MCM CPAs & Advisors, a full-service accounting firm based out of Louisville, KY, features a tagline on their home page that says everything about, not only the firm’s services, but where they believe their industry is headed:
To this CPA firm, accounting is an important part of their customer offering. But it’s not everything.
As a large regional accounting firm with offices in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio, MCM offers clients in pretty much any industry a wide variety of services: everything from technology solutions to wealth management. One of those services is bookkeeping.
Katie West is a manager in MCM’s Client Accounting Services Group, the department that provides bookkeeping services for some of the firm’s SMB clients.
“A lot of our accounts come from our advisory services,” Katie says. “They have clients who say, ‘Hey, we just don’t want to do our own bookkeeping anymore, we want to outsource it.’ So a lot of our leads come in that way.”
The firm’s approach towards bookkeeping services aligns with an industry-wide shift. As bookkeeping gets more automated, MCM’s focus is turning towards creating more strategic and advisory partnerships with their clients, while still delivering top-notch accounting services when clients need them.
“It’s something that’s discussed at every major event we have: how the industry is shifting to advisory, how we can implement automation for tasks that are currently being done by hand, how eliminating that work will help us bring more value to the client.
Our goal is to automate and streamline all this stuff we’re doing now so that we can really have time to analyze the financial statements and give insight into what our clients can be doing differently to be more profitable. We talk about it all the time.
When Katie joined MCM in 2017, the firm was looking to automate one of the most important and time-consuming aspects of their bookkeeping service: accounts payable.
One priority was invoice automation. With over 2,300 invoices flowing into a team of 8 associates every month, each individual was responsible for hand-entering around 75 invoices per week on top of the other work they had to do.
It was time-consuming. But what really built up was paper.
“It was all manual entry,” Katie recalls. “We would get invoices any number of ways: through emails from clients, mailed directly to us, from the vendor. We had clients just gather up all their stuff for the month and mail a packet for us to deal with, which we would manually enter into Sage Intacct.”
Though these documents were digital, they still required filing software for storage. The firm already had a system in place.
“We kept all our invoices in a paper filing system until it was time for them to be paid. We use CCH Engagement across our firm. So I just had different digital binders set up to store the different PDF documents.”
Paying the invoices was another cumbersome task.
“Once the invoices were approved,” Katie says, “we would go through and select the bills for payment in Intacct; pull all of those paper copies out of the invoices that we were paying; scan those in and scan the checks in; file them digitally; and then send the checks and the invoice stubs out with the payments.”
It was yet another process that was heavily reliant on paper.
“It was just having to walk down to the printer. Walk down to the scanner. Bring this or that to the admin assistant, having her stuff the envelopes… it was a lot.”
Katie and the rest of the team knew their accounts payable was too paper-based, but some of the folks in her office were suspicious of AP automation after having a bad experience with their previous solution.
“This happened before I got here, but I guess Bill.com was making reconciliation really difficult. I think they had some other issues too — they weren’t able to get their data when they decided to leave, get invoice backup copies... there was just some heartache there.”
Convinced that bill pay automation would be difficult to find, MCM went searching for something that could at least take on the invoice side of accounts payable. They found Plate IQ.
The first impact of Plate IQ was to improve how invoices entered the AP workflow.
Instead of clients having to ship containers of paper invoices, clients could just snap photos with their mobile phones, upload PDFs, or forward emails to their unique Plate IQ email addresses.
“We’ve created Plate IQ email addresses for our clients to send invoices. Some of them use the Plate IQ app on their phone to take images and upload them. Vendors are sending invoices directly to those email addresses, too.
“So for any new clients I’ve onboarded after setting up Plate IQ, I’ve said, ‘Here’s the email address specific to you as a client. Have your vendors and managers send invoices here. Don’t send them to me anymore. I don’t want them.’
To eliminate that email traffic is wonderful. I don’t need to look at those invoices anymore. They’re always in Plate IQ, so I just don’t worry about it.
Once digitized in Plate IQ’s system, the approval and export workflows became much more efficient — especially when it came time to export to Sage Intacct, with whom MCM has a strategic partnership.
“The other thing that we love about Plate IQ,” says Katie, “is that we can link images to the invoice after export. If you're working in Intacct as the financial statement preparer, and you see something that doesn't really look like it's coded to the right GL account, you can just click in there and go straight to the image. You have what you need in front of you rather than having to go search for it in this other file storage center.”
Today, 90% of MCM’s invoices are PDFs. And to store the documents, is Katie still using the old digital filing system?
“Heck no! We are storing everything in Plate IQ now and not dealing with any of that paper scanning or storage.”
At first, MCM was only using Plate IQ for invoice processing. But once the platform’s results began making the team more comfortable, they decided to take on the AP elephant in the room: bill pay.
“Back when we were shopping for AP automation and found Plate IQ, we implemented the invoice side first. We were kind of wary of the Bill Pay side. But once we tested it out with a client and found that we both liked it, we went full force with it.”
So far, so good.
Plate IQ Bill Pay is just so much easier. It’s probably halved the time we were spending on payments. It’s literally go in, find the payments, click, save, approve, and you're done. And then it exports to Intacct. It's just such a huge time saver, because you're not working with the printer or paper checks.
“You have digital checks and ACH remittance advices stored in Plate IQ. So again, it just eliminates a lot of the need for this extra backup storage and this manual processing of the payments and connecting the payment stub to the check.”
Katie’s team appreciated the workflow enabled by Plate IQ Bill Pay: namely, that invoices could flow seamlessly into bill payments.
“It’s the fact that you can connect an invoice to its payment so they go out together. It’s the fact that it’s just click, Save, click, and you’re done. It’s great. Bill Pay has added so much efficiency and value that way.”
Clients appreciated the system too: no longer would bill registers have to be pulled manually from Sage Intacct and emailed back and forth.
“There’s a payment approval flow that was really built for clients to be able to go in and give their approval, which kind of eliminates the need for us to email that bill register.”
Beyond making it easier to approve and schedule payments, Plate IQ also helped the MCM team adapt to an unforeseen circumstance that deeply affected the company’s usual method of bill payment.
“Another manager told me recently that our company has a new policy of not mailing payments through the USPS within two weeks of due dates,” Katie says, “because they know it’s not going to get there on time. It’s just — it’s crazy what’s going on with that.”
“I had a meeting with the Plate IQ team to try to come up with solutions for what we can do to really cut back on check payments. They agreed to do a full look at the list of vendors that we’re sending payments to, and start contacting them to get the vCard payments set up. So we’re really excited about that opportunity.”
With Plate IQ making invoice management and bill pay more efficient, MCM’s Client Accounting Services group has decided to include Plate IQ in their general offering for every kind of client.
“We try to put all of our clients on there now,” reports Katie. “It just makes our user experience a lot better and a lot more efficient. If it works for the client, we’re using it.”
One result of the Plate IQ rollout has been a 50% reduction in the number of data-entry Associates needed to support a client base that hasn’t stopped growing.
When I first started, there were about eight associates in our group processing invoice data manually. And now we have three or four. We’ve cut it in half, just because, as people have left, we have been able to absorb the work they were doing because of this automation in the background.
More importantly, Plate IQ has represented exactly the kind of automation this CPA firm has been looking to roll out across their accounting services: something that eliminates manual work, gathers client data, and helps the firm become more of a strategic partner to their clients.
“We’re always looking for technological advances and automation opportunities,” says Katie. “We want to cut down the time we spend on tasks that can be automated so that we can offer that more advisory level of service.
“We want to continue to watch Plate IQ grow and offer us more opportunities for automation. Working with our vendors to get us speedier delivery of payments helps us add a lot value to our clients.
“It’s just helping us with this complete paradigm shift in the industry, because we’re not spending so much time doing these mundane data entry tasks.”
For more information on MCM CPAs & Advisors, visit MCMCPA.com. To learn how Plate IQ can help your accounting firm automate invoice processing, bill pay, and more, request a demo below.