AccountancyManager joins crowded practice scene

Crowded market
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Richard Hattersley
Community correspondent
AccountingWEB
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Warwick-based firm Accounts and Returns Ltd is the latest entrant trying to crack the crowded cloud practice management space, with automation as the software's raison d’etre.

AccountancyManager slipped onto the market earlier this month, but that was not its original destination. The firm, in fact, built the application to solve the human error that beset its business administration.

“We were growing quite quickly but we found deadlines were being missed, or we were getting to the final accounts and were missing things such as the Companies House authentication code or the UTR number,” the application’s co-founder James Byrne said.

Automation

Although admin staff tried to track new and existing clients, the firm still misplaced records or clients failed to provide information.

“We thought this is ridiculous - we must be able to automate this entire process,” said Byrne.

Byrne’s lightbulb moment happened when the software hooked up with Companies House, so when a client registers the system autofilled their information by using the details Companies House holds on the business.

But AccountancyManager wasn't the firm's original plan. Byrne looked at the software available on the market, but like other similar software start-ups concluded: “Why isn't there anything out there which is specific for accountants?”

The firm came away from countless demos disappointed that no software fulfilled its automation needs. So the firm created its own application. “While we were building it we thought, this is a great system, we should be selling this to other accountants,” he said.

Having built the automated features, the firm investigated other features, such as a self-generating task list. This feature tackled another admin inefficiency rife within accountancy: its reliance on paper.

Client communication

Before the firm passed paper around the office, but often information went missing. So the firm used deadlines and records received from Companies House to self-generate tasks for each member of staff. Byrne explained: “In the software you send a notification to the admin staff, it's recorded, it stays on the system, and it stays on the clients' account.”

AccountancyManager used this automation breakthrough to streamline the firm’s onboarding process with a swift self-generated email. The client receives the email quote, which includes a link that takes the client to their own online portal.

“The system then takes over and reminds the client that we're still missing the UTR number or we're still missing the Companies House authentication code, or their deadline is coming up in a few weeks’ time, we need your records,” said Byrne.

And in a novel move, the application opened the system so the accountant’s clients can use it for free as their own CRM system and invoice their clients. “We've already got the system here, why not give it to all clients - take away the accountancy stuff - and give them a basic version," he said.

Other features

Byrne approached AccountingWEB shortly after the practice management workshop. He read the user's requirements and thought his software ticked each of those boxes. One feature the practitioners participating in the workshops brought up was time logging.

Again, Byrne included this feature as a way for the admin staff to do their jobs. The time log sits beside each individual task and works as a stopwatch.

Another requested feature is dashboards. Again, Byrne ticked this off the list: the home screen is the dashboard which shows time log and invoices that have been raised in the month compared to previous month.

As with any new product, the launch usually throws up missing features or nagging issues. “We built it for what's important for us,” reasoned Byrne. “It might be that other accountants out there that a couple of other features would be handy.”

Where it may struggle against the other new players is in integration. Although AccountancyManager integrates with email providers and SMS, the software doesn’t integrate with any cloud product.

Another stumbling block could be pricing. Starting with a 30-day trial, AccountancyManager costs 70p per client with all users free.

However, the application will gauge the reaction of accountants at its Accountex debut. “If we get people asking for a particular feature, we are going to build it for them because we want to sell the software to as many people as we can.”

Replies

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20th Apr 2017 10:45

Thanks Richard for taking the time to talk to me for AccountingWEB.

Just wanted to mention that although the space is crowded, I think we're really the one that's focused on automation as well as being a CRM and practice management software.

If any of your readers would like to get a feel for the software, there's a 2 minute video on our homepage at https://www.accountancymanager.co.uk - and of course the 30 day trial you mentioned.

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By Glennzy
20th Apr 2017 14:27

Hi Richard

It's interesting how everyone tackles this from a different angle probably driven by frustrations of what matters to them most.

Perhaps I should develop my own.

I have had a look at the demo and at first glance it looks a decent product and I would have been keen to see how it compared side by side with the others, it is probably a better fit for comparison than maybe Prosper was.

I would agree with your 2 main points though, firstly the pricing on a per client will not go well with most small practitioners. Most sole trader accountants will easily have 200 clients so this would cost £140 per month. Most accountants that size would pay that for full suite of products from say Capium, BTC or Taxcalc so by comparison this would seem expensive as you would still need those products as well.

It's ok saying it's only £8.40 per client but Xero is only £240 per client, RB is £120 etc software costs are rapidly replacing the 30% of cost allowed for labour.

A price per user is probably a more preferred option.

Also the API with Co House looks good but is easiest to get right as it's all public information anyway and all rival products have similar functionality , unless it links with Xero, QBO or tax software and HMRC cannot really see it having much value come MTD.

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to Glennzy
21st Apr 2017 08:48

Thank you for your comments.

With regards to pricing, we know from experience that the time saved with the automated features is worth more than what you might pay a member of staff and without the human error. However, we understand that the only way to demonstrate this is by accountants using the software.

Due to the fantastic response and much welcomed feedback from this article, we have decided to promote our software in these early stages, reducing the monthly cost to 25p per client (for life), for those who sign up before 31st May (https://www.accountancymanager.co.uk/pricing).

To answer your query regarding MTD - the software has been built within a practice and continues to be used, therefore it is essential that we are able to modify client data files with MTD deadlines which will then feed into the automatic task management feature. Integration with other softwares such as FreeAgent and Xero is essential and we are currently looking in to the best ways to do this.

Our software has been built to make accountancy firms more efficient, in turn making them more profitable. We hope that the value of our software is realised over the coming months - we already know how much value its added to our business and what it can do for other practices across the country.

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20th Apr 2017 21:15

Pricing is not thought through.

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to FirstTab
21st Apr 2017 08:50

Thanks for your comment. To demonstrate the value of the software for those who are initially put off by the price, we're reducing the monthly cost to 25p per month per client (for life), for those who sign up before 31st May (https://www.accountancymanager.co.uk/pricing).

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to jamesbyrne
21st Apr 2017 10:45

Hi James

I run a micro practice and have a couple of questions after viewing the demo:

Do you count the director(s) of a LTD company as a client if the firm also submits their personal tax return? It doesn't necessarily matter to me at the moment but will make a difference as I grow i.e. if I have 50 sole director LTD companies would that be 50 or 100 clients to you.

Can you share more about how client data is protected from internal and external threats? For example is there a NDA or similar in place so that my clients will never be contacted by you/sold to third parties etc.

Thanks

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to PrinceVultan
21st Apr 2017 11:17

Thanks for your question.

Our pricing favours the less expensive approach. Which is based on individuals. So if you have 50 limited companies with one director who also want self assessment, you'll only be charged for 50.

Regarding security. We follow all best practices to keep everything secure. We also have optional two factor authentication. Our terms have a section stating, "In compliance with the UK Data Protection Act. AccountancyManager will not sell or pass subscriber's or their client's information to third parties". We also have auditing systems in place for internal threats.

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avatar
22nd Apr 2017 11:38

hi, what are your plans for letter, email and engagement letter templates?

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to Together We Count
27th Apr 2017 13:31

Thanks for signing up, we've sent you an email.

James
AccountancyManager

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