Almost every industry is experiencing some degree of app fatigue – including the accounting industry.
With the explosion of the cloud accounting app landscape over the past few years, accountants and bookkeepers are becoming overwhelmed by the vast selection of solutions. The resulting confusion is starting to impact their firm’s productivity and success.
How does one begin to navigate this landscape? How can you determine which apps will actually help you increase efficiency and improve the client experience at your practice?
Hubdoc once again caught up with Beau Gaudron, Tech Ninja at Growthwise, to get his insights on how to overcome app fatigue and identify new apps that will drive results at your accounting or bookkeeping practice.
Beau shared Growthwise’s four-step process for evaluating, selecting, and implementing new technology at their firm.
1. Identify your firm’s inefficiencies
It might seem obvious, but before you can choose an app to fix a problem, you need to identify the potential problem first!
Identifying which apps to use starts with understanding the biggest problems, barriers, and productivity hurdles in your business. This means looking at the roadblocks your team faces daily, your shared frustrations, the services you wish to offer, and the gaps in your current accounting tech stack.
A great way to start identifying inefficiencies in your bookkeeping workflows is to document your workflows – our free workflow documentation template can help.
It’s also important to note that advisor and client issues aren’t mutually exclusive. If an advisor is having issues getting documents from their client, odds are the client is having issues getting those very same documents to their advisor!
Change your mindset – thinking about resolving client issues as a way to reduce friction in your workflow is a great place to start.
2. Evaluate app solutions
Sometimes, what feels like the right solution might not actually be the right solution. Once you’ve defined a potential problem, it’s important to do your due diligence to discover the best tech option(s) for your business challenges.
Beau recommends taking advantage of free trials to determine product fit. It’s important to be efficient about this – pick three software solutions that you think will work and go from there.
A key advantage of free trials is that they allow you to test with your own data. For instance, you can test the app on different types of clients and determine for whom it will work best. It’s also important to track potential time savings – keep track of how long certain tasks and processes take with and without the app, and take these time savings into account when making your decision.
A few questions you should be able to answer at the end of your free trial include:
- Who do you contact when something isn’t working?
- Does the app have an onboarding team?
- Does your business have a “technologist” or someone dedicated as the app champion?
- Does the app regularly introduce new features and provide frequent updates?
It’s also important to extend your evaluation process beyond the trial itself – read reviews in an ecosystem marketplace (such as the QuickBooks App Store and the Xero app marketplace), and look for recommendations from industry thought leaders. Growthwise is also sure to evaluate their working relationship with the team behind the app while completing a free trial:
We want continuity with our apps as much as possible, which means we need to understand the business behind the app and know that the team will be constantly working on improvements within the app.
3. Make your decision
Even after performing your due diligence, it can be tough to make a final decision. Choosing a solution that doesn’t end up working out can be costly – be sure to consider everything, from implementation, to onboarding, to continued support.
According to Beau, a good ol’ pros and cons list can help:
We always use a simple weighted pros and cons list for each app we’ve tried. We find this is the easiest part of the process. Once you know what you are looking for, why you’re looking for it, and have trialled three apps, understanding which one resolves your business challenge will fall out of this exercise.
A few questions you should consider before making your official decision:
- Implementation – How easy is implementing the app for the advisor and for the client?
- Onboarding – How strong is the app at facilitating onboarding and maintaining world-class support? How much has their team invested in you getting started? Do you feel supported in your due diligence process?
- Support – Who do you contact if something isn’t working? How frequently are updates and new features released?
Of course, the decision you’re making is going to have a monetary cost, but don’t let this remove your focus from the solution the app is providing:
A lot of the time people focus on costs instead of the actual benefit to the client or the benefit to the internal team. The main aim for us here is to ensure that we are solving the problem we set out to.
Finally, Beau recommends making a swift (but careful) decision:
Don't take months to make your decision. Once you have identified a problem to solve, it's time to get cracking on implementation.
4. Always be evaluating
Of course, this isn’t a one-and-done process! Overcoming app fatigue means consistently evaluating your tech stack, checking to ensure that everything is working optimally, and seeking new solutions as necessary.
However, be aware that one of the side effects of app fatigue is a tendency to chase after everything that’s new.
The temptation for the ‘I like shiny new things’ people is to go off and implement new apps all the time, and that just doesn't work! Our process is to review the apps we use monthly, in line with our team’s frustrations. Certainly if there is something that can be changed or fixed immediately, we do it, but for the most part we schedule the change in line with our monthly app research.
Growthwise also does an annual audit of their technology stack, evaluating why they use it, how its features and functionalities have improved, and whether or not it’s still the best solution in the market. This helps them to ensure they’re getting the most out of every app that they use.
As you read this, you might be wondering who is going to manage the app selection and implementation process (and/or, how you’re going to find time to manage this process). If you’re a smaller firm and don’t have a team dedicated to technology and implementation, an individual who is tech-savvy and understands your clients’ needs is a great choice. If your objective is growth, a department specializing in implementation is something you must consider.
Regardless of who takes on these responsibilities, prioritizing app selection is critical for future-proofing your firm.
Embracing app selection
Every business needs to think proactively about change.
Automation is a key component to scaling effectively. Apps are the key drivers of automation and will continue to be in the coming years. As such, learning how to identify and evaluate apps that will drive results is a necessary skill in our ever-changing technology landscape.
Learn how to evaluate & select the right accounting apps for your firm. Download our free app evaluation checklist!
About the AuthorMore Content by Matt Bunston