Simple steps to accelerate your app explorationsby
With more than 1,000 cloud accounting apps to choose from, finding the right solution is harder than ever. Seasoned ecosystem guide Alex Falcon Huerta suggests a few questions shoppers should ask prospective tech providers.
My accounting life started off with manual preprepartion and moved on to computerised desktop solutions before I made the transition to bookkeeping in the cloud.
At the time, I had the sensation of being on a slow moving ship. Yet how we deliver accounting services today has changed completely since I started and we haven’t seen this pace of change for decades.
Not only have we had to adapt the cloud accounting software in recent years, but also to all the add-ons that attach to the core engines. No wonder accountants are overwhelmed.
For anyone who is currently reviewing their software options, or thinking of going along to the AccountingWEB Live Expo in early December, I thought it would be helpful to put forward a few suggestions to help navigate the ever-expanding accounting ecosystem.
Responding to change
If anyone still needs convincing about the benefits of digital accounting, the pandemic demonstrated how critical instant access to accounts data can be if the organisation’s usual processes are disrupted in any way.
And HMRC has made it abundantly clear that its Making Tax Digital project is designed to encourage more businesses to benefit from digital record-keeping.
The latest generation of businesses that jumped directly onto cloud technology weathered the disruption most effectively. These digital entrepreneurs are not shy of trialling and testing different tools to see which is the best fit. And they look for accountants who can help and support them with all of the new technologies.
Become digital before your customer
If you’re going to work in this fast-evolving market, accounting firms should go digital first in order to point clients in the right direction. Our firm has led clients through this transition many times over, and we have evolved an approach that could be applied in any firm.
If you were your own client, how would you make the changes for improvement? Here are some questions to get you started:
- What systems do you need to change and what are the benefits of doing so?
- What are the main things it needs to do to achieve the best possible outcome?
- How long will it take and how will it impact day to day workflows?
- Who needs to be involved?
These questions will help you identify the systems you need to review on the app market. There are quite a few now, but generally the small to medium firms are the first to adopt similar products. Lots of accountants share their tech stacks. Use the information you pick up from other practitioners to devise your own project and workflow for change.
Questions to ask when choosing apps
Once you have chosen an app for testing, check it against the following questions:
When you log on, does it feel easy to use?
Is it user friendly and can you navigate easily to specific areas. Like, how do I add a connection to the automated receipts software? Most things should be pretty obvious to find and add to yourself. There will be some products that will require onboarding training. Ask for this . Ready made webinars to help you and guide you.
How fundamental is the product to the company?
If you start to add users, does the pricing work for you? For the primary tools, I consider the price not to be the reason not to have the product. Primary tools are account production, payroll and tax software. Some other apps are nice to have and can add value to your firm once you have the basics in place.
Does it do everything you need?
Most programs don't do absolutely everything as we all build our own unique business models. But you want an app that meets the criteria for why you selected it. One client I had wanted more in-depth capital structure to the shares, but the software was hard-coded and couldn’t accommodate the changes. This was one client out of the rest, so it wasn't material to ditch the software.
Does the software company have a great customer success team to help you when you have queries?
With the best products, you rarely need to reach out to the support team. From the implementation phase on, they should guide you every step of the way. When new features arrive, however, I get in touch with them to ensure I can start using the functionality as soon as possible to make my life even easier.
Does it have imports and exports to bring in bulk data, or can the app partner help you to do this?
During the past 18 months, we needed to add customers to forecasting apps fast so they could get visibility of their cashflow. The app partners jumped in and helped us out. This was great, as it allowed us to focus on other really important areas.
Check to see if the app partner can help you move your existing data from the old product to the new.
Most of us would prefer to enter data manually to ensure that it goes in correctly and accurately. The same goes for current customer data, though it can sometimes be easier to create a spreadsheet first before importing the data. If you need to make changes in bulk, the export button extremely useful.
What other integrations does the product offer?
I love how integration with Zapier and Slack can update my team so they then take action. We also have a phone system that notifies the team of calls, missed calls and voice messages.
It’s a lot easier for new firms to start from scratch with a fresh app stack, but you still need to ensure the software components are right from the start. Sometimes cheaper products end up costing you because of the need to change again soon as you grow.
Once you have selected the product, give your team the support they need to get it up and running as soon as possible. If you’re on your own, dedicate the time to implement it properly.
Treat each app implementation as a one-off project and you will soon reap the benefits by freeing up time can then be spent later on your customers.
Join Alex Falcon Huerta, John Stokdyk, Nick Levine and other app explorers at the AccountingWEB Live Expo on 1-2 December at Coventry Building Society Arena. Tech Workshops on both days will cover how to choose a tech stack, MTD software options and other aspects of automation.
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The founder of Soaring Falcon Accountancy, Alex Falcon Huerta FCCA is a Xero MVP and member of ACCA's international assembly. With a background as an accountant working with some of the most agile and progressive small businesses in the UK, Alex is an early technology adopter who set up her practice to accelerate change both for her clients and...