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GoProposal gears up for ‘active’ practice management with new releases


A slew of new features on the pricing and onboarding platform promise the prospect of “constant onboarding”. But can such automation tools remove some of the heavy lifting from firms still reeling from the pandemic – and make them more profitable in the process?

16th Mar 2022
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A major compliance change introduced at short notice means you need to update the letters of engagement with all your clients – unless you fancy potentially being on the hook if a quality audit rolls around.

To deal with this, you log on to your portal, make a change to the relevant clause and at the touch of a button your entire client base is updated via a “live” engagement letter, and you’re protected.

This example is part of the “active practice management” concept espoused by GoProposal by Sage founder James Ashford, speaking with AccountingWEB at the launch of the vendor's season four series of product releases.

Eagle-eyed accountants may wish to point out that a practice with a customised spreadsheet, an email account and a proactive nature can handle the example above without resorting to specialist software – and they’d be within their rights to do so. However, Ashford points out that demand for more automated solutions such as GoProposal, the recently rebranded Ignition and wider practice management tools are part of a wider shift in the profession.

After two years of sprinting to stand still during the pandemic, the latent demand for growth from ambitious practices is evident. This is hampered however by the struggle to recruit and retain staff in a challenging labour market, increasing demands from clients, and a demanding, fast-moving compliance landscape – all making the case for practice efficiency products stronger.

Founded in 2017 as a client onboarding system focused on automated pricing, proposal and engagement letter solutions, GoProposal grew rapidly during the pandemic as accounting practices battled to remotely support struggling business clients while keeping their own heads above water.

The company was acquired by Sage last year for an undisclosed sum, but Ashford was keen to emphasise to AccountingWEB that the changes were in the pipeline long before the two parties signed on the dotted line. “Season four was planned over a year ago before Sage acquired us,” said Ashford. “It’s a huge piece of work. The entire GoProposal system has been rearchitected to fit the concept of active practice management.”

Proposals, pricing, onboarding and repricing

Ashford’s vision with the new iteration of the product is to create a digitised proposal, pricing, onboarding and repricing platform that does the heavy lifting for firms and gives them a consistent and profitable pricing methodology. 

“When people think onboarding they think initial engagement,” said Ashford. “Instead, there should be a focus on constant onboarding as things happen throughout the lifetime of the client relationship.”

GoProposal’s season four ambitions are for a system that can adapt to legal or regulatory changes and flex with client requirements in real time. The example at the top of the article could relate to changes from professional bodies, Making Tax Digital, Brexit, GDPR or many other compliance-related issues that feature in standard engagement letters.

However, Ashford’s ambitions for the tool go beyond compliance with an aim to bolster the accountant-client relationship through a system that automatically adapts to changes in service levels, offers more transparency and enables firms to generate more revenue by offering clients the services they need.

Ashford flags a practical example of how active practice management could work with the vendor’s season four changes. Let’s say you provide payroll services for a client – you can insert a rule into the GoProposal system whereby if their employee numbers increase by x amount then it automatically flags this to a member of your team, or even automatically reissues the engagement letter with a new price via a templated email. “Your firm is making more money, your clients are getting higher service levels, so it’s good value all round,” said Ashford.

Another addition to the product available now is the new proposal timeline feature, which allows accountants to visualise the growth of a client’s fee over time. Full anti-money laundering functionality will also be available in the product later in the year.

Time to price properly

During the pandemic, accounting firms were hugely stretched to match increasing demand from clients desperate for information, help and support. “Firms sucked it up, not wanting to hit struggling clients with price rises, but they won’t be able to sustain this level of service,” said Ashford. 

“Now’s the time to price services properly and manage the scope of your client work,” he continued. “Accountants have been overworking and undercharging. They should be charging a high enough fee that the client is happy to pay it. 

“Firms need to be comfortable about educating their clients on the investment needed to maintain a good level of service. Recruitment is one of accountancy’s biggest issues, and not charging enough money means you can’t afford to invest in recruitment or retention.

“It can all be traced back to improving efficiency and properly mapping out a scope of work. Those who haven’t done this are in a difficult position. With Making Tax Digital for Income Tax Self Assessment coming, if there are leaks in the business it’ll get so much worse,” concluded Ashford.

Replies (5)

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By Paul Crowley
16th Mar 2022 16:13

I love a good advert
Especially the ones that describe costs that are instantly sunk as investment.

Time for me to invest in netflix, as in pay a subscription

Thanks (2)
Replying to Paul Crowley:
Tom Herbert
By Tom Herbert
16th Mar 2022 16:32

Thank you! I've always wanted fanboys ;-)

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
By Hugo Fair
16th Mar 2022 19:37

But it's not a good advert ... it's a truly awful one, albeit not entirely of Tom's making as he seems to have been but the amanuensis for James Ashford.

Mr Ashford appears to have swallowed a compendium of disconnected phrases, before regurgitating them randomly all over the place ... possibly winning a prize for cramming the biggest number of non sequiturs into an article of this size, but promoting neither enlightenment nor any quantifiable benefit to be gained through use of his software.

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John Toon
By John Toon
17th Mar 2022 12:45

Since when was the GP acquisition by Sage an undisclosed sum? It's in Sage's accounts - £13m cash. A certain tech podcast covers this kind of stuff ;)

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