A new competitor has joined the cloud practice management race in the shape of mTrio, a Salesforce-powered practice hub developed by Jessica Pillow of Pillow May.
Known as mTrio, the program is built on top of the Salesforce CRM platform that Pillow May already uses internally. She devised the system with the help of a couple of programmer clients and after nearly two years of development work, she set up a separate entity to market the application to other accountants.
“I fell into software development by accident because I couldn’t find the right product,” Pillow told AccountingWEB. “We were trying to find practice management software that would integrate with Dropbox, Xero, Digita and all the other products we use. We were looking for a central database and something that would give us enhanced marketing.”
Pillow was inspired by what clients were achieving with Salesforce.com’s CRM tools and wanted to apply the same techniques within accountancy. Her clients worked as Salesforce developers and confirmed that the platform could easily meet her aspirations.
“Salesforce gives us the integrations readymade, which means we can focus our software on the needs of modern accountancy practices,” she said.
Having developed a core database that powers her remotely-working firm, Pillow thought that other firms might be looking for similar tools. Buying the program ready-packaged would save other firms the cost of creating their own bespoke practice database, she added.
“Proactive firms that are really keen on technology will love us. As more people get to understand what we’re doing, it should appeal to everybody.”
While the software expertise comes from Pillow May’s own client base, mTrio business development director Ashley Leeds used to be the practice’s account manager when he worked at Digita.
After a period working abroad, he was tempted back into the accountancy market after seeing the mTrio prototype and carrying out market research among 47 accountancy firms.
“Off the back of this research, I decided this has got legs," said Leeds. "Now I’m working for the company. I’m doing exactly what I did at Digita, but without so many managers looking over my shoulder.”
When pressed on what makes mTrio so special, both Pillow and Leeds emphasise the way it has been tailored for small practitioners.
“Most accountants probably have a practice management suite, but it doesn’t do everything. So they probably run spreadsheets for some elements. And then it doesn’t do tax, so they have to go to three databases,” said Leeds.
“There are lots of little packages that people are using and putting into their processes to try and fill the gaps that IRIS, Digita, Sage and CCH are missing. We’ve put all that into one package and made links to other packages so it becomes the heart of your practice.”
Currently mTrio links straight into Xero and Digita, the applications used at Pillow May. “We’re talking to other providers and linking to them, so you don’t need those multiple databases,” said Leeds.
“If you want to do document writing, you might use Practice Ignition. Chaser is another bit of kit to automate collections. If you use Dropbox or Google Drive, it’s all within the program.”
What excites the mTrio team about the Salesforce core is the way it is designed around tasks and processes. So the practitioner can set up a tax process in mTrio/Salesforce and define the number of steps required to complete it. The software lets you program in different actions, so for example a text or email will be sent to the person who should review a job when it is completed.
We’re completing what could be a half-hour job with one click”
The tax sequence at Pillow May connects to the DocuSign portal, so that the practice system posts completed accounts and returns on the web and notifies the client so they can OK them. If an authorisation is not returned by a certain deadline, the system is programmed to send out a reminder email.
“Traditionally the accountant has to go in and check its status, and cut and paste a message into email. That can take 15mins of fiddling around. It’s all done automatically in mTrio,” said Leeds.
On-boarding new clients has been automated in a similar way within the system. “Adding someone new to the database automatically sends them a welcome text, creates a client in Xero and opens a client folder in Google Drive,” he said. “There’s no rekeying of standing data and no going around different systems creating folders. We’re completing what could be a half-hour job with one click.”