Building your App-Stack as an Accounting Firm

apps Jan 07, 2020

Building an App-Stack for your Accounting Firm...

Is your firm suffering with App Overwhelm within the Cloud Accounting Ecosystem? Wondering what areas, you should be focussing on for your client embracing app-stack?

So let’s help you out with this and give you the key areas to focus on (link to a template at the bottom too or here if you're impatient!):

Bookkeeping Software

How does your client manage their bookkeeping? Are they good enough at it? Do you fix it each year at no extra cost and don't tell them it wasn't up the level required? Do they want to do it? What else could they be doing with their time?

A piece of cloud software that majors in bookkeeping, compliance, hmrc returns, real-time data reporting.

You may have an urge to work with all of the main players however our advice is always internally default with one then review opportunities that appear with other cloud accounting vendors as they appear (are the clients and fees worth it?).

Essentially do you want to be a jack of all trades or a master of none...?

Should replace manual, spreadsheet & desktop-based bookkeeping/accounting software.

Invoice Automation

What solution are you offering your client to get data to you in an automated and efficient manner? Using a system with OCR that automagically retrieves all the data from the sales/purchase invoice/receipt.

Some of these systems also code and post the data to your bookkeeping software to give your firm less manual processing.

Will be a better client experience for your client and allow for you to offer insights more regularly based on the quality and frequency of data.

Should replace the bag and box or paper-based invoices/receipts you receive within your firm.

Expense Management

Have you asked your clients how they manage their expenses and petty cash?

Business expenses or petty cash accounts can be painful to maintain as a business which also equals a painful point in processing for accounting firms.

There are lots of solutions in this area - expense functions within the bookkeeping software, OCR based apps, expense card apps of all which integrate with bookkeeping software.

Should replace biscuit/sweet tins full of receipts, spreadsheets and lost expense claims.

Credit Control

How do your clients manage their credit control? Do they even know they're debtor days?

With 50% of business being cash-flow negative it would point towards improved Credit Control processes being a key aspect of a small business cash-flow improvement. 

Again, plenty of solutions in this area from simply turning on sales invoice reminders within the cloud accounting package to utilising pure credit control apps which can link into the sales ledger and automate the pre & post follow-up of sales invoices based on invoice due dates. 

Some firms even now starting to offer credit control services based on these software options.

Should replace manual credit control procedures however a lot of businesses don't even have credit control in place - manual or otherwise.

Invoice Approval

Do your clients have any need for Approving Invoices based on size of invoice, which customer, project specifics?

This as a growth area with more and larger businesses moving to cloud accounting so it is worth thinking about your options here for your clients.

A few clear options in this space - from ensuring clients are using the 'invoice status' options in the cloud accounting software to utilising the external specialise apps for Invoice Approval Workflow, some basic options and some more complex depending on workflow needs.

Should be replacing the manual ways in which businesses approve invoices internally - could be email trails or even the document print-off and rubber-stamping method!

Payments - Receiving

Have you ever asked clients how they receive payments? Is it just the standard way of BACS, Cash or Cheque or do they use other platforms?

With more and more places to sell it is highly likely businesses, if not already, will be looking to other platforms to be paid - so they can either take scheduled payments or immediate payments without their clients having to use cash, login to their bank account or write a cheque.

A growing area of app options depending on whether it is for real-time payments or for collecting regular scheduled payments. The first step is identifying some options for your clients then ensuring that they can integrate with your cloud accounting software making you and your clients processing life easier.

Should replace 'nothing; - it should enhance your client’s ways of getting paid alongside the ways they currently get paid which should result in being paid quicker.

Payments - Outgoing

Is it still a manual way of managing outgoing payments for you or your clients from your cloud accounting platform - setting up the payments, authorising and finally making the payments; always feel high risk for low return?

There are some real moves in the Cloud Accounting world in this space with apps available that will integrate with your bookkeeping software to manage the setting up, authorisation and payments audit process allowing for a much more risk-free and transparent view of these processes.

Should replace manual and high-risk processes that the client or your firm carry out.

Cashflow Forecasting

As mentioned previously 50% of UK businesses aren't cash-flow positive so understanding cash-flow must be seen as important with your clients. How often are we speaking to clients regarding their cash positions? How often do we interrogate their data across the financial year to see if things are going to plan?

Cash-flow and reporting apps have been around the cloud accounting space since the start mainly due to the cloud accounting vendors not having reporting functions within their core systems originally - this has changed now. There are quite a few offerings in this space depending on whether you are looking for short-term cashflow visibility or looking to build something more complex. It's definitely a possibility that the good old spreadsheet could still be needed for some scenarios....

As ever these apps are completely reliant on data from the bookkeeping/cloud accounting software, the aim should be for monthly processing as minimum - not quarterly or annually which is still the main trend across the profession.

Should replace manual methods of cash-flow production based on historical data allowing for something that is constantly visible and maybe help clients sleep better at night.

Reporting

How do your clients visualise their accounting data currently? Do you offer them any reporting services? Or do they write their own as they don't know that your firm can offer this?

Reporting apps have been around the cloud accounting space since the start mainly due to the cloud accounting vendors not having reporting functions within their core systems originally - this has changed now. There are quite a few offerings in this space depending on whether you are looking for short-term cashflow visibility or looking to build something more complex. It's definitely a possibility that the good old spreadsheet could still be needed for some scenarios....

Firms have been using these apps for regular management reporting and end of year reviews as well as client specific custom written reporting outputs.

Should replace manual methods of reporting and in some situations enable firms to showcase the type of outputs they can deliver to their clients.

Finance/Funding

Finance and funding have been historically difficult for small businesses to access via the main lenders. However, in the last few years there has been an explosion of lenders that are more aligned to the small business arena and allow themselves to be a lot more accessible with a more streamlined process for funding.

So, it may have been an area that your firm has not wanted to be involved with for your small business clients but with the explosion of apps/funding partners that are interlinked with cloud accounting it means there are some real options. A real mix of Invoice Finance and lending brokers that will partner with firms to work with their client base.

Should replace not having an offering or a more client centric service to your clients regarding funding.

 

Summary

These areas are where you have the opportunity to offer your clients bookkeeping software linked solutions that will improve their experience and efficiency of their finance function or for your firm to offer them all of this as an outsourcing service.

You can begin to talk to your clients about these areas now to see how you can help them and see what pains they will value being resolved.

There is a template version (building a one page app-stack) of the is blog that you can take away to start to build your app-stack for your firm - which you can get a copy of here :-)

Happy App Stacking!

 

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