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The Myths and Realities of App Integration

Mar 2nd 2016
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In the world of accounting-related technology, it has become essential that so-called third-party applications integrate with core platforms and software. However, most users do not know what true integration is supposed to look like and are often disappointed when they go to work.

As such, we need to rely on experts like Stacy Kildal, who spends much of her worklife dealing with software and integrations, particularly in the QuickBooks world, to ensure products do what they’re supposed to and that her staff and clients are happy. Kildal founded Kildal Services, a full-service bookkeeping, payroll, and technology consulting company. She’s also a self-professed “technology addict” and works to help fellow accountants work better and smarter.

So when the term “integration” gets tossed around, she knows full well that there are myths and realities surrounding the term. AccountingWEB spoke to her recently about what the term should mean and how firms can expect to work with the growing list of third-party applications.

AW: What is expected when a claim is raised that an app integrates with a platform or piece of software?

​Kildal: If it claims to sync with a particular software, I expect to see it listed in that platform’s app store; if it isn’t, I honestly expect nothing until I see how it’s pushing information into other software. After working with third-party apps for 15 years [both QuickBooks desktop and QuickBooks Online], I’ve just about seen it all. Some will claim to sync, but all they do is pull info from the accounting software, or they’ll only update some data. I always test it out to see what really happens.

AW: What is the most common issue raised when integrating a third-party app with an existing program or platform?

​Kildal: The learning curve is the biggest concern for my clients. They want to know how their team gets up to speed quickly enough to see the impact that implementation is expected to have on day-to-day business. ​

AW: What should developers consider most when creating third-party applications and why?

​Kildal: Know what is your product solving for, and how will that data look when it’s pushed into the software or platform you are using? Are they taking advantages of the features available in the accounting software – online invoicing, class and/or location tracking, two sided items, etc.? Is it giving the user the tools and data to create the reports needed to analyze the data entered into the app? A great app is worthless if it’s just a standalone thing that doesn’t allow the business to see what it is doing alongside the rest of the accounting.

AW: What is/are the most common “workarounds” that you hear accountants utilize and explain?

Kildal: Well, we use the job-costing workaround that I came up with years ago. ​Another one I hear often is ​pasting a payment link into the a field on an invoice. This happens if the business chooses not to use, for example, â€‹the integrated QB Payments/Online Invoicing option in QBO.​

​AW: Can you recommend some of the better testing methods in using applications together?

​Kildal: Sign up for the app via the developer website and test it without syncing. Create an email account (for example, we have [email protected])​ that you can use to create trial accounts for the software and the apps.​ Also, pay for a test account to which you can add apps to that isn't a trial (we also have that). For example, with QBO Accountant + wholesale billing, it’s really cheap!​

AW: Final thoughts on integration myths and realities when it comes to accounting-related applications?

​Kildal: The one myth I want to debunk is that it’s not hard to test an app on live data. Start a trial, test it with your data or your clients. If you don't like the app, just disconnect it and cancel the subscription. Do a few test transactions so you don’t have to edit or delete a bunch. ​

Stacy Kildal will be speaking in detail about how integrations are supposed to work, specifically in the QBO ecosystem, during her session entitled “Selecting and Connecting Apps to the QBO Ecosystem.” Her presentation will be part of the upcoming Scaling New Heights conference May 22-25. Please visit this link for more information and event registration.


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