Zapier steps into the cloud integration gap
As 2020 dawns, Maddy Christopher looks more closely at the DIY approach to practice automation.
The need to link disparate accounting systems into connected workflows has fuelled the rapid growth of integration tools such as Zapier.
As the leading integration tool in the accounting sector, Zapier has become a secret weapon for switched-on accountants, 15 of whom rated the application in our 2019 software survey. “[It’s] brilliant how a non-programmer can link different systems together,” said one enthusiastic respondent.
Last year, Trent McLaren of Practice Ignition discussed how Zapier could be used as a platform to integrate different cloud practice tools in his blog on DIY automation.
“If you map out your processes and see where the gaps are, that’s where Zapier can fill it in. It’s like putting in a pipe where previously you had to carry something,” he said.
“We’re using it to control workflows at App Advisory Plus. By connecting it to Slack, we can use Zapier to trigger other apps when a notification comes through. ”
How Zapier works
Zapier maintains a library of 1,500 connected apps. From this menu, the user can select their destination app and then pick their target or source app from the list of pre-built "Zaps". For accountants, the service offers 59 accounting software integrations, nearly twice the 29 available from its nearest rival, Workato.
The Zapier environment is supported by built-in authentications to protect, yet speed up connections when authorised users want to make them.
Automating the accountant
Zapier director of product Vicky Volvovski described Zapier as “simple enough to use for the average accountant that they can go in and can figure out [the automation] themselves.” The platform also has strong capabilities that allow the user to build complex integrations that can automate entire processes, she added. “We're just some humans who think computers should do more work.”
To help accountants understand how integration works and how its capabilities could help them, Zapier recently published a blog outlining five examples of workflow automation. In one case, a Billbot connection can be used to send and collect completed forms with vendor information for invoicing via Slack, seek preliminary approval and then post the approved information to QuickBooks for final approval and payment.
Or if you currently download ecommerce transactions manually, Volvovski said, “Let's say your business has a Shopify ecommerce store and a physical location that uses Square to process payments. You can use Zapier to automatically send both of those payments into somewhere like Google Sheets or Airtable where you can track them all at once.”
Virtual office testbed
As an online integration specialist, Zapier is an entirely remote company with more than 250 employees working from offices dotted around the US and more than 20 other countries. Zapier gives each employee an office budget so they can equip their remote work location - and uses the integration app to track their expenditure.
“Our accounting team uses Zapier to send notifications when people are about to max out their office set-up budget. They connect with Airtable, where they track how much money people have spent, and Slack, the tool we use to communicate. When someone reaches 80% of their budget they're automatically notified, so the accountants don’t have to manually follow up with people. They just let Zapier take care of that in the background,” said Volvovski.
Automation can be free
Zapier offers a freemium model that includes five Zaps and 100 tasks/month. A free 14-day trial is available for premium services that start from around £14.94/month for 20 zaps and 750 tasks/month. Plans also increase in price for more sophisticated functions such as custom integrations, update time and users.