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.
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.
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.
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.”
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.