4 ways to build your ideal advisory app stack

4 ways to build your ideal advisory app stack

When Apple released the iPhone in 2007, the world turned upside down, and today, most of us can’t imagine navigating our personal or business lives without a smartphone. Technology has changed everything we do, from ordering food to filing taxes. We communicate with our family, colleagues, and clients through many channels, including email, phone, video conferencing, texting, and instant messaging apps.

Whether we like it, technology constantly changes how we work. When it comes to your firm, implementing the right technology and leveraging the benefits of those tools can dramatically improve your workflows and customer experience. So let’s talk tech!

Rather than comparing and contrasting the granular features of various accounting apps, let’s stay at 30,000 feet by exploring an overall strategy for building your firm’s ideal app stack. An app stack is a unique combination of technology used in any business. Accounting apps work together to facilitate the information, reporting, and compliance carried out by a firm, providing a family of services or ecosystem of tools that help your team to provide a more efficient delivery of services to your clients.

The main goal of an app stack is to allow data and information to flow freely with as little manual intervention as possible. To help with this, your firm may use some apps internally, so the client never sees or interacts with them; these are “advisory apps.” Other client-facing apps provide access to specific information and processes; these are known as “financial apps.” Some crossover exists between these two classes, which we will cover in our discussion on app integration.

  • Advisory apps are used inside the firm to track and manage the firm’s tasks, all the way from the initial sales call to the completion of work. Advisory apps also deliver reports, graphics, and other data visualization in client advisory meetings.
  • Financial Apps are tools clients use to process and record bookkeeping and accounting functions. Financial Apps integrate with your clients’ operational applications, providing a comprehensive solution for their financial and operational activities. Be sure to check out the QuickBooks App Store dedicated to apps Intuit has vetted and approved. In addition, the app store now includes accountant-approved apps. Of course, determining which works best for your firm and unique clients is the purpose of this article.
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How to select the best apps for your firm

Here is my advice to guide you in selecting the best apps for your firm:

1: Limit the number of applications used and supported by your firm

Implementing fewer apps requires more collaboration when using a foundational tool such as QuickBooks Online and the QuickBooks suite of products, but simplifies team training, client onboarding, and overall standardization of your processes. Internally, focusing on one or at most two apps for core functions such as accounting allows your team to be more knowledgeable about these foundational apps. That knowledge builds confidence, which leads to greater efficiency in serving your clients.

2: Maximize the investment in your foundational application by maximizing its functionality

The advent of cloud applications means that updates and new functionality are added continuously compared to annual upgrades with installed software. By keeping up to date on these new enhancements, you will find the application can do more than you thought. In addition, ensure your team receives training on the software, delivered by experts or even peers, that weaves best practices and real-world experiences into the training.

3: Integrate other apps with your core accounting software when possible

Eliminating manual entry is critical to delivering timely and accurate advisory services. Most financial apps seamlessly connect with core accounting software, including QuickBooks Online. When direct integration isn’t an option, a platform such as Zapier is a great way to connect various apps that wouldn’t otherwise talk to each other.

4: Identify your top tool that can handle most of the processes in your firm

This tool should be able to apply the same workflows to a majority of your clients. To figure this out, consider tasks such as paying a client’s bills, processing credit card payments, communicating with clients about unknown transactions, and creating management reports. A centralized tool simplifies the onboarding process for new clients and new team members to your firm.

Making apps do more for your firm and clients

Your potential clients will be in various stages of technology implementation. Some clients will ask you to recommend accounting applications for them. Others may request that you support their current apps. While this may seem like a customer-focused approach, the number of applications you implement will have an inverse relationship to your overall efficiency as a firm.

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The number of applications you implement will have an inverse relationship to your overall efficiency as a firm.

Approaching technology-related conversations with clients by demonstrating a well-planned app stack that streamlines workflow will go a long way in convincing them to adapt to your firm’s system. This approach will lead to happier clients in the long run. A recent report from CPA.com showed that 88% of top-performing accounting firms support a limited, standardized tech stack.

Technology is constantly changing. Firms implementing accounting apps shouldn’t have Ron Popeil’s“set it and forget it” mindset. The good news is that app developers have a vested interest in delivering a positive experience to their product users. Customer feedback plays an integral part in their success. Many developers even have teams devoted to surveying their users on usability, features, and their roadmap for the future of the app.

With a streamlined app stack, your firm can go deeper in its relationships with developers, moving beyond general feedback to directly influencing the functionality and available features in the apps you use. For example, Intuit receives regular input from accounting firms of different sizes through various councils made up of rotating members. Conference attendance is another excellent way to engage with developers. It never hurts to have an inside source when your firm needs to make that call for extra assistance!

Undoubtedly, technology usage by accounting firms will continue to grow. It’s time to embrace a practical strategy for selecting and implementing tools that allow your firm to be more efficient and profitable—two hallmarks of any firm heading in the right direction!

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