Top Tools for Finance and Operations Teams

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.

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Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center to access additional guides that help finance and accounting teams navigate the challenges ahead, including a guide for running a Virtual Month-End Close and how to control spend.

What are the Top Digital Finance and Accounting Tools?

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.

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Procurify’s platform is able to bridge data between many financial software systems such as QuickBooks, NetSuite, Xero, and a host of other ERP and accounting tools. Learn how Procurify's integrations can streamline your company’s workflows.

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:

“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.

Cash Management Tools

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:

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To learn how companies can manage business spend responsibly, read our guide, Control in a Crisis, for four strategies.

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.

Pro Tip:

Procurify’s spend analytics and reporting features track actual spending against budgets to help companies make informed decisions to align spending to business goals. Analytics are broken down by user, department, or vendor to display trends and insights.

Digital Company Spending Tools

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.”
Jake Grimm, Virtual CFO and Head of IT, Summit CPA

Pro Tip:

Procurify removes the headache of messy month-end reconciliations on corporate andpersonal credit cards allowing for better expense tracking and faster reimbursements

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.

Digital Invoicing (Accounts Payable) Tools

Recommendations for different online Accounts Payable (AP) software:

ProCURIFY Tip:

Our free Purchase Order generator is a great business tool for companies seeking a blank purchase order template. This can also be customized with a company logo.

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.

Other Accounting, Finance, and Operations Tools

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.”
Paul Riegel, Regional Director, The CFO Centre

Here are a few other tools to make the transition to remote work easier.

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Want more strategies on managing and motivating distributed finance teams during the shift to remote work? Listen to our podcast interview on managing a remote team as a CFO.

Team Communication Tools Recommended by CFOs

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.”
Jody Grunden, CEO & Co-Founder, Summit CPA

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.

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To learn why Slack is Procurify’s top choice for accounting and finance teams, read our guide to Month-End Close for Remote Finance Teams.

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:

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.

Pro Tip:

Is it challenging to find a quiet corner when working from home to make work calls? Are your kids making too much noise at home? Are you always on mute? Good news. Krisp is a noise cancellation app powered by machine learning. Their web app and Chrome extension recognizes and removes any background noise in any communication app that you use.

Appointment Scheduling Tools

Time is money, and remote teams should never use email to plan meetings. Speed up your bookings with appointment scheduling apps and booking software.

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:

Security Tools Recommended by CFOs

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.

Secure VPNs

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.

Password Management

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.

Digital Productivity Tools

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:

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Looking for an easy-to-use checklist to control your company’s spend? Use our 16-Step Spend Control Checklist to proactively manage spend during periods of economic crisis.

“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.”

Tools to Help You Go Paperless

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.”
Kathy Ryan, Chair and Founder, RoseRyan

Time Tracking Tools

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.

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:

Zapier also has other integrations with Xero and integrations with Freshbooks such as:

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.

Tools for Employee Engagement and Support

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.”
Joe Sum, Controller, Outreach.io

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.

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To get more ideas on virtual friendly events for your company, read the online events section in our Remote Work Policy Guide.

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:

Pro Tip:

If you have kids at home, try Apptiv’s “Movement for Kids” and “Family Fitness” program.

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:

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.”
Ryan Levenberg, SVP Finance, Q4 Inc

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.