Accounting integrations: examples, benefits, and tools

Accounting systems collect and store a wealth of invaluable data that your internal systems and your product can benefit from accessing.

We’ll break down why that is by showcasing several examples. We’ll then highlight the tools you can use to implement these use cases. 

But first, let’s align on the definition of accounting integration.

What is accounting integration?

It’s an integration between an accounting system and either your product or another tool your team uses. This type of integration is typically built using an API, but it can also be implemented through a file or screen scraping.

Visualization of accounting integrations

Related: What is payroll integration?

Accounting integration examples

We’ll start by breaking down a few internal accounting integrations and then go on to highlight a few customer-facing use cases.

Integrate your CRM with your accounting system to begin invoicing customers quickly

Once a prospect converts to a client, your team can begin the work of invoicing them. 

To ensure the invoice gets delivered quickly and without errors, you can connect your CRM with your accounting system and build a flow where once an opportunity is marked a “Closed-won” in your CRM, the account gets created in the accounting tool. 

Internal sync between Salesforce and NetSuite

Based on the fields that are populated in the newly-created account, the accounting team likely has all the context they need to create and issue the invoice.

Connect your business intelligence platform with your accounting system to power actionable reports

While accounting tools collect invaluable insights on your business’ financials, they don’t necessarily provide the tooling you need to analyze and take action off of the data. Your accounting data may also be more useful if combined with other sources of information, such as the data stored in your marketing automation platform.

To help your analysts get the most out of your accounting data with relative ease, you can connect your accounting tool with your business intelligence platform and sync specific fields from the former with the latter on a predefined cadence (e.g., once a day).

Internal sync between Xero and Tableau

Related: Examples of API-based accounting integrations

Sync your accounting system with your business comms platform to alert your accounting team of key events

Your accounting team may spend more of their time working from a business communications platform like Slack than their accounting tool. 

With this in mind, you can help your accounting team see timely updates on data that’s added or changed from their accounting system by sending relevant notifications to the appropriate channel in your business comms tool (e.g., #billing).

Internal sync between QuickBooks and Slack

Sync your customers’ accounting systems with your product to give your machine learning model accurate, personalized, and comprehensive financial data

Say you want to provide certain AI features that rely on specific types of data from customers. For instance, if you offer a financial planning tool and want to offer an AI feature that helps customers create budgets, predict their runways, and more, you’d need to feed the ML model specific financial data from the customer.

Whatever your use case(s) for AI may be, you can gather the financial data that’s necessary by integrating with customers’ accounting systems and feeding specific data to your machine learning model over time.

AI use case for syncing customers' financial data

Related: Common use cases for RAG

Connect your expense management platform with customers’ accounting systems to sync expenses bidirectionally

Imagine that you offer an expense management tool (e.g., Expensify) and want to help customers add the expenses submitted in your tool to their accounting systems. That way, their finance teams can review and process expense requests quickly.

To help facilitate this, you can connect your product with customers’ accounting tools and implement a bidirectional workflow where once an expense is submitted, it gets created and assigned to someone in the accounting platform. From there, a member of the finance team can review the request and approve or reject it—and leave comments, if necessary—which could be reflected in the initial request within your product.

Customer-facing integrations to sync expenses

Why is accounting integration important?

Here are just a few of the top reasons to consider:

Prevents human errors

Adding financial data manually is ripe for human errors. And, in many cases, these errors can be consequential. For instance, if you’re adding data on a newly-closed account in your accounting system, you may accidentally input the wrong email address for a contact—leading you to fail to send an invoice.

Since accounting integrations automate a high share of data entry-related tasks, your team can avoid making many—if any—human errors.

Improves the employee experience 

Adding, modifying, or deleting financial data manually can also be incredibly tedious and boring for your finance team.

With accounting integrations freeing your finance team up from performing these tasks, they can not only avoid them but also focus more of their time and energy instead on the thoughtful, strategic tasks they’re more likely to enjoy.

Enhances key financial workflows

Many financial processes, such as invoicing or, more broadly, quote to cash, depend on individual tasks getting completed quickly and seamlessly in order to work effectively. 

Accounting integrations help address this by syncing data in, or near, real-time, and by allowing you to build automations once specific types of data get synced.

Increases your close rate

Your prospects are likely asking for specific customer-facing accounting integrations.

If you can meet these asks, you’ll give prospects one more reason to pick your solution over alternatives and, as a result, close more deals.

Bar chart that shows the benefits of product integrations

When we surveyed hundreds of PMs and engineers as part of our State of Product Integrations report, we learned that 64% of larger companies realize improved close rates from their product integration(s)

Elevates your customer retention rate

As our examples showed, when customers adopt your accounting integrations, they’ll be able to unlock additional value in your product. This, in turn, should lead them to be more likely to renew over time. 

Unlocks market expansion opportunities

Companies across specific regions, industries, and sizes tend to use certain accounting tools. For example, a smaller business may be more likely to use QuickBooks while a larger company may be more likely to use NetSuite.

If you can offer integrations with the accounting tools your target markets rely on, you’ll have an easier time penetrating and selling to these markets.

Related: Benefits of ERP integrations

Accounting integration challenges

While accounting integrations offer a variety of benefits, they can also be exceedingly difficult to build and maintain in-house. Let’s cover just a few specific challenges.

Requires forming expensive and complex partnership agreements

Many accounting vendors, especially in the enterprise segment, require you to enter into a formal partnership agreement just to access their sandbox environment and API documentation. 

These agreements can take months, if not years, to complete and can cost you tens of thousands of dollars every year, which can be cost prohibitive for your business.

Offers poor documentation and support

Even if you get accepted to a provider's partnership program, their API documentation can be highly problematic: information can be outdated, missing, poorly written, etc.

In addition, the API provider’s support team may take a long time to respond to your questions or integration issues, forcing you to look elsewhere for answers, whether that’s online forums or engineers in your network.

Forces you to invest significant engineering resources over time

Building to each accounting API can take your engineers weeks, if not months, to complete. And once a connection is established, the work is far from over. 

Your engineers will need to continually test the integrations, fix issues, make updates based on changes to the providers’ endpoints, and more. 

This maintenance work can easily amount to hundreds of hours per accounting integration, which takes your engineers away from the more strategic and exciting initiatives they’re uniquely equipped to tackle.

Accounting integration tools

Given all these challenges, you’ll likely want to outsource your accounting integrations. To help you do so successfully, we’ll highlight popular tools you can use for internal and customer-facing accounting integrations.

Accounting integration tools for internal use cases

You’ll generally decide between an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) and robotic process automation (RPA) software. 

An iPaaS lets you build, design, and maintain API-based integrations between applications. Generally speaking, these tools offer reliable and performant integrations (since they’re API-based). However, they may not support integration use cases with applications that don’t offer APIs or the specific endpoint(s) you need.

RPA software, on the other hand, lets you build and manage custom scripts (or “bots”) that integrate data at the user interface-level. This tool can be used in more ways than an iPaaS (since it doesn’t rely on API accessibility) but its integrations may not be as reliable and effective. A simple UI change, for example, can be all it takes to break an integration

Accounting integration tools for customer-facing use cases

In the case of product integrations, you’ll generally decide between an embedded iPaaS and a unified API solution.

An embedded iPaaS has notable disadvantages. 

For example, the platform forces you to build one integration at a time and requires technical expertise to use—so scaling your integration builds through the platform can prove difficult. Moreover, this type of platform generally lacks the observability features you need to pinpoint, diagnose, and address integration issues on time.

Embedded iPaaS

A unified API solution, on the other hand, lets you add hundreds of integrations to your product through a single integration build, enabling you to scale your integrations with ease.

Unified API solution

In addition, through Merge, the leading unified API solution, you’ll receive access to Integration Observability features that empower your customer-facing teams to manage integrations; integration maintenance support from our team of partner engineers; advanced features for accessing custom objects and fields, and more.

Learn how Merge can support your customer-facing integration needs by scheduling a demo with one of our integration experts.

Accounting integration FAQ

In case you have more questions on accounting integrations, we’ve addressed several more below.

How long does an accounting integration take to build in-house?

It’s highly dependent on the specific application you’re building to and your integration use case. If the API provider requires a partnership agreement, for instance, the integration project can take several extra months. And if the API endpoints you’re looking to build to are poorly documented, the process of building to them can require significantly more trial and error.

How much do accounting integrations cost?

If you’re outsourcing them to a 3rd-party, you’re likely paying tens of thousands of dollars per year. While if you’re building them in-house, they might come at a much lower direct cost, but you'll be forced to allocate more engineering time towards building and managing them, making their opportunity cost higher.

What are the most popular accounting systems to integrate with?

While they can vary by industry, region, and company size, they typically include NetSuite, QuickBooks, Sage Intacct, Xero, and Microsoft Dynamics 365.