Zapier equips accountants with DIY automation

Zapier
Zapier
Trent McLaren
Head of Accounting & Sales Development
Practice Ignition
Columnist
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Workflow tool Zapier is becoming a popular DIY alternative for firms ready to move on from dabbling in automation technology.

It’s little wonder accounting firms are turning to automation to become more efficient. Firms have reported on AccountingWEB the struggle they’ve faced trying to find the right employee with the right tech-focused skillset. Not to mention the activities that chew up our unproductive days.

While there are literally hundreds of different applications that exist in this world for different industry verticals, Zapier has emerged as an easy automation alternative for busy people. 

Zapier moves info between your web apps automatically, so you can focus on your most important work. In fact, the DIY automation tool claims it can save over one minute per zap.

But what is a zap and how does it affect your workflow automation?

The premise is that you can connect and create workflows that didn’t exist before using Zapier. And every step between different apps is known as a zap – eg a new proposal gets accepted and a zap automatically adds that client information to MailChimp.

The zap then moves the data into your workflow solution, maybe something like Trello. In this instance, there are two zaps in play. The trigger was the proposal being accepted in the first place, which is almost like creating a bank rule in your cloud software.

The Zapier platform has become an attractive option for accounting firms thanks, in part, to having 1000s of apps connected to it. Already, Zapier has amassed a list including Google, Microsoft, QuickBooks Online, Xero, Paypal, Stripe, Asana, Slack and more.

Of course, the perfect place to start exploring apps is on app marketplaces like the Xero marketplace or the QuickBooks Online app store. But for those graduating past dabbling, I’d advise finding tools for your business that are all built on the Zapier platform.

The fact that there are 1,000 different apps generally means you’ll be able to find all types of apps for your workflow gaps.

The key to Zapier for an accounting firm is to understand how to get started. Remember that for Zapier to work you need to understand what your trigger points are. It could be when a new proposal is accepted, a new invoice, receipt or contact created, or an overdue payment.

To truly understand your trigger points, you’ll need to map out your current process touchpoints with clients. Think about every time you receive something from a client: a document, an email or SMS, or even a new lead on your website. These are all the trigger points, the beginning of a workflow or process that you can automate using Zapier.

Map out your process and then try to match them up with apps and zaps through the Zapier platform and respected apps connected to your cloud accounting software.

So how does Zapier work in practice? One example is Brian Clare, a partner at Canada-based firm Blueprint Accounting, who has devised an ‘18-step zap’ to automate his client onboarding.

The workflow ensures Clare gets his client file and work up and running in no time without human intervention during this initial process.

The proposal is accepted in Clare's Practice Ignition tool, which triggers Zapier to push the client data into a special onboarding campaign in MailChimp. This sends out five days’ worth of emails requesting different documents from clients throughout the week. Zapier also triggers a 45-point checklist into Trello across six different columns. After 10 days, the client is automatically removed from this onboarding workflow, again triggered by Zapier.

The beauty for DIY automation is that you can build all of these workflows yourself or you can pay someone else to do it. Knowing what you want to solve is the first entry point.

The article is not suggesting you should fire all of your staff, but what it is suggesting is that you should be removing all the manual admin from your team or from yourself, so that they can get on with their day and work on work that drives a bigger impact and more value back into your business.

About Trent McLaren

Trent McLaren

Winner - AccountantDaily Thought Leader Of The Year for 2017

I lead a team of spirited people looking to make a difference in the accounting industry as we know it. Elimination of debtors, automated invoicing and the thought of never having to touch your firm's billing again is a reality we deliver to accounting firms all over the world.

I believe that in order to achieve your goals, you must be a leader and a believer. Your peers need to feel part of something real and exciting in order to succeed. Turning up to work is just not enough.

I believe in creating a positive environment that stimulates and motivates people. An environment that allows people to grow, develop and most importantly enjoy their work.

I am the head of accounting at Practice Ignition, a Sydney based start-up born out of an accounting firm, Interactive Accounting. We eliminate debtors and automate your invoicing through our digital proposal and engagement letter builder solution. We service 1000's of accounting firms around the world including the United Kingdom. 

In prior roles I have extensive history with Intuit QuickBooks, Xero, eWAY (online payments) as well as the retail sectors.

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