordinate your travel plans you have already changed and adopted cloud technology. Now you can transfer this process of change and adoption to your accounting profession that will then ensure transactional benefits as it has for your personal life. Choosing cloud technology will help you respond to the ongoing challenges and drivers for the accounting profession including automated processes, optimized customer experience, attract and acquire new clients, expand into new markets, staying one step ahead of the competition, and many more attributes that will equal economic success.

Some of the key drivers that are expected to have the greatest impact on the accounting profession include the market demand for transparency, integrated reporting, stable yet flexible business models, succession plans, and a high quality talent pool. Adopting cloud technology will help you address these and other drivers that will impact the accountant industry for the next decade. 

Your technology choices will be vital to the success of your organization and will deeply separate the successful firms from the rest. The technology you choose should allow your firm to:

  • Serve and acquire more clients without increasing costs and staff
  • Scale your business and offer more financial and non-financial services
  • Expand into new markets
  • Automate workflow
  • Enhance efficiencies
  • Access data on-demand
  • Increase daily productivity
  • Establish and maintain an agile business model
  • Reduce the risk of fraud and regulations breach
  • Increase security, transparency, and trust

The world today is highly competitive, collaborative, and integrated. In order to gain a sustainable advantage, you must stay abreast and aligned with what impacts and drives the accounting industry. Cloud technology adoption will allow you to achieve this while providing you with real-time and relevant data that will give you visibility into economic scenarios and instantly view business information and trends so that you can build a high-performing, healthy, and growing firm.

Download and read the "Selecting the Right Technology" white paper to learn:

  • Steps to progress the firm's modernization efforts
  • Benefits of SaaS or cloud-based solutions for accounting professionals
  • Mistakes made when selecting new technology
  • Consideration points for evaluating technology and vendors

Access our on-demand webinar series featuring Bill.com and Doug Sleeter of The Sleeter Group titled “Get in the Game” to learn essential steps to position you for more profitability and productivity.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 11:06

By Julie Lubetkin, VP of Strategic Partners

The accounting world is shrinking. 

What normally constrained an accounting firm’s growth – location – has now been rendered obsolete with the advent of cloud technology that promotes collaboration and real-time information sharing no matter where you are or what you are doing. 

It is no secret that technology can provide your firm and your clients with a competitive edge. And yet, research shows that accounting professionals are often slow to adopt new technologies. 

In The Sleeter Group 2013 survey of small businesses that use an external accounting firm for bookkeeping, payroll or other financial services, a majority of respondents indicated that they prefer that their CPA help plan and implement technology changes for their business. And yet, almost half of the respondents said that their CPA was behind the curve on technology usage or they were not sure about the state of their accounting firm’s technology adoption. 

Another point of interest: The 2014 Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey eBook from Network Management Group and Insight Research found that 80 percent of respondents do not have a technology budget and 41 percent are not using a software as a service (SaaS) application which could be classified as cloud computing. Furthermore, only 32 percent indicated that they are either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to implement a SaaS tax or accounting application in the next two years.

There are many factors that impact how quickly (or slowly) accountants adopt new technology. Accountants, by trade, can be risk-averse and protective, by necessity, of their clients’ information. Hopefully, in future surveys we will see these numbers start to turn more in favor of the accounting professional truly leading on the technology front.

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Friday, March 7, 2014 - 10:45

Geraldine Cruz, Senior Director, Product Marketing

Intuit® QuickBooks® Online (QBO) is a popular tool for managing small and midsize businesses. Like many accounting systems, QBO records and tracks payments, but does not physically “move money” from one bank account to another. After all, money movement is a highly regulated business activity ― one that falls outside the core capabilities of accounting software.

So just like users of other accounting systems, QBO users must print and mail checks themselves, send electronic payment (ACH) files to their banks, or use some other service outside of QBO to initiate and complete the payments. Bill.com™ fills this critical gap by integrating seamlessly with QBO and offering a full-service payment solution.

Figure 1. Seamless integration between Quickbooks Online and Bill.com extends the accounts payable process. 

 

QBO customers can pay anyone, anytime with paper checks or ACH. Bill.com prints and mails checks, eliminates payment fraud, and offers other payment capabilities designed for businesses. All payments and transactions are synced to QuickBooks, which remains the “the record of truth” for the business.

Bill.com capabilities unmatched by any other payment solution provider include:

  • Supports both checks and ACH: Bill.com provides the flexibilty to use one solution for both checks and ACH.
  • Automates the payment process: You can pay bills without printing and mailing checks, or uploading ACH files to your banks’ systems — we do all of that for you.
  • Fully supports payments until they are delivered to recipients: You can leverage our customer support to mitigate payment issues, including voided payments, reissued payments, and credits.
  • Eliminates payment fraud: Bill.com eliminates payment fraud in two ways. First, your bank account information is never printed on checks. Second, vendors do not have to provide bank account information to customers in order to accept electronic payments, in contrast with other ACH payment services.
  • Provides full remittance information: When a user makes a payment via Bill.com, the vendor will receive an email notification, remittance number, the invoice numbers paid, and the process date. If the payment is via ACH, we also include the date the payment will be delivered to the vendor’s bank. Payments made via check will include full remittance information, the business’ contact information, any vendors credits that were applied, and an image of the first page of the bill (if only one bill is being paid). If multiple bills are paid with one check, we include a table referencing each bill, by invoice number, on the check stub.
  • Boosts vendor acceptance of ACH: The processing costs of ACH are much lower than those for checks. Yet vendors often resist ACH because of limited remittance information and security concerns from sharing bank account information with customers. Bill.com resolves both issues, spurring vendor adoption.
  • Fulfills business payment needs: In addition to full remittance information, Bill.com offers businesses of any size the payment capabilities traditionally available only to enterprise applications. Bill.com imposes no payment limits and does not require personal guarantees.
  • Provides a built-in payment approval workflow solution: Bill.com routes payment requests automatically to designated reviewers to approve. This reduces the need for a requestor to spend time chasing down approvals and can expedite turnaround time for payments.
  • Delivers a full payment audit trail: The Bill.com payment audit trail furnishes evidence of the integrity of your payment-oriented financial statements and the establishment of internal controls.

Implementation and Sync

Implementation of Bill.com, including the first sync between the application and QBO, is often accomplished within an hour. After the first sync, integration between the two applications is done in seconds, and can be set up to run automatically every 24 hours. Many customers can complete the implementation and sync themselves, but all customers have access to Bill.com Customer Support to ensure that all everyone can use the integrated applications effectively. Contact us for more information about how Bill.com can expand the power of QuickBooks Online for your business.

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Monday, March 3, 2014 - 13:08

By Dan Lind, Vice President, Bank Solutions, Bill.com

PNC, one of the country’s largest banks, recently announced it leveraged Bill.com to automate the payables and receivables modules in Cash Flow InsightSM, its online toolkit for small businesses.  This is incredibly exciting news for Bill.com, providing the first proof point of the value and potential of our banking platform. The Bill.com Banking Platform is a game changer for banks, enabling banks to create a branded set of tools for businesses to manage their entire payables, receivables, and cash flow management processes.  Through integration with the Bill.com Banking Platform, online banking becomes the hub for all financial operations, strengthening the relationships between the bank and their customers.

While this announcement is exciting news for the banking industry, it is also important to the primary stakeholders in the financial process.   

It is important for:

- Those who dread the stacks of bills and checks that await them at the end of the week to print, review, sign, stuff, and mail.   

- Those who buy their “Forever” stamps by the roll, but still find themselves at the post office more often than they would like.  

-Those who carefully enter all their bills into accounting software, only to enter them again into online billpay.  

-Those who wait patiently for the check that is “in the mail” while hoping it comes before it is time to run payroll.  

-Those whose new office furniture consists of file boxes full of last year’s bills, invoices, contracts and other financial documents. 

-Those who would love to take a vacation, if only they could take their file cabinets and desktop computer along to answer the inevitable questions about incoming bills and outgoing invoices.

-Those who fear their first (or annual) audit, hoping they filed everything in the right place. 

Why is it important to all those who suffer with manual, time-consuming and paper-intense payables and receivables processes? Because it is the first wave in a tide of innovation- sweeping change across the financial processes of U.S. businesses.  It signals a world in which well-designed technology is broadly embraced to vastly improve the way our businesses operate.  

Banks play a critical role in the financial health and operations of businesses.  It is natural for online banking to be at the center of managing payables, receivables and cash flow. With banks embracing the Bill.com Banking Platform, businesses have yet another channel through which to access services that will help them significantly improve their efficiency.   As the leading provider of automated cash flow management services, we are excited to be a part of this change.  

 

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