Technology has helped tax and accounting firms to streamline their processes and automate countless time-consuming manual tasks. Firms regularly bring on new tools to address a specific business need. As new software versions become available, however, it can create a situation where some older software may no longer be able to communicate with the new ones.
This can be a serious challenge for the firm – especially when the older software contains data essential to its operations. Many accounting firms are creating connections between new solutions and legacy systems with APIs.
What is an API?
API stands for Application Programming Interface. You can imagine an API as a waiter who takes your order, communicates that information to the kitchen, and returns with the dish you requested. An API creates a connection between disparate systems so they can communicate and work together.
Why does your firm need APIs?
APIs can be used in many different ways to help streamline manual processes. In many cases, APIs are used to connect new software to an accounting firm’s existing tech stack. In an increasing number of cases, however, they are being used to modernize legacy systems.
For example, when firms invest in new technology, there are sometimes one-off systems that they still need for a single essential purpose. It often happens that these one-off systems don’t have a way to connect to the new technology.
In these situations, teams must download the data from the one-off system and manually transfer it to the others. Not only is does this extra step take time, but it also introduces the opportunity for potential errors. By connecting legacy software via an API, firms can ensure that the outputs are based on the most current and accurate data available.
How do you know whether APIs will be beneficial for your accounting firm?
If there is any part of any of your processes that makes you stop and think, “There’s got to be an easier way.” Your firm might be a good candidate for exploring APIs. APIs allow firms to automate manual, time-consuming processes, which frees up staff for higher-value work.
Where to start if you think APIs can help
The best place to start is to look at those tasks that you wish could be automated. For example, the “download-copy-and-paste” tasks that unnecessarily extend and complicate processes would be good candidates. You could also look at situations where there is a separate process required to get information that you rely on from a teammate.
Really, anywhere you see the opportunity to streamline processes and eliminate manual steps are frequently some of the best use cases for APIs.
Building a business case for APIs at your accounting firm
Once you have identified the pain points that could be resolved using APIs, the next step is to start making the business case to implement them. In some cases, an API might already exist to address the problem you’re facing. At Thomson Reuters, we’re constantly working on APIs that make our customers’ lives easier. The solution you need could be fairly easy to come by.
The next step is to make the business case for APIs internally. Identify the person inside the firm that can help you champion the idea to decision makers. Explain the inefficiencies of the current processes and the benefits that could be realized if the tasks were automated.
Summarize the research you’ve done on APIs, and cite some examples of how companies with similar challenges have succeeded with APIs. Then ask for input on the best way to proceed with moving the conversation forward.
Finding the right provider for accounting integration APIs
Once you get the green light, it’s time to start vetting providers. Set up consultations with a short list of preferred companies to see if they can fulfill your needs. A good provider should have experience with firms like yours and have experience solving the kinds of problems you’re facing. Ask the tough questions and make sure the provider has a solid plan to address your specific needs.
Thomson Reuters has a dedicated team focused exclusively on APIs. Our customers drive everything we do, and many of our APIs are developed in direct response to the challenges they face in their daily work.
Schedule a consultation with one of our specialists to see how your accounting firm can improve systems connectivity with an integrated API-powered technology solution.