Automated book-keeping on the cloud has come a long way recently. We look at two leading contenders.
But First, The Scenario…
It’s Saturday night and it’s date night. So you take your new belle/beau* to Mabel’s Caff, the new joint that everyone’s talking about, to enjoy a spectacular evening. As the enchanting soirée draws to a close, the gargantuan bill lands on your side of the table (yet again) with a thud, when you notice a nearby diner taking a quick selfie of her bill. WHAT ON EARTH, you ask yourself, is going on?
Now, she may well curating the world’s most boring Instagram feed, but these days the reason is likely to be much more prosaic. Thanks to automated book-keeping on the cloud, that bill may well be on its way to being processed as, ahem, ‘client entertaining’…
This strange new sorcery works for more than just the client entertaining scenario we’ve outlined above. Invoices, receipts and expenses of all descriptions can be sent up to the cloud using photographs, emails, proprietary apps or old-fashioned scans, and the software extracts the boring but vital book-keeping data automatically. The software can read supplier names, invoice dates, net amounts, tax amounts, tax rates, total amounts and can even extract each individual line of an invoice. It can also integrate with cloud accounting platforms, allowing you to post all the details of your expenditure directly with the minimum of fuss and data entry.
Now this can be a great time saver for all small business owners, allowing you to direct your efforts on doing what you do best – developing and running your business.
(*delete as appropriate)
So Here’s Our Take On Two Contenders…
Receipt Bank is the front runner and market leader in automated book-keeping software. It claims over 60,000 users and 5,000 accounting partners worldwide. It’s won multiple awards including Xero ‘Add-on of the Year’ for several years running.
A new entry into the market, AutoEntry is looking to build on its reputation gained through the success of other OCREX products which are currently used by over 1,800 accountancy firms in Ireland and the UK.
What Makes it so Good?
Receipt Bank has a great app, which is intuitive and simple to use and the brand’s popularity has been built around the app’s success.
Receipt Bank integrates with a wide range of cloud-based accountancy software….
- QuickBooks Online
- IRIS Open Books
- Sage One
- Fresh Books
…and also with non-accounting software…
- Workflow Max
The system can also be linked import expenses that are paid using PayPal.
Receipt Bank has great brand recognition, having undertaken extensive marketing campaigns and it has been featured on the BBC, accountancy websites and in newspapers.
So how does it work? After pushing up your data, you’re given a notification of expected processing time so you know where process is up to and that it’s working. There’s a degree of ‘expectations management’ in this, and often things are processed more quickly.
For book-keepers and accountants, the Inbox overview shows the number of items in process and the processing stage. One feature we particularly like is the client efficiency indicator, showing how quickly after the invoice date the client is loading bills to the system – and also when the client was last active on Receipt Bank. A new feature called ‘While You Were Away’ shows a summary when entering each client’s records of what has been done since you were last in the records.
There are extensive help documents to assist users in all operations so hopefully no-one can get too stuck!
AutoEntry fully integrates with a number of the major accounting software packages, including:
- QuickBooks Online
- Sage 50
- Fuse Metrix (Cloud ERP)
- Sage One
The system has an online chat facility so you can gain full help support from real people. Whenever we’ve had issues that couldn’t be solved quickly in a few lines of text, the help team have just picked up the phone and talked us through what to do.
AutoEntry can process individual line items from invoices (for example, to assist in stock management) although this costs you a handsome two credits per invoice (rather than just the one).
The system auto-detects multi-page invoices and, in our short experience, has shown better capability in dealing with ‘problem’ scans such as two receipts on the same picture, unclear scans, and so on.
But where AutoEntry is really taking the game to Receipt Bank is on price. Pricing is more targeted on unit usage rather than the broad banding approach favoured by Receipt Bank. For book-keepers and accountants, volume usage is charged at practice level rather than customer level so the savings could be significant. Unused credits roll over to next month for up to three months and pricing for breaking through a band is again on usage, rather than for the whole volume of the next band. A bit complicated, but it’s worth running the numbers side by side. All of this minimises the cost per credit and reduces the risk of unused credits.
Hmmm. What Could Be Better?
In our experience Receipt Bank struggles a little more with ‘problem scans’ (such as two receipts on the same picture, unclear scans, and so on) although it always notes any problems so that these can be manually dealt with or scanned again. It does not automatically recognise multi-page invoices and these must be picked at the time of submission.
Receipt Bank charges according to usage bands each month, so if you don’t use the full quota you might not feel you are getting your money’s worth. Based on a three month average, if you exceed the banding limit then you will be charged for next band.
AutoEntry does not yet have a smartphone app to ease the upload of receipts and invoices. Users can snap a photo of the receipt and then email it to the designated inbox but this does lack the simplicity and ease of use of Receipt Bank’s app.
The system is also not yet integrated with as many accounting software platforms as Receipt Bank.
The overview page, whilst adequate, doesn’t provide as much detail as Receipt Bank, with key information being a couple of clicks away rather than immediately to hand.
Oddly enough, there aren’t any online help documents available at the moment so you have to ask live chat for help. This works fine during office hours but will be an issue for users who do their accounts during unsupported hours – something that small businesses do more often than one might first think.
What’s That Coming Over The Hill?
In late April 2016 Receipt Bank released a beta version of 1Tap to its book-keeper and accountant partners. 1Tap is a free app for automated book-keeping for sole traders, anticipating the future digital direction of travel set by our friends at HMRC.
Having recently released the ‘While You Were Away’ feature it’s clear that Receipt Bank is continuing to look to provide tools to assist book-keepers and accountants to provide even better service.
The company has also been assisting Xero on a tour of South Africa, so it appears that they are looking to strengthen their global position.
AutoEntry doesn’t yet have an app to assist in data upload, so it’s no surprise that they are busy creating one. We understand this is due to be launched sometime this summer.
To further enhance their offering to book-keepers and accounting firms, AutoEntry is also pursuing integration with a wider range of cloud software, and two further cloud accounting software integrations are anticipated in the next 8 to 10 weeks. In the longer term the company is also aiming for integration with other (larger) ERPs, to assist in targeting larger SMEs directly.
In a Nutshell
Receipt Bank is the market leading software for automated book-keeping on the cloud. It has extensive brand awareness and offers a great customer experience for small businesses. It now needs to focus on greater interpretative intelligence (for those of us who can’t, or won’t, organise our invoice scans properly). We also think the pricing bands need another look.
A new entry to the market, AutoEntry offers a great pricing proposition and competes well on processing challenging invoice scans. But it lacks some of the smooth functionality and support of its more established competitor, and most of all it lacks an app!
About Aiteo Consulting
Aiteo Consulting provides CFO advisory services to innovative and motivated Tech businesses. So whether you’re in start-up mode, or are running a growing enterprise which is pushing through to the next level, we can help you understand how cloud book-keeping and accounting can dramatically improve your efficiency, save you time and make real improvements to your bottom line.