Accounting has transformed over the years, with accountants moving their clients to cloud platforms like QuickBooks, Xero and Sage Cloud Accounting to benefit from easy access, real-time figures, time-savings and efficiencies.
The question accountants should be asking themselves now is; “where do I focus my time and effort to generate additional fees, add value and help my clients achieve their life goals?”
… and the answer? Apps!
There’s no doubt that the right apps can deliver a whole host of additional benefits to your clients, but as the app marketplace continues to grow rapidly, it’s becoming almost impossible to maintain a good understanding of every product on the market.
When I started trying to monitor apps, with a view to rolling the best ones out across our client base, it was hugely time-consuming, overwhelming and confusing.
I hope that by sharing my approach to apps, I can save you some valuable time:
Spend a bit of time up front agreeing what type of firm you are and what sort of service you want to provide to your clients. This will help to inform on your app strategy and the appropriate level of investment you should dedicate to this exercise.
I use my time to investigate apps that will be useful for the majority of our clients, regardless of the industries or sectors they operate in. To begin with, I recommend you focus on apps with wide appeal that provide solutions for common, shared issues related to functions like billing, expenses, invoicing, CRM and debtors. This way, you’ll get maximum benefit from the time you spend.
Unless you have a genuine sector specialism, and enough clients in that sector to justify spending time researching apps for them, tap into the expertise of your account managers at Xero, QuickBooks or Sage instead. I’ve found that they can quickly signpost potential solutions, then I just feedback to the client and get them to check the possibilities out for themselves.
It's good to talk
Get out to roadshows and industry events and make sure you talk to other accountants, app providers and industry experts – it’s a great way to find out which apps are being used and recommended to clients. A quick conversation at an event could point you in the direction of an app you’d never even heard of before or steer you away from an app that you might otherwise have spent hours researching.
Know a little about a lot
It’s important to keep things in perspective. You can’t possibly be an expert on all of the apps that are available, and nor do you need to be, but having a general awareness of what apps are available can go a long way to adding value in client meetings.
Keep your core stack tight. Ours is less than 10 carefully selected apps that provide a solution throughout the entire finance function. With this manageable number of core apps, we can reasonably expect our team to know enough about them to enable conversations with clients about the key apps that will add value to their businesses.
Know when to quit
I’ve reviewed a number of apps in the past but ultimately decided not to move forward with them. Deciding not to implement an app when you’ve spent time researching it can be a tough call, but you have to be brave, accept that it hasn’t worked and move forward. As long as you record your decision making so that you can refer back to it if the product changes, your time hasn’t been entirely wasted.
Categorise the apps
When looking at apps I always split them into three categories;
Essential, low risk apps Processing and systems quick wins If for any reason these type of apps stopped working, it wouldn’t cause any significant downtime for the business. Examples of apps in this category are Receipt Bank, Autoentry or Chaser. These types of apps bring in efficiencies, improved accuracy and potential cash flow benefits. If the client decided not to continue using these apps for any reason, they could revert back to manually entering transactions with little effect.
Braver, slightly higher risk apps Processing and systems apps that need more of your time and effort Ensuring that these type of apps meet your clients’ needs requires more time. If they were to fail, it could have an impact on the day to day running of your client’s business or result in you having to spends lots of further time rectifying issues. For me, apps that fall into this category are stock or CRM related. Not all accountancy firms will have the time or resource to research this type of app and outsourcing this function to a specialist firm might be the most efficient way to deal with them.
Reporting apps This type of app can add significant value to clients and help accountants generate additional income. Examples include Futrli or Fluidly and I will cover them in more detail in a future blog.
There’s no denying that it can be daunting when you’re faced with looking into apps and choosing which ones to recommend to your clients, but applying a bit of logic, remembering to keep perspective and using your contacts can make all the difference.
And it’s worth it – getting your clients to use the right apps means success for them, ergo you.
As tech partner at Sagars, Paul spends a lot of time ensuring that Sagars has the best cloud accounting offering to help make an even bigger difference to clients.
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