Technology is key to finding efficiencies in your practice. And it helps you move up the value chain to become a true advisor. So it’s more important than ever to make good choices when it comes to your tech vendors.
Determining your needs
Before jumping in and checking if a specific vendor is right for you, take a step back and re-examine your workflow. Look for bottlenecks. Identify slowdowns that frustrate clients. Look for manual tasks that require a significant time investment each month. Automating those tasks using cloud-based apps can create efficiencies for you and your clients.
It’s all about the relationship
A key part of the equation is evaluating what it would be like to work with a potential vendor. Keep in mind that the best vendors make you look good in front of your clients. They expertly field client questions or issues. They help clients use technology to solve pressing business issues.
Check client testimonials on the vendor’s website. Talk to other accountants and bookkeepers. Does the vendor deliver red carpet treatment? Do they understand your business and the issues you face?
Three Practical Considerations
1. How does the vendor’s solution work with your accounting solution?
Your accounting solution is central to how you work. You don’t want to find out the vendor you’ve chosen doesn’t integrate well with your system. Ask, does your accounting system endorse the vendor or app? How do they handle updates to your accounting system? Where do they host the app and the data it generates?
Integration between apps and software inevitably will have challenges. Make sure you ask about possible issues (in a positive way) to help navigate around them.
You want to spend your time providing great client solutions not maintaining software. So consider how a potential vendor handles your data. Try to understand how they sync with your accounting system. Do you have to spend time manually syncing or is the process automated? Are there checkpoints in their approach to accounting automation? (Read more...)
2. Can the vendor handle your future growth?
The last thing you need is to have to switch vendors two or three years from now. So consider your vision for your future. How quickly do you hope to grow? Ask, is the vendor’s solution scalable? What happens if your referral program adds ten new clients? What if you merge with another firm? Can it handle several hundred more clients?
The vendor’s app may work with any number of clients. But it’s important to consider the process you’ll use to access each client file. If you have ten clients it’s easy to scroll through a list on a portal to find the account you’re looking for. How easy is it to navigate the interface? How would you know if something was wrong in one of those accounts?
The key is finding a vendor who can grow with you over the next five years. Some vendors post a timeline of upgrades they have made in response to evolving client needs. If that doesn’t exist, you can check out online reviews and talk to existing clients. Get a sense of what others are saying about how often the vendor updates their software. Is there a track record of improvements based on what customers ask for?
3. Take the vendor’s solution for a test drive
Most importantly, before you commit make sure to take the solution for a spin. Test drive the app to evaluate features, benefits and usability. Make sure you experience for yourself all the great things you’ve been hearing.
The Last Word
Choosing the right vendor doesn’t have to be difficult. Identify your needs. Then find a vendor who meets your soft criteria, and ask the right, practical questions. Follow these guidelines and you’ll find a great vendor. A partner who will increase your efficiency and make you look good in front of your clients.