Editor’s note: To mark the end of 2018, we wanted to get your thoughts on the year that was. So we’ve asked some of the most influential voices in accounting, bookkeeping and technology to share their view of the past 12 months. Today, we hear from Alan FitzGerald, the founder of PracticeConnections.
This article reflects the author’s views, which should not be taken as the opinions of Xero nor as taxation, financial, investment or legal advice. Xero recommends that readers always obtain specific and detailed professional advice about any business decisions.
By Alan FitzGerald, PracticeConnections
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
– Hamlet (1.5.167-8)
Hamlet’s oft-quoted line described the natural world, but it could equally apply to the Xero app marketplace. With over 700 tools for small businesses and their advisors, it can be hard to know where to begin. So to mark the end of 2018, I’ve created a list of the most noteworthy apps for accountants and bookkeepers this year. Some are new, others have been around longer but have seen enhancements.
AccountKit One of my favourite apps for firms. Why? Because it does what it says on the tin: a selection of nifty tools for firms, solving a wide range of daily irritations – things like professional development tracking, fuel tax credit calculators, and inter-entity loan reconciliations.
BGL This app handles self-managed superannuation funds and corporate affairs. With the addition of artificial intelligence capabilities, BGL’s solutions continue to help firms with smart ways to manage clients. The BGL team is leading the market in innovation, constantly refining what happens next.
NowInfinity This suite just gets better and better; in a few short years, NowInfinity have established tools to create a platform that looks after corporate compliance, includes a trust register, and has over 70 templates of associated legal documentation – legal and accounting compliance combined!
Office 365 While not a Xero-integrated app, Microsoft’s Office 365 is an enabler. Many new apps use the capabilities of the Office 365 suite, such as FYI, and I expect more to do so. However, many of the tools that come as part of the Office 365 subscription will be of benefit – and you get them for free. Caveat: The suite is so powerful these days that if you don’t use a specialist integrator, you simply won’t get the best out of it.
Zapier Accounting firms have many processes that are initiated by trigger events. Teach Zapier a process, and it happens automatically after that! Start small, for example, auto-generate a thank you note for a follow on Twitter. The more you break your processes into steps, the more useful it becomes. Want to see it in action? Here’s a video showing how to use Zapier with Practice Ignition. And speaking of which…
Practice Ignition Practice Ignition takes client engagement to another level. If you want to be paid on time, avoid giving your clients bill shock, or need to free up working capital, use it.
A peek at 2019:
FYI This promising app called FYI launched in November 2018 at AccountechLive. The solution combines email, workflow processing, task management, customer relationship management (CRM) and more. It will be exciting to watch the progress on this one.
My five ‘app commandments’:
- Thou shalt not live in the past. If you decided an app wasn’t quite right for you a year ago, consider revisiting that decision. Many apps are being constantly refined with feature enhancements. So the functions you saw even 12 months ago will likely be different to those today.
- Thou shalt not wait for app perfection. If an app only does 80% of what you need, use it. It’s 80% better than not having the app! Feedback to the vendor may generate the extra functions you need in future updates. Unless you tell them, they won’t know.
- Thou shalt honour consultants and app makers. When someone calls you suggesting they have a timesaver, give them 15 minutes. They’re working their backsides off to deliver solutions for accountants. If you don’t embrace the best tools, your competitors will.
- Thou shalt appoint an app product manager. This is not the IT manager; it’s a separate role and arguably more important. This person liaises with app vendors, is responsible for reading release notes on app updates, and can explain the benefits to your firm.
- Thou shalt practice what you preach. Your advice to clients applies to your own business as well: research apps for your industry; do the maths; make a decision; revisit regularly. Beware of complacency. New and better ways of delivering accounting and advisory services are continually emerging.
As with many industries, accounting professionals mostly work in their business and neglect to work on it, like the proverbial plumber who tolerates leaky taps in his own home. “That’s the way we’ve always done it,’’ is not going to generate success. So explore the apps above and look for others tailored to your situation. And enjoy the Christmas break!
About the author: Alan FitzGerald has worked in the Australian tax and accounting software market for almost 20 years. He set up PracticeConnections in September 2015 as a boutique advisory service to bridge the gap between vendors and firms – a buyers’ adviser and advocate. He has worked with sole practitioners as well as big four firms across Australia, New Zealand, Asia-Pacific, as well as in the UK and US.
This page contains general information only and should not be taken as taxation, financial, investment or legal advice. Xero recommends that readers always obtain specific and detailed professional advice about any business decisions.