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Why building an AppStack might pose more problems than it solves

5th Apr 2023
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iplicit’s mission is to make the complex simple and accessible. Its powerful cloud accounting...
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It’s a temptation for an organisation to invest a lot of time collecting the perfect combination of apps for your needs. However there is a risk that the hunt for the perfect “app stack” can leave you with a system that is unnecessarily complex and at risk of failure.

Whether you’re responsible for your own organisation’s finances, or are an accountant handling someone else’s, it’s worth considering whether the right accounting software could do the work of many applications.

What is an app stack and how does it work?

An app stack is a collection of applications brought together to handle the work of an organisation for tasks such as:

  • Producing consolidated accounts
  • Extracting data into Excel spreadsheets – and vice versa
  • Handling inter-company transactions
  • Dealing with authorisation workflows
  • Processing card payments, sometimes in different territories
  • Project and job costing analysis
  • Stock and inventory management
  • Global tax or VAT group compliance

App stacks can save money in monthly subscriptions, while also saving time, but the process comes with risks, and a simpler solution might be under your nose in the form of a better accounting platform.

The risks of app stacks

However well-assembled the stack is, there are some risks to consider.

Are the apps being used as their creators intended? If the developer of an app releases an update, they may not be thinking about how their software functions when it’s plugged into someone else’s app. So a simple enhancement could break your carefully designed system overnight. Are you facing a problem months or years down the line?

Is your hierarchy of apps scalable? You probably needed this app stack in order to grow your business – but how much more growth can it handle? If you add new entities to your organisation, will all your systems integrate? And who will manage that process?

Who fixes it? If something goes wrong, whose responsibility is it to investigate the situation and put it right? And how much would your business be disrupted if that person had to wait for help tickets to be dealt with, potentially by several different software providers?

How will those apps look in the future? Will that market-leading app still be the market leader in a few years’ time?

What if an app changes hands? Consider the example of DataDear, which allowed users to download information from multiple instances of Xero and QuickBooks into Excel spreadsheets and then upload it again. In 2021, it was bought by QuickBooks owner Intuit, and the new owners gave notice that it would no longer work with Xero. In the tech industry, where mergers and acquisitions happen often, that sort of event is a risk.

How much money is it really going to save? It can look cost-effective to combine an entry-level accounting package with a host of other relatively low-cost applications. But the total cost mounts up – especially if you have to replicate that app stack across several connected entities.

The complications for outsourced providers

The risks of relying on a complicated network of applications can increase if your practice is handling finance functions for other organisations on an outsourced basis.

Who’s being paid? You need to consider who in the accountancy practice is responsible for looking after that integrated web of apps. If something stops working, who on your team is being paid to investigate and find a solution?

How time-consuming is it to fix problems? If a member of your team has to troubleshoot a problem, will they be left helplessly awaiting responses from helpdesks in other organisations? That might take a while, particularly if it’s not immediately clear how the integration problem has cropped up. And again, is this work being paid for?

Are you recommending a solution for the right reasons? They say that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Is it possible that you might be relying on a particular collection of apps because those are the tools your team are familiar with and are used to recommending? It’s always worth taking a step back and considering whether those familiar solutions are the ones that best meet the client’s needs. 

Why a mid-market cloud accounting platform can be the best solution

These complex collections of apps are often bolted on to an accounting platform that was created to serve the needs of start-up businesses.

But much of the work done by these app stacks could be handled in a single system if the client changed finance platforms.

The extra apps tend to be added in order to carry out tasks that the accounting software cannot: extracting data into Excel spreadsheets, producing consolidated accounts, reconciling inter-company transactions and reporting on how individual entities or projects are performing.

But a more powerful true-cloud accounting system can handle all those things and many other functions performed by other apps. It can also accommodate the organisation’s growth.

Compared with acquiring multiple copies of entry-level accounts software – and then replicating that app stack across a group of entities – a better accounting package can also be the most cost-effective solution.

It’s fair to say that every accounting practice will, either now or in the future, have a client that needs to think about true-cloud software as the answer to its growing needs.

Find out more about iplicit’s cloud software for accountancy practices at a webinar devoted to the topic.

Accountancy Practice Webinar, Thursday 27th April at 11am BST

iplicit is a mid-market true cloud accounting platform that can enable you to meet the needs of clients with more sophisticated requirements without the expense of ERP solutions like SAP, Netsuite and Sage Intacct.

Join iplicit for a free webinar covering:

  • An introduction to iplicit and our positioning
  • Why practices are looking to the mid-market to complement their offering
  • How iplicit can help practices grow their services business and retain clients who are outgrowing other systems
  • Partner programme benefits
  • 15-20 min demo of iplicit 

Register Now