For anyone still wondering if the cloud is coming – it isn’t, it’s here now and firms that don’t start to consider taking steps towards a digital transformation risk being left behind.
With the plethora of cloud-based tools and apps available to accounting professionals that promise to make your firm more productive, efficient and profitable, the question is how do you choose which of these tools would work best in your practice?
The first step is to select the foundation, the core accounting system which will be the hub of all of the apps. Once you lay the foundation, how do you choose which apps to use?
There are literally hundreds out there now in marketplaces that integrate with core accounting systems. At a monthly meet up, my peers and I questioned best practices for selecting and implementing apps. Should you select the apps and then create processes around the apps, or find the apps that fit your existing processes?
We concluded that it is a mixture of the two. What is clear is that without good processes in place, even the best apps will fail.
Where you have existing processes that work well, look for an app that will complement those processes. When things aren’t working so well, look for apps that will help overcome the roadblocks you are facing and then refine the process around the new app.
When researching which app to select, it is important to test thoroughly before implementing it with a client. I recommend looking through the ratings and reviews of the apps that fit your needs, and then select two or three to test.
Virtually all apps offer either free partner versions or trial periods so you can test them out with your own dummy data. In addition to testing the app itself, make sure the integration with your accounting system works flawlessly.
There is no value in having an app that constantly has sync errors. If you encounter errors, how well and how quickly did the app support team resolve the issues?
The company behind the app should be able to support it and you. The relationship between your firm and the app developer should be a partnership – they should listen to feedback and have a track record of developing new features based on user requests.
Once you have selected the apps that work for you, roll them out to a few clients first and then to the remainder. Try to stick to one app per function, for example; Bill.com for bill payments, TSheets for time tracking and so on.
By standardizing your apps and processes you greatly enhance your ability to be successful and clients will appreciate your expertise in the selected apps. It is important to regularly assess how well the apps are working.
There will always be new apps available, but you need to weigh up the desire to switch to the ‘shiny new toy’ against the cost of transitioning from your existing app.
You should have a formal process to review your technology stack each year and identify what is still working and what could be improved. If a new app is available that addresses your issues, then conduct due diligence and test it thoroughly before considering making a change.
This annual review is also a great time to audit the users assigned to apps – does someone have the wrong access privileges? Are you paying for a user who no longer needs access?
Technology is going to continue to evolve and change is inevitable. Accounting firms that embrace these changes are best poised to grow, become more efficient, provide greater value to clients, and be more profitable.