Cloud apps have become a beneficiary of the cloud bookkeeping boom, yet in the wake of this trend, the most recent cloud converts may be uncertain where they should start.
Last year 73% of the Practice Excellence Award entrants indicated that they were supporting some of their clients on cloud accounting software. This trend also prompted a parallel surge of firms embracing cloud apps, as accountants responded to the then-looming requirements of Making Tax Digital for income tax (see graphic below).
Now with so many apps at an accountant's disposal, knowing how and when to add them to your client mix can become an overwhelming task and lead to the condition known as app overload.
Start with efficiency
The temptation for new cloud firms may be to deploy apps to the full. But ahead of the All about Apps panel at next week’s QuickBooks Connect, Paul Lodder, a partner at Leeds-based firm Sagars, told AccountingWEB that cloud newcomers should focus first on apps that deliver the biggest efficiencies. After all, he stressed, app adoption is a continuous journey done in stages, not all at once.
For Lodder, the firm’s first step into apps was to accelerate its bookkeeping work, which created time savings that would allow clients and their advers to concentrate on other areas. “The first starting point was really products like Receipt Bank and AutoEntry because they bring in immediate efficiency,” he said.
The chart above shows that this is exactly what was happening among the 2017 Practice Excellence population, with the increase in the use of cloud expenses tools underpinning the wider add-on adoption trend.
Knowing where to dedicate your time goes back to knowing your client base. Products like Receipt Bank and AutoEntry will work for every client, Lodder said, as everyone will have expenses or purchase invoices.
Early on Lodder started tracking how many clients were using these data extraction tools compared to cloud bookkeeping clients who weren’t. When demonstrating the products, the firm emphasised the immediate benefits for clients - and helping the firm to close the gap on that key indicator.
“You should be looking at ratios between clients on your cloud accounting software and the number on your tier one apps such as Receipt bank and AutoEntry,” he said.
You don’t have to use every app
After the efficiency tools, the next stage is products that add value, such as cashflow apps like Chaser. Despite the variety of cloud apps on offer, Lodder opts for a measured approach. “I would say we don’t touch more than five or six. Otherwise, you’ll spend your life looking at them all,” he said.
For example, the firm may have one or two clients from a specific sector but Lodder said his team doesn’t spend time researching the whole ecosystem because it’s too complex. “We could end up spending £10,000 worth of time for one client, where we’re actually better off spending £10,000 worth of time that would potentially benefit 100 clients.”
And that’s where the focus lies with Lodder: having the resource to provide value to a lot of clients, rather than a few. “We can introduce those 100 clients to Chaser or Unleashed and say, ‘We’ll set it all up for you, we’ll work you through it and support you,’ and we’ll get £500 per client.”
Know your client base
For the next cloud app step to be a success, Lodder suggests accountants review their client base and segment it into different sectors. So if, for instance, the firm identifies 100 manufacturer clients Lodder said that it may be worthwhile exploring CRM systems and stock systems.
“But if you’ve only got one client who uses stock, why would you spend all of your time trying to get familiar with something that could be quite complex and difficult?” he reasoned. For these clients, Lodder would refer them to cloud accounting consultants and fellow All about Apps QB Connect panelist BlueHub.
After installing the efficiency apps, Lodder then looks at reporting and cash flow apps like Furtli, Spotlight and Fluidly that the firm uses to enhance its advisory services.
Make it a success
When moving into sophisticated apps there can be a lot more complexity and other issues to consider. For a firm’s cloud app migration to be a success, Lodder advises staying close to their software relationship managers for updates, support and tips.
Another way Sagars smoothed any uncertainty associated with moving to cloud apps was to hold short internal training sessions, where everyone had the opportunity to learn how the apps worked.
“There is a bit of a learning curve, but you need to have a champion driving it forward and keeping up to speed and date - some firms may have one or two champions,” Lodder said. “Who’s the go-to-person? Who is the one keeping that relationship strong with the third party?”
Lodder’s final advice is to remain focused on the efficiencies: “From experience, efficiencies don’t come through at the start because everyone is getting comfortable with the software and new processes... But the efficiencies do come through, and we can see that with our clients.”
To find out more about the All about Apps workshop and QuickBooks Connect London on 27-28 February, click here to see the full agenda.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.