Ready or not, the sudden onset of COVID-19 has thrust everyone into the world of remote work and everybody is asking:
What Are The Best Digital Tools For Remote Accounting and Operations Teams?
We asked forward-thinking CFOs and CPAs to share the remote working tools they’re using to keep their teams connected, productive, and engaged.
Many of the remote tools included in this guide are offering free, extended trials to help companies during the pandemic. We’ve included direct links to these offers wherever possible.
If you’re trying to make your financial processes remote-friendly, we surveyed a number of different CFOs and asked what tools they recommend for accounting teams. To find the right fit for your company, we encourage you to explore and compare the recommended tools below on a B2B software review platform such as G2 or Capterra.
In a recent episode of Procurify’s Spend Culture Podcast, Ryan Lazanis at Future Firm was quick to point out that decentralized finance teams “need to digitize 100% of their workflows.”
“When something like COVID-19 comes into play for accounting firms and accounting departments… you won't be able to collaborate with your team using desktop accounting software. Operating as a paper-based operation is just not feasible anymore.”
Digital Accounting Systems Recommended by CFOs
The most popular accounting software tools are FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online, NetSuite, and Xero. We provide a brief overview of these different cloud accounting systems below.
- FreshBooks: The winner of FinancesOnline’s “Best Accounting Software” in 2019. Perfect for freelancers, professional service organizations, and companies that do not require inventory management. This system is simple to use with all the essential accounting features, including invoicing, reporting, and full online support. Pricing is customized for each company, and they also offer a 30-day free trial.
- QuickBooks Online: This accounting software is a popular option that allows features to be accessed from any device. They offer all standard accounting functions with basic reporting modules and an easy solution for tax filings as they integrate directly with TurboTax. While they are priced lower than NetSuite, they do not support multi-currencies.
- NetSuite: This popular Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is often considered the gold standard in accounting software as they offer one complete system with modules for accounting, CRM, inventory, and eCommerce. Perfect for organizations that want to run their entire business through one ERP and that need to support a large number of users. NetSuite’s higher price is accounted for in their robust array of different custom reports that can be built directly in the system. NetSuite also supports multi-currencies.
- Xero: Another popular accounting system with standard features, but they are really perfect for companies that need to manage inventory. They are known for their built-in, robust inventory management features. They are a bit more complex to set up, but have unique features for custom invoicing and strong project management tools. Xero has three pricing tiers that differ depending on the number of users and transactions.
Digital Spend Management Systems
Procurify is an all-in-one spend management solution that gives your finance team a centralized platform to manage all of your company’s purchasing.
The top benefits of using Procurify:
Since Procurify is hosted securely in the cloud, decentralized finance and operations teams can set up efficient approval workflows (no need for email or Slack!), quickly reconcile credit card statements and invoices, and collaborate on tasks via the mobile app.
Similarly, remote employees can use Procurify from anywhere to make purchase requests, submit expenses, and approve orders using their phone or desktop devices. Learn more about spend management for software companies.
Accounting Close Software
Financial close software helps accounting teams complete month-end close efficiently and effectively. These tools usually integrate with other accounting systems and allow users to create checklists and track the ongoing month-end close process so the entire team can view overall progress. A few popular options from the CFOs we interviewed:
- Blackline helps enterprise-sized teams automate and streamline financial closes, intercompany accounting, and other financial processes. Blackline prides itself on helping companies move past outdated, manual tasks to modern accounting operations.
- FloQast offers a close management solution for mid-market finance teams that helps them close the books faster and more accurately. On average, FloQast customers close their books three days faster. Their system automates reconciliations, helps improve team collaboration, and integrates with large software ERP systems.
“We use FloQast. This ties into the general ledger and makes sure that reconciliations work.”
Sales Tax Compliance Software
Sales tax software ensures that companies apply the correct local and federal sales tax rates on their transactions. Tax rules and regulations across all jurisdictions frequently change so businesses must apply accurate taxes from the start.
- Avalara is a cloud-based automated tax compliance solution with more than 700 integrations. The best solution for mid-sized businesses.
- TaxJar is a remote-first company with a technology solution perfect for small businesses. They claim to be the only sales tax solution powered by AI, with the fastest API in the industry.
- Vertex is a standing leader in corporate tax software, and their online system enables tax calculations and returns on the cloud. Built for enterprise companies.
Cash is king, so why not use a cash management system to help manage your cash flow and forecasting? Here’s what our CFOs recommend:
- Entreflow, an HR, finance, and marketing consultancy, offers a free cash flow tool for any business or startup. Their forecasting template is easy to use for quick and precise cash planning.
- Float is an award-winning cash flow forecasting software known for their rolling forecasts feature that helps businesses view cash flow in real-time to make more confident business decisions.
- Jirav is a financial planning and analysis tool that connects financial and operational data so companies can easily explore historical data and accurately forecast sales, expenses, and cash flows through interactive reports and dashboards. They are known for their ease of setup and quality customer support.
- PayPie helps accounting teams predict cash flow through daily, weekly, and monthly forecasts powered by custom what-if scenarios. They integrate with QuickBooks and Xero.
- Tesorio is a cash flow management system for mid-market companies that uses artificial intelligence to better manage, predict, and collect cash. Tesorio applies machine learning to financial data to help customers with accounts receivable automation, including smart workflow tools, predicted pay dates, and automated collections forecasting.
Corporate Performance Management (CPM) Software
and Business Planning Tools
Corporate Performance Management software helps companies monitor and manage overall business performance and improve operational efficiency.
- Adaptive Insights is a collaborative cloud software that helps mid-market finance teams with comprehensive financial planning, reporting, and analysis. Their system allows for the faster creation of more accurate budgets and visual reports.
- Anaplan’s cloud platform for enterprises can be used across every business function to improve planning processes. Anaplan’s financial modeling features allow finance teams to automate, structure, and connect a range of business use cases and quickly change models to reflect changing business conditions.
- Planguru’s software (as recommended by Summit CPA Group CFO Jake Grimm) helps businesses unlock powerful insights through budgeting and financial analytics, rolling forecasts, and strategic planning tools. PlanGuru provides over 20 forecasting methods allowing companies to project for up to 10 years.
- Tagetik’s cloud software enables finance teams to shorten the consolidation and close process, model, and compare the full financial impact of business scenarios, adjust strategic plans, update rolling forecasts, and create auditable financial statements and management reports.
Expensify, Divvy, and Expense Management through Procurify can help you stay in control of company spending, even when your teams are fully remote. These services let employees document company expenditures and upload receipts using their phones. Once uploaded, receipts and documentation are stored digitally, and expense reports are created in the cloud where they can be accessed and processed by the finance team.
“We’re moving customers to Divvy. They like it because it’s centralized around their credit card, and it offers more of a real-time approach instead of a retroactive view.”
Digital Invoicing Software (Accounts Receivable) Tools
Paper invoicing systems are extremely challenging for remote teams to manage, especially when COVID-19 shutdowns restrict in-person access to the workplace and the post office.
“I really encourage my startup companies to institute an approval management system early, like Expensify or Bill.com.”
Give these digital accounts receivable (AR) and invoicing systems a try. All systems below have a number of different integrations.
- Bill.com helps create and send digital invoices and run both accounts payable and AR processes remotely. To support companies during COVID-19, Bill.com is offering a 3-month free subscription of its Small Business plan for all new customers.
- Invoiced helps small businesses get paid faster by expediting the invoice-to-cash cycle and implementing payment plans and subscription billing capabilities.
- Invoice Sherpa syncs with a number of different accounting systems and automatically sends invoices, late payment reminders, collects payments, and conducts reconciliations. Perfect for small to mid-sized businesses.
- VersaPay is a cloud-based accounts receivable automation platform for mid-market companies. Their system offers customized invoices, payment collections, and automatic reconciliations.
- YayPay is smart accounts receivable software that simplifies the collections process and improves the invoicing experience by providing real-time visibility into the AR pipeline.
Digital Invoicing (Accounts Payable) Tools
Recommendations for different online Accounts Payable (AP) software:
- MineralTree provides an integrated and secure accounts payable and payment automation solution, with a focus on the mid-market sector.
- Tipalti is another cloud-based payment automation solution that helps small to medium-sized companies streamline AP and payment management.
- Procurify’s accounts payable module helps AP teams become more efficient through mobile receipt upload, quick invoice approvals, in-app chats, and easy three-way matching in one place. This functionality saves time, allows for confidence in records, and easily integrates with ERP systems like QuickBooks and NetSuite.
- Sensibill is another solution that provides different digital banking tools, such as AI-powered expense management. Sensibill helps organizations make sense of their spend behavior and cash flow, while unlocking revenue-driving insights for financial institutions.
Online Payroll and HR Tools
People are the most critical asset of any organization, so it’s crucial to find the right human resources (HR) and payroll service. Luckily, most tools now have cloud-based software systems.
- ADP is a popular industry-leading online payroll and HR solution for small to enterprise-sized companies. They also offer mobile solutions so team members can access payroll and benefits information on their phones.
- BambooHR is another popular online personalized Human Resources Information System (HRIS) that helps small to medium businesses manage people. This tool is perfect for onboarding, time tracking, and culture building.
- Ceridian is made for large companies with employees in the thousands. Their software combines payroll, HR, beneﬁts, talent, and workforce management in one cloud application.
- Gusto is an online people platform that helps small businesses with full-service payroll, HR, and team management.
- Rippling is the first employee management platform that connects payroll, benefits, and IT to one system of record, and automates everything.
- OnPay offers small businesses cloud-based payroll solutions. They are also licensed health insurance brokers.
- Payscale offers compensation software to help companies build a proper people strategy. Their features include real-time, data-driven insights to help companies make more informed compensation decisions.
- Wagepoint is a simple online payroll for small businesses across North America.
Teams may also require other accounting and finance systems depending on industry, company size, and stage of growth.
“Let’s face it. No one developer can build an application that meets all of the needs all of the time in the best way possible. So other companies have decided to branch out and develop software that fits a particular niche, such as payroll applications or purchasing applications, that sort of thing. And by doing that, they actually offer more functionality that better suits the needs of the business than those that are native to the ERP or one-size-fits-all applications.”
Here are a few other tools to make the transition to remote work easier.
- Carta is a stock option administration software building a global ownership management platform to help companies, investors, and employees manage their equity. Carta helps companies streamline how they manage equity from founding to IPO.
- Kyriba is a treasury management software that empowers CFOs and finance teams to activate liquidity for growth. With a set of software products that span treasury, risk, payments, and working capital, their Kyriba Active Liquidity Network connects companies with external partners and information sources, while delivering valuable insights.
- NETSTOCK is a cloud-based inventory management system for small to medium-size companies. Its replenishment application reduces excess inventory, manages demand forecasting, and recommends ideal purchase orders to make efficient inventory decisions.
Communication is vital when it comes to keeping remote teams productive and engaged. Here are some of the best apps for keeping the communication flowing between your remote finance and operations teams.
“I would say communication is by far the number one thing that we had to adjust to, both internally and with our clients. Working from home isn’t difficult if you've got the right communication tools in place.”
Here are some of the best apps for keeping the communication flowing between your remote finance and operations teams.
Online Teams Collaboration Systems
Online collaboration systems help accounting and operations teams create better context, improve workflows, and maintain connection.
- Messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams help your finance and operations teams stay connected 1:1 and in groups. Both of these apps are like a business version of a messaging app with additional features that fix the challenges of communicating via email.
- If your team relies heavily on visual communications, Loom allows users to quickly record and send encrypted videos faster than it would take to type an email.
- Miss working with your team members on a whiteboard? Screen is an app that lets people work together like they are in the same room. Share screens with your team and communicate visually by drawing on the screen to highlight a key point, or better communicate an idea. Screen is also fully integrated into Slack.
- Vidyard is another online video platform that allows companies to create, host, and share videos with colleagues and external customers.
Platforms for Video Conferencing & Virtual Meetings
Video conferencing is vital to remote teams. Thankfully, almost every video conferencing platform has elevated the free plans they’re offering businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak. There are many options available, and we recommend selecting the tool that will keep teams most engaged and efficient while adhering to your company’s security requirements.
Check out these video conferencing apps for your remote team:
- Adobe Connect: Free until July 1st, 2020, for meetings of up to 25 participants.
- 8x8: Video meetings are free to all users, with 80+ local dial-in numbers (11 toll-free) from 55+ countries. 8x8 is currently providing free video conferencing to help employees and businesses stay connected as they work remotely.
- BlueJeans: Secure video conferencing and screen sharing platform used by Facebook, Intuit, and ADP. Free 7 day trial.
- Free Conference Call: Free online conference calls, with the option to upgrade and access additional features.
- Google Hangouts Meet: Free calls with up to 15 participants. Meet recently extended advanced features such as tile layouts and noise cancellation to all G Suite customers.
- Messenger Rooms: Facebook’s new free feature allows users to start video conferences with up to 50 people with no time limit from a phone or computer.
- Microsoft Teams: Send instant messages, make audio and video calls, and collaborate on shared documents. Free version available.
- UberConference: Free for up to 10 users on 45-minute calls.
- Whereby: Free for users with one video conferencing room.
- Slack: Free built-in video and audio calls.
- Skype: The original video conferencing system is still available and standing strong. Free when connecting with other Skype users.
- Zoom (another Procurify favorite): Free 1:1 calls. Free calls for 100 participants, up to 40 minutes long. Learn Zoom best practices in our Remote Work Policy Guide.
If reliable security and encryption are priorities, Symphony offers end-to-end encryption on its cloud-based collaboration tools (which include chat, voice, and video conferencing). Symphony encrypts all of its messages end-to-end, which is necessary for security-sensitive institutions, such as financial services.
Time is money, and remote teams should never use email to plan meetings. Speed up your bookings with appointment scheduling apps and booking software.
- Calendly can speed up the time it takes to schedule meetings by giving users the option to view and book time in a teammate’s calendar.
- Chilipiper, a Procurify favorite, instantly books meetings in one click from Gmail, Google Calendar, Salesforce, Salesloft, Outreach, and other platforms. This a perfect way to schedule meetings and calls with others without the back-and-forth.
- Doodle is a good option when large teams are involved. Create meeting polls and suggest an array of different meeting dates and times so others can vote on the dates and times that work best for them.
Cloud-Hosted Phone Numbers
If your finance and operations teams need access to dedicated phone lines while they work remotely, check out these services before you start installing business landlines in your employees’ homes:
Remote teams still need to abide by the data security obligations. Security is especially important for finance and operations teams who handle myriads of confidential information from payroll to leases and financial reports. Some of these security apps and services will be better for your needs than others, so have your IT team investigate each option before you invest.
Single Sign-On (SSO) Services
SSO services like Azure and Okta offer multi-factor authentication, which can prevent remote users from cybersecurity attacks. Your employees can use SSO to securely log in to all of their team’s apps and services using a single username and password.
VPNs for businesses and CloudFlare for Teams can provide an extra layer of security when remote employees connect to your company’s internal apps and services.
Sharing team logins and passwords via email or messaging apps isn’t ideal. Remote work also removes the ability to pass ‘secure’ written passwords around. Secure online password managers have erupted in popularity over the last few years and only require users to remember one master password to access all of their accounts.
- Procurify uses Dashlane. Dashlane helps companies set up a secure system to create, store, and share highly secure passwords within remote work teams. For instance, passwords for different accounting and finance tools can be locked in a ‘finance’ folder, and access to that entire folder shared with others on the team. The first three months of a Dashlane premium or business subscription are now free to new users.
- 1Password allows users to generate and store passwords exclusively in a vault. 1Password is also offering extended free trials to help companies deal with the effects of COVID-19.
- LastPass is similar to 1Password but allows users to easily share individual passwords and notes to an unlimited number of other users through a shared folder.
Proper time management becomes even more important for virtual teams. Make sure everybody is set up for success and efficiency by bringing in systems to optimize all processes.
Electronic Signature Platforms
Physically signing paper documentation will slow down your remote team’s workflows, especially if you need to acquire several signatures for a single document. Use a service like Adobe Sign, DocuSign, or HelloSign to set up cloud-based electronic signatures for your team.
Digital Project Management Tools
When teams work remotely, it’s vital to give everyone transparent, real-time visibility into all projects.
The accounting close systems discussed above are useful for virtual closes, but what about other processes? Cloud project management platforms like the ones below give everyone on your team real-time visibility into what everyone’s working on and to stay ahead of upcoming deadlines:
- Asana’s work management platform helps teams of all sizes organize and manage workflows through visual project plans, task coordination, and automated processes.
- Aero helps accountants and accounting firms document proper workflows by creating and storing detailed procedures, creating task templates and checklists, and track all progress. Aero also integrates with QuickBooks Online.
- Basecamp is a premier project management and internal communication platform that keeps teams organized and helps prioritize work. Basecamp has been a successful remote company for more than 20 years, so they know a thing or two about efficient remote workflows!
- ClickUp is a streamlined productivity platform that incorporates a multitude of features, including process management, time management, task management, reporting, and team collaboration.
- Confluence is a knowledge management and project collaboration workspace that comes with best-practice templates where teams can communicate through inline and page comments.
- Fellow helps remote managers have better 1-on-1s with their team. This cloud-project syncs with structured workflows that maximize the time remote employees are investing in online meetups.
- Karbon is a collaborative workflow automation platform for accounting firms to manage projects, communicate with groups, and manage different clients.
- Lucidchart is perfect for organizations who prefer a visual process planning tool. This online diagram software and visual solution enables teams to create professional flowcharts, process maps, and charts.
- Monday.com is an operating system where teams create workflow apps to run customizable processes, projects, and everyday work in a collaborative workspace with a user-friendly dashboard.
- Notion is an all-in-one online file management workspace for notes, tasks, wikis, and databases that also integrates kanban boards.
- ProWorkflow is an online project management software that enables companies to organize, plan, and delegate tasks while using the timeline to have an overview of company activity. ProWorkflow also integrates with Freshbooks, QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop, and Xero.
- Trello is a visual Kanban-style collaboration tool that helps companies keep track of all types of processes and projects. Trello’s easy-to-use boards enable teams to organize, prioritize, and move the tasks between boards.
“We use a tool called ClickUp as our project and communication management tool. We also do a standup SCRUM every day at 9:00 am where everyone shares their top three tasks for the day and any roadblocks. We have a team meeting every Thursday where we go through our wins, challenges, and high fives that we give out to team members.”
If your team typically handles a lot of paper documentation, such as leases, vendor contracts, invoices, and prior period reports with marked up comments, you’ll need to create paperless workflows.
Just as we advised in our guide to Month-End Close for Remote Accounting and Finance Teams, we recommend that you designate one person who can go into the office to convert paper documents to digital files using any of the following methods:
Once your paperwork is digitized, store and access your digital documentation in a secure cloud-based service like Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive.
“You have to be as much in the cloud as possible. We use a lot of Google Sheets, Google Documents, and Google Slides because everything's in the cloud, and you can be far more productive.”
Accounting freelancers, consultants, and agencies track time for billing purposes, but they are not the only ones who should think about this. Tracking time can be useful for team members at any company for time management purposes and to glean insights into how long specific projects and tasks take to complete.
- Clockify is a free online time tracker and timesheet software for teams of all sizes. It’s easy to use and tracks schedules and project completion as well.
- Harvest is a web-based time tracker that also has a built-in professional invoicing application, so this is perfect for consultants and freelancers.
- Toggl is a popular online time tracking tool that allows users to track the time spent on different projects and analyze productivity. Toggl also has a mobile app that syncs with its desktop version.
Tools to Automate Repetitive Tasks
If your remote finance and operations teams invest much time in repetitive tasks, check if you can automate them with a service like IFTTT or Zapier. Both of these platforms offer automation workflows that connect apps, software, and services that don’t typically integrate.
As an example, in Zapier, the following automations are available:
- When I get a new email (such as an invoice) in Gmail
- Copy the attachment from Gmail to Dropbox
- Alert me in Slack about the new Dropbox file
Zapier also has other integrations with Xero and integrations with Freshbooks such as:
- Create invoices from new Stripe charges
- Save new invoices to a Google Sheets spreadsheet
- Get Slack alerts for new invoices
It can take a bit of tinkering to find and set up the automations your team needs. But once the right workflows are in place, you’ll save a lot of time.
Naturally, finance and operations teams are experiencing an increase in communication since going remote in the wake of COVID-19.
“We are communicating more and spending more time connecting as a team. It’s been good for morale, and for working through problems together as a remote team.”
These tools can help you double down on employee engagement and support for your newly-remote teams.
Virtual Socializing Activities for Companies
Remote working can get lonely at the best of times. Actively planning initiatives that keep your teams connected can boost morale and encourage employees to stay connected socially.
Create casual Slack channels that are just for socializing and make sure your people and culture teams schedule a variety of virtual activities.
Physical Wellbeing Activities
Physical health equals mental health. Encourage your team members to maintain a physical fitness routine that works for them.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “it is possible to keep active, even when you are confined indoors. Now, as more of us are living and working or studying in the same space, it is even more important to take active breaks to move, stretch and make the time to focus on our mental wellbeing.”
Everybody approaches exercise differently, so ensure each person feels supported in whatever practice they choose.
Here are a few ideas on how to stay physically active:
Mental Wellbeing Apps
Prioritizing the mental wellbeing of yourself and your teams during the pandemic is of utmost importance. Physical distancing, frustrations of working from home, and uncertainty can lead to isolation, anxiety, and stress.
According to the WHO, “keeping all staff protected from chronic stress and poor mental health during this response means that they will have a better capacity to fulfill their roles. Be sure to keep in mind that the current situation will not go away overnight, and you should focus on longer-term occupational capacity rather than repeated short-term crisis responses.”
Here are a few digital tools that can positively support mental health during this challenging time:
- Breathwrk, Breethe, Black Lotus App, Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, and Shine are all mobile apps that offer programs and meditations to help reduce stress and anxiety.
- 7 Cups connects users to caring listeners for free emotional support. Try their free 24/7 chat, self-care guides, or confidential online therapy.
- Calm Radio offers music and guided meditations to help employees stay focused and productive.
- Sphere is a digital platform where users can connect with coaches across different specializations, including wellbeing and life.
- TalkSpace offers confidential, affordable online therapy with professional, licensed therapists. They even have a digital employee assistance program for employers.
The bottom line
We hope these cloud apps and digital tools will help your finance, accounting, and operations teams transition more effectively to remote work life. We'll end this guide with advice on how best to implement new systems and tools at your organization.
“Over the last five years, I’ve implemented seven to eight new systems. My mistake was not spending enough time on the scope of work and understanding how the software worked in the live environment. Once a system went live, we had to undo things. It’s important to have competent individuals implement the system in case you require massive workarounds. Spend the time upfront to document the intricacies of your business so you can configure new tools with minimal customizations.”
If you’re looking for additional tools, read Future Firm’s master list of cloud accounting software apps.
For additional guidance and resources on remote process workflows for finance, accounting, and operations teams, visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.