Can Stream Deck Aid accounting productivity grow?


A growing number of CPAs are turning to tools outside of the accounting world like Stream Deck to increase their efficiency. But how does it work in an accounting context and what are its limits?

The Stream Deck was originally designed as a console to allow gamers and other live broadcasters such as DJs or product demonstrators to change camera angles, generate sound effects or launch accounts at countdown, reducing formally complex processes to the push of a button.

However, the tool is increasingly being used by accountants to streamline heavy-duty tasks such as filling out standard invoices, launching financial reports on accounting tools like Xero, and launching and integrating complex formulas into Excel.

As shown in the image below, users are presented with a panel of customizable LCD buttons that activate user-programmed workflows. Each button has the ability to open a sublevel of buttons, so the 15-button version of the Stream Deck can potentially offer up to 210 options, opening up a small library of application icons for the user.

Image: Dave Sellick

So how does a tool focused on the arena of play end up improving efficiency within an accounting practice?

One example comes from UK-based Chartered Accountant Dave Sellick. He’s been experimenting with Stream Deck for four years after coming across it on Amazon during a frustrating late-night session creating a financial model in Excel.

When it comes to launching shortcuts and workflows, Sellick calls the effect Stream Deck has had on his training workflows “transformational.”

By removing the time it takes to navigate to app icons or folder windows, click the mouse, enter credentials, click again, etc., Sellick said that over time he has saved large amounts of time spent regularly on small, repetitive, mindless tasks. .

At a more granular level, Sellick uses the example of the Xero ‘Find and Recode’ function. Taking a traditional approach, performing the function takes six mouse clicks, but once a Stream Deck workflow has been written, this is reduced to a single button press. Not revolutionary on its own, but when applied regularly to a number of clients, the time savings add up.

You can also program a Stream Deck workflow to enter regularly used standard text, such as your name, email or postal address, or a boilerplate statement (up to 500 characters) with a simple press of a button. button.

Marginal gains

Then there’s Logan Graf, founder of The Graf Tax Co based in Leander, TX. He started using the Stream Deck earlier this year and uses it as part of a quest for marginal gains – the theory expounded by cycling coach Dave Brailsford that a number of small improvements can add up to much larger gains.

Rather than logging into each application his practice uses individually, Graf programmed the credentials into the Stream Deck so that they open with the press of a button. “It opens up everything I need for the day without having to click, enter information, and log in,” Graf said. “It’s a real boost in quality of life.”

Graf also explores using the tool to set prompts for customers. “If I’ve completed a tax return, press a folder button on Stream Deck and then another to bring up a pre-written email template that says ‘your tax return is ready’ and that’s it. Well.”

QX Global Group partner Dishant Desai was introduced to the tool by a game-loving nephew and began experimenting with how it could be applied to accounting. In addition to the sign-in functionality described by Graf, Desai uses Stream Deck for interaction on Microsoft Teams and has been exploring other apps recently.

“We create many standard invoices daily,” Desai said. “I created a workflow that automatically fills in things like standard amounts and descriptions. Manually it takes about 30-45 seconds – now I can reduce that time and if I’m doing 20-25 invoices a day, I save about 10 minutes.

The examples outlined above barely scratch the surface of the potential application of Stream Deck workflows for accountants – other examples include Excel and GSheets shortcuts, timesheet recording, network posting social and practice management reports.

Shortcut comparisons

When comparing the features of Stream Deck to other similar offerings, a reasonable starting point would be that many of its features can be added as desktop or startup folder shortcuts.

Powerful Microsoft users may also point out that Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) programming in Office also supports almost any operation you can perform with a mouse, keyboard, or dialog box.

Stream Platform Limitations

While the time-saving promises sound like music to busy practitioners, as with any new tool, especially one not specifically designed for the profession, the Stream Deck has its shortcomings for accountants.

While Sellick is one of Stream Deck’s biggest supporters when it comes to accounting, he’s also well-placed to point out some of the tool’s weaknesses.

The time-consuming nature of the initial tool setup and workflows is a given (and likely to be outweighed by the mid to long-term time savings), but Sellick points out that the Stream Deck software doesn’t isn’t in the cloud, which means an individual user’s workflow isn’t particularly portable.

Sellick’s multi-deck setup is an extreme example, he also struggles to free up the port space needed to plug in his power-hungry Stream Deck setup. The workflow program can be “buggy” and Sellick calls the interface and overall user experience “uninspiring”.

Graf also points out that he had security issues with entering passwords into the tool. “I only use it with apps that have two-factor authentication,” he said. “That way, if it were to be hacked, they would still have to go through the next level of protection.”

There are few training resources available for accountants using Stream Deck, and Sellick points to the fact that sharing workflows is currently difficult. On that last point, at least, he hopes to make a difference with a free Stream Deck information-sharing community called Pushflo, which he hopes to launch later this year. You can also see his accounting workflow setup via a LinkedIn video here.

Much like the marginal gains highlighted by Sellick, Graf, and Desai, all of the limitations listed above add up to a relatively simple truth.

While home users and small practitioners can reap the benefits of eliminating repetitive mouse clicks and input, in its current form the Stream Deck is not scalable on any major level (in fairness to Elgato, it was never its original intention), which means that large enterprises or enterprises are not able to achieve the same level of functionality or time savings at present.


Comments are closed.