Apps for accountants: practicalitiesAccounting apps can save time or help your accountancy firm provide value added services. Looking at what’s on the market and sorting the wheat from the chaff will be no easy task and I thought I’d share some thoughts about the practicalities.

The people dimension

Success will be dependent upon getting user ‘buy in’. That can be difficult when making internal changes and getting clients on board could well be more challenging. Consider:

  • Who will be using the app?
  • Can they see the benefits?
  • Do they have the skills & inclination to use it?
  • How much training will be required and who will be providing it? And how will it be provided?
  • The same applies to ongoing support.
  • What support and training is available from the provider to help you get user ‘buy in’ and genuine engagement?
  • Will the provider put you in touch with accountants who are using the app so you can speak to them about their experience?

For many firms there won’t be one size fits all solutions for all clients –needs and aptitudes will vary.

Don’t forget controls!

For example, an app that takes a photo of a receipt, uploads and posts it into accounting software should be ideal for sole traders; but in larger businesses you may need to factor in an approval process.

Informational apps

Informational apps are great for providing business insights, however you’ll need to decide how they will be used. You could just provide the app and leave things to the client or you might use it to provide business advice and maintain a dialogue. However it’s worth bearing in mind that:

  • Decisions need to be based on reliable information, so:
    • data integrity is really important. Automating data input is really useful, although the entries will still need to be checked. The data will also need to be up to date!
    • look beyond the marketing blurb and make sure you understand the limitations of the app. I recently looked at one which has the potential to be brilliant and add real value; although arguably more development is needed. The present version seems useful for some situations, although it struck me that in the wrong circumstances it could give rise to misinformation or wrong advice.
  • It’s worth thinking about what you want to present and the way it’s presented. To connect with the users it needs to reflect the key drivers of the business. Underlying data will need to be aligned, so you’ll need to make sure there are all the appropriate account codes.

Information may occasionally reveal anomalies which need to be investigated and addressed, including advice on processes. If you are providing a fixed fee service – you might want bear to this in mind when agreeing terms.

Wrapping up

Apps provide a great opportunity for you to contribute to your clients’ success. While some may improve efficiency, others can help you add value, which should aid client retention.

However it’s important to be mindful of possible pitfalls, both in terms of selection and implementation as well as the quality of information….I hope this article helps you on your journey!

If you found this article helpful and would like to discuss this further or how you might be able to get partner level support for challenging advisory projects then do get in touch.