The Best Accounting Automation Tools: An In-depth Review

published on 27 October 2023

No doubt, most accountants will agree:

Manually processing accounting tasks is tedious and time-consuming.

Luckily, today there are powerful accounting automation tools that can streamline accounting workflows.

These solutions leverage AI and machine learning to automate routine finance and accounting processes - saving accountants significant time and effort.

In this post, we review the top accounting automation software available, including QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks, and more. We evaluate features like core accounting functionality, scalability, integrations, and security to help you determine the best solution for your needs.


Accounting automation software aims to simplify and streamline financial processes for businesses. As the backbone of any organization's financial health, choosing the right accounting solution is crucial.

This article provides an in-depth analysis of some of the top accounting automation tools available today. We review key features, benefits, and considerations to help identify the best options based on your business's unique needs and budget.

Overall, accounting automation delivers tangible improvements in accuracy, efficiency, visibility and scalability across an organization's financial data and workflows. However, the software landscape offers many choices, each with varying strengths. Conducting thorough due diligence enables smarter buying decisions.

Which technology is used to automate the accounting process?


RPA (Robotic Process Automation) platforms are a leading technology used to automate repetitive accounting tasks that follow clear, defined steps. By mechanizing the process through software robots, RPA eliminates the need for manual work on mundane activities like data entry of invoice or transaction details into accounting systems.

The benefit of RPA for accounting automation is that it does not actually alter the workflow or process. Rather, it replicates and streamlines the steps for improved speed, accuracy and efficiency. This makes RPA well suited for consistent, rules-based tasks with little required decision making or variance.

Common examples of RPA applications in accounting include:

  • Automatically extracting data from invoices or other documents to input into ERPs
  • Reconciling accounts in a standardized, prescribed manner
  • Processing routine AP/AR transactions like payments or invoices
  • Consolidating data from multiple systems to generate reports

Overall, as a leading automation technology purpose-built to replicate human actions, RPA delivers major time and cost savings in accounting. It works best for automating highly repetitive, manual processes that follow prescribed sets of steps. While RPA won't entirely replace accountants' analysis and judgement, it alleviates the rote activities to allow more strategic focus.

Is automation good for accounting?

Automation plays a pivotal role in transforming accounting practices. By automating repetitive and routine tasks, accounting professionals can focus their efforts on providing more strategic value to organizations.

Several key accounting functions see significant benefits from automation:

  • Accounts payable & receivable: Automating invoice processing, approval workflows, payment runs, and reconciliation tasks improves efficiency and reduces errors caused by manual data entry. Solutions like QuickBooks and BlackLine Accounting Studio optimize the entire order-to-cash process.

  • Payroll: Automated payroll systems seamlessly integrate with HR platforms to calculate paychecks, taxes, and regulatory filings accurately without heavy staff involvement. This provides a smooth payroll experience for employees while maintaining compliance.

  • General ledger: Automating the recording and categorizing of financial transactions helps produce financial statements rapidly. Built-in validations boost data accuracy by preventing incorrect postings.

  • Reporting & analysis: Automated report generation using the latest AI algorithms enables faster insights. Dashboards with real-time metrics facilitate rapid decision-making.

While automation reshapes certain accounting tasks, the advisory aspects of the profession relying on human analysis, judgment and strategic thinking remain irreplaceable. Overall, accounting automation empowers professionals to elevate their roles beyond number-crunching towards more impactful financial leadership. The future of the industry will likely see symbiotic collaboration between accounting software and human experts to drive organizational success.

What is CPA automation?

Conversational Process Automation (CPA) leverages artificial intelligence and natural language processing to enable seamless communication between customers and business processes. CPA platforms can understand requests made in everyday human language, trigger appropriate workflows, and respond to customers in a natural, conversational way.

Here are some key things to know about CPA technology:

  • Bridges the gap between front and back-office systems, connecting conversations with processes
  • Automates repetitive workflows through AI-enabled conversational interfaces
  • Allows customers to make requests and get updates using natural language
  • Reduces need for human agents to manually trigger processes and relay information
  • Speeds up processes and improves customer experience through fast, personalized conversations

CPA represents the cutting edge in intelligent automation. This technology can streamline operations, boost efficiency, and enhance customer satisfaction. As more businesses adopt CPA, expect to see increased convenience and simplicity across customer service interactions.

What is intelligent accounting automation?

Intelligent accounting automation utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to streamline and automate accounting workflows. This emerging technology can help businesses save time and money by reducing manual data entry and processing.

Some key capabilities of AI-powered accounting automation platforms include:

Document Processing

  • Automatically capturing and extracting data from invoices, receipts, bills, and other financial documents. This eliminates the need for manual data entry.

Transaction Matching

  • Matching documents like invoices to related transactions, enabling auto-reconciliation. This minimizes accounting discrepancies.

Policy Enforcement

  • Applying predefined accounting rules and policies when processing transactions. This enforces compliance and consistency.

Anomaly Detection

  • Identifying unusual transactions that fall outside expected parameters. This helps flag potential issues or fraud.

By integrating intelligent automation into accounting processes, businesses can achieve greater efficiency, accuracy, control and insight. Leading solutions like BlackLine Accounting Studio leverage the latest AI innovations to provide a smart, self-operating accounting engine.

While automation aims to minimize manual efforts, qualified accounting staff is still essential for oversight and maximizing value. But with the right intelligent automation tools, accountants can focus less on repetitive data tasks and more on strategic initiatives.


The Rise of AI in Accounting Software

Accounting automation tools have emerged in recent years to help businesses streamline manual and repetitive accounting tasks. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, these smart accounting applications can independently perform core accounting functions with little to no human intervention. They provide numerous benefits such as improved efficiency, accuracy, and real-time visibility into financial data.

Defining AI Accounting Software

AI accounting software automates routine bookkeeping and accounting workflows using advanced technologies like optical character recognition (OCR), natural language processing (NLP), and predictive algorithms. Key capabilities include:

  • Automated data entry and transaction logging: Software can extract key information from invoices, receipts, and other paperwork to autonomously populate journals and ledgers.

  • Automated bank reconciliation: Software can automatically match transactions between accounting ledgers and bank statements, flagging exceptions. This saves immense time and effort.

  • Real-time accounting and reporting: Software can continuously track financial KPIs and generate customized reports on demand, bypassing manual and error-prone processes.

Benefits of Smart Accounting Software

Adopting smart accounting software delivers tangible gains:

  • Boosts productivity: By automating repetitive manual work, software lets accountants focus on value-adding tasks like data analysis and advisory. Staff productivity is turbocharged.

  • Improves accuracy: Manual data entry and calculations inevitably contain human errors. Automation ensures perfect precision and accounting accuracy.

  • Delivers real-time visibility: Software updates ledgers continuously and generates on-demand reports, enabling better visibility into financial health.

  • Enhances analytics: Automated categorization of transactions provides rich data to analyze for cost optimization, forecasting etc.

  • Reduces costs: With less manual work needed, businesses can reduce overheads and shift resources to revenue-generating activities.

Considerations Before Adopting Auto Accounting Software

While automation delivers immense gains, there are a few factors businesses should evaluate:

  • Integration requirements: Assess how easily software integrates with existing tech stacks like ERPs to prevent disruptions.

  • Data privacy and security: Vet the data governance of automation software, especially security, access control and compliance certifications.

  • Employee skill gaps: Determine if retraining or newer talent is required as software takes over routine tasks.

  • Change management: Clearly communicate changes to employees and address concerns to ensure smooth technology adoption.

With careful planning, businesses can harness automation to transform productivity and gain an advantage over peers.

Leading Accounting Automation Tools Reviewed

Accounting automation software is transforming how modern businesses manage their finances. Intelligent features like AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics are creating intelligent systems that simplify accounting processes.

Leading solutions can automatically capture and categorize transactions, reconcile accounts, ensure compliance, create financial statements, and provide advanced reporting. This enables finance teams to focus on strategic planning rather than manual data entry.

We reviewed some of the top accounting automation platforms available today. Here is an overview of their key capabilities.

QuickBooks: The Front-Runner in Auto Accounting Software

Intuit's QuickBooks is the most widely used small business accounting platform. Its automation features like intelligent data capture and predictive insights help streamline processes.

Key automation capabilities:

  • SmartScan automatically captures and categorizes expenses from bills and receipts using OCR technology and AI, eliminating manual data entry.

  • Machine learning detects patterns in cash flow to provide cash flow predictions, enabling better planning.

  • Advanced reporting features automatically compile data into dashboards, financial statements, and performance metrics.

With powerful automation tailored for small business use, QuickBooks simplifies accounting so companies can focus on growth.

Xero: Streamlining Finances with Automation

Xero offers a robust cloud accounting solution for small businesses. Features like automated bank reconciliation and intelligent reporting reduce accounting busywork.

Key automation features:

  • Automated bank feeds and reconciliation reconcile transactions and match them to bank account data.

  • Machine learning categorizes expenses, invoices customers automatically, and alerts for anomalies.

  • Customizable dashboards provide real-time financial insights and metrics to inform better decisions.

Xero leverages automation to help small business owners control their finances more effectively.

FreshBooks: Simplifying Small Business Accounting

FreshBooks simplifies accounting automation for startups and solopreneurs. It focuses on core small business financial needs - streamlined invoicing, expense tracking, reporting, and more.

Key automation capabilities:

  • Automatic recurring invoices save time by scheduling invoices to renew on set dates.

  • Intelligent scanning of bills, receipts, and expenses eliminates manual data entry.

  • Visual reports on profit and loss, expenses, account balances, and taxes provide an automated overview of finances.

For small teams with limited accounting needs, FreshBooks automation delivers the essentials with an easy learning curve.

Sage Intacct: Advanced Automation for Financial Management

Sage Intacct is a cloud financial management platform designed for mid-sized businesses. It delivers advanced accounting automation features leveraging AI and machine learning.

Key automation features:

  • Automated cash management features like predictive forecasting of cash positions.

  • AI-driven matching and reconciliation of complex multi-system transactions.

  • Automated revenue recognition ensures compliance with accounting standards.

  • Custom reporting dashboards provide real-time visibility into financial KPIs.

For growing businesses, Sage Intacct automation enables scalable, high-performance financial operations.

Acumatica: The Cloud ERP Solution for Automated Accounting

Acumatica Cloud ERP provides integrated business management capabilities with comprehensive accounting automation. It suits various industries and business sizes.

Key automation features:

  • Machine learning streamlines data capture from documents like purchase orders and sales orders.

  • Automated intercompany accounting handles internal transfers and consolidations.

  • Custom workflows automate approval chains for invoices, bills, and other financial documents.

  • Embedded BI tools enable real-time analytics and financial reporting.

As an ERP, Acumatica automation spans far beyond just accounting, enabling system-wide coordination.

NetSuite ERP: Leveraging AI for Business Growth

NetSuite ERP combines enterprise resource planning with robust accounting automation. It leverages AI and machine learning to enable data-driven business planning and growth.

Key automation capabilities:

  • AI-driven financial planning tools provide projections and models to inform strategic decisions.

  • Predictive analytics detects trends and scenarios to mitigate risks proactively.

  • Automated order-to-cash and purchase-to-pay processes synchronize complex workflows.

  • Self-service reporting eliminates reliance on finance teams for insights.

For complex mid-market businesses, NetSuite automation enhances visibility and control across integrated systems.

BlackLine Accounting Studio: The Automation Specialist

BlackLine specializes in accounting process automation tailored for enterprises. Accounting Studio is its flagship intelligent automation platform.

Key features:

  • End-to-end automation for key processes like intercompany accounting, consolidations, reconciliations, and closing procedures.

  • Continuous transaction matching and variance analysis.

  • Automated generation and distribution of reports to stakeholders.

  • Ensures financial control and compliance with accounting regulations like SOX.

With rich expertise in accounting, BlackLine delivers automation specialized for complex finance use cases.


Today's leading accounting platforms provide intelligent automation to simplify processes, ensure compliance, enable insights-driven planning, and boost productivity.

QuickBooks, Xero, and FreshBooks deliver essential automation for small business finances. Sage Intacct, Acumatica, NetSuite, and BlackLine offer more advanced enterprise-grade automation.

Evaluating options based on business scale, complexity, and desired outcomes is key to selecting the right solution. Automating accounting can accelerate growth by freeing up finance teams to focus on high-impact initiatives.

Evaluation Criteria for Selecting the Best Accounting Automation Tools

When evaluating accounting automation software, it's important for businesses to assess solutions based on key criteria that address their current and future needs. This ensures the right long-term platform is selected to streamline accounting processes as the business scales.

Assessing Core Accounting Functionality and Automation

The core functionality around general ledger, financial reporting, and accounting workflows should be reviewed first when comparing solutions. Key aspects to analyze include:

  • Breadth of accounting capabilities - Assess support for accounts payable/receivable, invoicing, expense management, fixed assets, cash flow management, and other accounting features. Prioritize capabilities that match immediate requirements.

  • Configurability - Evaluate how flexible the system is to model the existing accounting structure and workflows. This ensures a smoother transition after implementation.

  • Accounting intelligence - Review built-in reporting and analytics that provide real-time visibility into financial performance. Dashboards, KPIs, and custom reports should require minimal IT support.

  • Workflow automation - Examine opportunities to automate repetitive accounting tasks. This increases productivity and reduces risk of errors.

User Experience: Navigating the Ease of Use

The accounting platform's user experience can significantly impact an accountant's effectiveness and job satisfaction. Core aspects to examine include:

  • Intuitiveness - Assess how easy the navigation and accounting functions are to use without extensive training. This improves staff adoption after deployment.

  • Responsiveness - Review the performance of key processes like report generation and search to ensure speedy responses. Delays waste time and impact productivity.

  • Accessibility - Examine ubiquitous access options across devices, browsers, and operating systems. This enables users to perform accounting tasks from anywhere.

  • Personalization - Check how simple it is for users to customize accounting views, reporting, notifications, and configurations to their preferences. This enhances individual efficiency.

Planning for Growth: Scalability of Accounting Systems

Evaluating the scalability of the accounting platform ensures it can support current needs and future business growth. Key considerations include:

  • Number of users supported - Verify the solution can handle both current and projected accounting personnel as the company expands. This prevents future migration costs.

  • Multi-entity management - Assess capabilities to manage multiple global business entities from a unified ledger if geographic expansion is planned.

  • Data storage - Examine expected data growth trends for financial transactions and confirm the platform can cost-effectively manage future volume. This prevents performance declines as data expands over time.

  • Compliance management - Review how effectively the system consolidates financial data across business units to support compliance with regulatory changes like revenue recognition standards.

Seamless Data and API Integrations

Since accounting relies heavily on business data from other systems, evaluating integration capabilities is crucial. Key aspects include:

  • ERP integrations - Review pre-built connectors to sync accounting with popular ERP, CRM, and ecommerce platforms. This reduces manual data entry and risk of errors.

  • Custom application integration - Examine options to integrate with proprietary or custom-built business applications via APIs and cloud data services. This tailors the accounting environment to unique systems.

  • Bank data integration - Assess ease of automatically syncing banking transactions into the general ledger. This eliminates manual reconciliation effort while enhancing transaction visibility.

Ensuring Security in Accounting Automation

Protecting sensitive financial data should be an overriding priority when selecting an accounting automation platform. Key areas to analyze include:

  • Access controls - Review how user access and accounting actions can be restricted by role to enhance internal security protocols. This prevents unauthorized access or changes.

  • Data encryption - Examine the use of key encryption technologies to protect highly sensitive financial data like bank account details. This reduces cyberattack risks.

  • Compliance certification - Verify that physical and technical safeguards adhere to regulations like SOC2 and ISO27001 for financial data security, transmission and storage. This ensures compliance readiness.

  • Backup and recovery - Evaluate availability of data backups and disaster recovery capabilities to enable restoration after unexpected failures or outages. This minimizes business disruption.

By thoroughly evaluating accounting automation tools across these key assessment criteria, businesses can select the ideal long-term platform to scale without introducing risks as operational needs evolve. Prioritizing core accounting functionality, usability, scalability, integration, and security ensures a solution that enhances productivity and provides a foundation for sustainable growth.

Accounting automation tools like QuickBooks and BlackLine have transformed financial operations, enabling companies to streamline processes, reduce errors, and free up staff for higher-value work. As technology continues to advance rapidly, what does the future hold for accounting automation? Here are three key trends to watch.

The Rise of AI and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have huge potential to take accounting automation to the next level. As these technologies mature, we will see them applied in creative ways, such as:

  • Natural language processing to "read" and extract data from contracts, invoices, and other documents automatically
  • Intelligent data entry by learning how different users enter data and predictively filling fields
  • Advanced anomaly detection to flag potential errors or fraud for review
  • Smart forecasting and planning to leverage internal and external datasets
  • Chatbots answering accounting queries from staff
  • Automated bank reconciliations and transaction matching

The capabilities of AI accounting tools will continue growing exponentially in the years ahead.

Specialized Solutions for Industries and Functions

While solutions like QuickBooks serve the general small business market, we are seeing more tailored automation tools emerge for specific industries and accounting functions. Highly-specialized solutions can streamline workflows even further.

For example, BlackLine focuses on accounting controls and reconciliations for large enterprises. Other leading solutions cater to ecommerce companies, retailers, software firms, law practices, nonprofits and more. Each applies automation strategically based on how that industry operates.

Moving forward, expect solutions that go deeper within accounting as well. For instance, automating all steps and touch points involved in the financial close process.

Tighter Integration with Complementary Systems

Accounting doesn't happen in a silo. For automation to reach its full potential, accounting platforms need seamless integration with other systems used by finance teams, as well as those used companywide.

The level of integration offered by accounting automation tools is improving, with standardized APIs that connect quickly to ERPs, bank accounts, PoS systems, ecommerce platforms, CRMs, expenses, payroll, planning tools and more. Smooth data syncing eliminates manual duplication of data entry across systems.

As the API economy grows, accounting automation solutions will plug straight into best-of-breed applications across the tech stack to remove friction from financial processes.

Accounting automation is entering an exciting period of rapid transformation fueled by emerging innovations. As leading vendors continue pushing boundaries and exploring ideas like AI and specialized tools, the accounting function will achieve new heights of productivity and efficiency. What other developments do you envision for the future of smarter accounting automation?

Final Thoughts and Top Picks

The automation of accounting processes can provide immense value through improved efficiency, accuracy, and insight. However, not all solutions are equal and businesses should evaluate their unique needs before deciding on an accounting automation tool.

When assessing solutions, key criteria to consider include integration capabilities, scalability, security protocols, customer support availability, and total cost of ownership.

Top Solutions for Small Businesses

For small businesses, QuickBooks Online and FreshBooks offer user-friendly accounting automation at affordable price points. They provide core functionalities like automated invoicing, payment processing, and reporting. Their third-party app integrations also allow customizations for specific workflows.

Top Solutions for Mid-Market Businesses

Mid-sized companies can benefit greatly from more robust platforms like NetSuite and Sage Intacct. They harness the power of AI and machine learning to unlock advanced automation across all financial processes. Although implementation requires more effort, long-term productivity gains and actionable analytics justify the investment for rapidly scaling organizations.

Top Solutions for Enterprise Organizations

Large corporations often have complex legacy accounting systems requiring specialized integration expertise. In these scenarios, BlackLine's account reconciliation automation and process mining by Galvanize are ideal. With custom configurations, they help automate the most intricate workflows that rely on high data volumes from multiple enterprise systems. The cost savings from such large-scale automation are exponential.

Evaluating accounting automation tools requires a nuanced analysis of organizational demands, growth objectives, and existing infrastructure. With the right solution, companies can transform productivity, analytics, and customer experiences - yielding a substantial competitive advantage.

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