Online practice management software developer Onkho is readying the final piece in its collaborative platform – an email and message management Inbox that brings together all client and firm conversations.
Banking technologist Emanur Rahman designed Onkho around the needs of his wife’s accountancy firm KWSR & Co and set out to rewrite how accountants interact with their clients.
After a period of early user testing, Onkho’s Inbox went live on Monday 8 July. It plugs into the underlying “social platform” on which the whole suite is built, Rahman explained. This incorporates a social feed into which collaborators – clients, staff and external partners – all contribute notes, comments and other files. “We’ve added email as a contributor to that feed and expose it within Inbox,” Rahman explained.
“Inbox is an email client in which you can receive, manage and organise messages in what is now called an ‘omni-channel communication platform’. By year end, will be able to receive email, reply with an SMS, add a comment, possibly receive another WhatsApp comment and have it as part of all one conversation.”
Tackling practice communications and workflows using email as the engine was in the news last with Pixie’s online CRM package. But Rahman is keen to set the bar a little higher.
“Pixie aren’t emulating us, they’re emulating Karbon, where you control the practice through email – all the tasks emanate from email. That’s not true in our case. Email is a communications mechanism; it’s not designed to show you bulk workflows. Most people who try use Outlook Tasks or appointment diaries come unstuck. Can you manage workflows in Pixie without email? No. Nor in Karbon.”
Onkho is based on the design principle that accountants should communicate with clients the way clients want to be communicated with, Rahman said. “As a service provider, you need to be sensitive to that. How people communicate with you is largely irrelevant – what matters is that it gets there. That’s why we built Inbox.”
Once a message arrives, the key task for accountants is to file them effectively. Onkho uses labels to organise the collaborative conversations. These can also be connected into the program’s CRM engine, which will associate particular email and message addresses with the appropriate client.
So if a message comes in about a tax tribunal, the accountant can give it a label – “Tribunal” say – and it will start a new conversation trail in the client’s record, along with any reply mailed out. “Once you’ve made the linkage between label and client, then incoming messages will link to that client. All that history will be built up in the CRM record,” he said.
Users can also activate tasks and workflows from any message in a labelled conversation, he continued, and that task will go on the assigned staffer’s graphical planning diary.
Rahman dislikes the term “features” and talks instead about “capabilities” that can be mixed together to solve specific practice requirements. Another of these capabilities in Onkho are insights, where the user can ask the practice management system a question to produce an report or overview. Once the user has specified, “Show me all tax returns assigned to me that I need to do by 31 January 2020”, you can save the insight as a widget on your dashboard, Rahman said.
“That is your widget and you can come in and look at it to track how you’re doing and where you need to focus next,” he continued. “When you click into results, you can start/stop jobs, write notes and add to the conversations.”
Because it is so configurable, Onkho is a complex product and the developer’s big challenge is finding the accounting firms who welcome this kind of flexibility.
“Like most software startups, our journey has been a bumpy one. During our first phase, we focused on the product/customer fit and underlying engineering. We started with a vision and Inbox completes that journey,” Rahman told AccountingWEB.
“Now it will be all about the product depth and integrations. Our biggest fans are the early adopters, the ones who are all about non-compliance revenue streams. We want to find our tribe.”
AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.