KWSR & Co practitioner Susan Rahman and her husband Emanur went to Accountex last week to launch Onkho, a new cloud practice management tool inspired by the planning spreadsheet Susan uses in her small firm.
Susan Rahman adapted Excel to fill the progress-tracking gaps within her practice - and hatched the idea that grew into her new application, Onkho.
“[My husband] Emanur used to always say, you're the lone voice of one, but everybody we spoken to say most people use spreadsheets,” she told AccountingWEB.
“I wanted everything to be so intuitive as if you were using an Excel spreadsheet, so you know exactly how that works.”
Accountants don’t do workflow
Susan’s spreadsheet translated into something the Onkho founders call the Super Calendar, a grid interface with the months running along the top and jobs listed underneath. The tasks are colour categorised by importance.
The developers put the Super Calendar at the heart of the platform rather than a workflow engine. Susan and Emanur emphasised that small practice accountants don’t do workflow, they manage deadlines.
“A small accountant does discreet pieces of work. You pick up a VAT return and you do it from beginning to end,” Susan explained.
The Super Calendar tracks planned work and ad hoc requests all in the same pipeline. For repeated tasks, the platform regenerates jobs so they are always rolling forward in an 18-month view.
Twenty years in the making
Onkho has been 20 years in the making. In fact, a practice management solution has been something that has driven Susan “bonkers” for the past quarter century.
Her frustration with the available practice management tools hit breaking point two years ago when 20 years of complaining to her husband culminated in the two setting up a small booth at Accountex in 2015.
“We had a tiny stand, no product, and a sofa and we invited accountants to come in and talk,” said Onkho co-founder and CEO Emanur Rahman.
“We spoke to 200 accountants and 150 wanted to join our waiting list. That told us that actually there was a market for this, and the problem Sue was looking to solve wasn't just for herself. It applied to all practices of a similar size.”
The husband and wife team were back at Accountex return this with something to show for their efforts - but found they were joined by several other new practice management entrants.
Emanur said combining his experience as a former management accountant at the BBC and CTO of a London Stock Exhange group with Susan’s life in the small practice trenches is what differentiates Onkho from its competitors.
“A lot of people say that their software is written by accountants, for accountants. It's actually that they’ve had an accountant consult on the software. That’s not the case here because I am half-accountant and half -technologist and she’s an accountant in practice.”
With this small practice outlook in mind, Onkho is aimed at practices with fewer than 300 clients.
The Rahmans’ passion for “delighting clients” and their focus on helping accountants use the platform to retain clients resonated with practice consultant and lecturer Mark Lee, who has taken a non-exec role with the company.
Onkho still has plenty stacked on its roadmap, but client retention has taken precedence. Communication plays a significant role in the software with a built-in messaging and notification system that lets the small practice owner send automatic reminders and group messages to clients.
Another feature in the pipeline is a centralised client SMS and email system. “We should communicate with clients where they want to be communicated to, which is why the first integration we've done is email, second is SMS. The third could be Facebook messenger,” said Emanur.
While communication tools are being developed, Onkho is not looking at this point to integrate with some of the cloud accounting players, unless the accountant uses the software to do their own books and records.
Having introduced the product at Accountex Onkho is going through a public beta testing period and will not charge anybody to use the platform until September.
“As a technology firm we don’t get to say whether a product is ready,” said Emanur. “We’re at Accountex. We’re getting people on the platform. They’re going to tell us whether it is ready and secondly what they want us to do next.”
The Onkho team left Accountex armed with three development priorities for the coming months: mobile client integration, onboarding and time sheeting.
Once September comes, Onkho is priced on a pay as you go basis of £1 per client, per month, which the team concedes is at the higher end of productivity software.
With Onkho the Rahmans turned their dinner table software discussions into a reality. For Emanur, however, this is his second shot at the accounting software market. Many years ago, when he was working in investment banking technology, Emanur hooked up with another IT contractor and decided to write an accounting platform.
At that stage, he did the backend work. When he was ready to start on the user interface his partner got cold feet and the project was abandoned. One year later Intact came to market. “I was absolutely gutted,” he said.
AccountingWEB sat a group of accountants down across a conference table from suppliers of cloud practice management software. Find out their findings here.