As a QuickBooks Online user, you may have caught yourself silently wondering at the amount of information you must go through. If your business has been around for some time, chances are that the amount is not negligible. And this is not a problem that you have to face once a year, but perhaps on a daily basis. Is there a request that needs approval? Are there dozens of payments due within the next week? What about the deadlines for multiple creditors that are coming up?
Information technology helps us categorize and streamline data, but it does not necessarily reduce the amount. In fact, with people relying increasingly on computers, our hoards of data tend to increase since recording and maintaining information becomes easier. Moreover, it is usually impossible to cut down on data without hindering effective business operation. The logical solution to this problem is business process automation.
What is business process automation?
Business process automation isn’t just about digitizing your records or moving your operations online. It is a procedure that seeks to maximize efficiency and minimize errors. If you have a stack of files containing sales figures, simply converting them to Excel spreadsheets isn’t going to contribute a lot towards streamlining the operation. Automation would require the system to be aware of what those figures mean and who needs them. An automated system works round-the-clock to ensure that the right information reaches the right people at the right time.
Let’s consider an example. A document carrying certain information needs to be signed by half a dozen people before it is finally approved. Normally this would require the document to be printed out and shuttled from desk to desk for days, until all six signatures are obtained. However, in an automated system, an electronic copy of the document would be created and automatically sent to each of the six persons. They would be able to digitally add their signatures and see who else has signed. When all the signatures have been obtained, the approved document will be forwarded to the relevant employee. Other than significantly increasing the speed of the process, this would also enable a manager to see exactly how long it takes to get the document signed, and may even notify him if it’s taking too long.
What is an API?
If a company owns a Web-based service and wants software developers to design products that use the service, it can release a set of protocols and instructions called an application-programming interface or API. For example, Google has released APIs which allow developers to easily create applications with Google API Services. An API facilitates process automation by giving developers a basis on which to build their software, instead of forcing them to start from scratch.
Why should you automate your business process?
There are more than few ways in which automation will help you run a smoother and more efficient business. Here are the best ones:
- Elimination of manual errors: Data entered manually can be flawed. There could be a mistake in the figure entered, or it may be entered in the wrong field. An employee may even forget to record a piece of data. Automation can help eliminate or at least minimize such errors.
- Improve communication: Dealing with mountains of emails every day is tedious, time-consuming and rather inefficient. A far better alternative is to have a single communication interface that brings everything in one place. Need to send a memo? Just click “Send Memo” and select the category of people or departments who should receive it. You don’t need to know their email addresses or even who they are.
- Accountability: Paper trails can be destroyed, but that wouldn’t be so easy in an automated system. If an employee comes up with a “didn’t get the memo” excuse, you can check whether that is indeed the case.
- Approval: In the office, there often seems to be a lack of people who know the exact signatures that a document needs in order to get approved. An employee could spend days tracking down the right people who need to sign off on a piece of paper. Business process automation can get rid of this problem by having this approval hierarchy programmed into the system, so that an employee needs to look no further than his/her computer.
QuickBooks Online API
Expanding the horizons of your business by introducing a software application can be great idea. Besides the advantages mentioned above, there are also many others to consider. With firmly established platforms for mobiles devices, especially Android and iOS, an app can allow your customers to do business on-the-go. Integrating your app with QuickBooks Online gives users access to accounting features as well as payment processing services. For customers, accessing their data can be as simple as logging into their Intuit accounts from your app.
The QuickBooks API allows you to build apps, both desktop and mobile-only, that can be a great step towards business automation. If you want to release your app publicly on QuickBooksApps.com, it needs to pass certain minimum requirements, especially technical and security ones.
Using the Accounting API enables you to collaborate with QuickBooks Online and record transactions, among other things. The Payments Beta API gives you a lot of flexibility by allowing you to use the QuickBooks Payments service as per your requirements. You can design and build an app the processes credit card payments the way you want, which may lead to you getting paid faster. This can be done for your business as well as your customers.
Examples of using QuickBooks Online API:
1) Add a new customer from eCommerce website into QuickBooks Online
2) Add employee working hours from Time Tracking app into QuickBooks Online