XU Magazine: Going independent with your app providers
Whether you’re setting up a brand new digital accounting firm, or switching to a more up-to-date cloud system, it’s important to choose the right app providers. The choice of cloud platforms, online fintech solutions and accounting-focused apps currently on the market is huge, so picking the best tools for your app stack can be a challenge. But high-quality customer support from your app providers should be at the heart of your decision-making process.
Chris Findlow looks at the key attributes to look for in your ideal app providers, and why a trusted relationship is vital.
The evolution of cloud accounting has come a long way in the past decade. Technology and software applications have become the solid bedrock of many firm’s operational processes and day-to-day accounting tasks. Xero has evolved from a cloud-based accounting tool into a flexible and diverse cloud platform, with access to a growing number of integrated apps.
The average Xero practice is likely to have it’s own tailored ‘app stack’, an integrated and connected suite of apps that provide the functional centre of their business. This tech really is the backbone of the firm. But this dependency on software does create its own issues. If the tech doesn’t work, the practice can’t function, so it’s imperative that you have a mix of app providers who offer a solid, reliable and supportive service.
The Xero ecosystem is gigantic, with an app store containing over 800+ solutions. There are 19 different function categories and 14 different industry-specific categories available in the store. Many of these are run by third-party, independent software providers.
Having an open application programming interface (API) has been one of the drivers of Xero’s success as a platform. This open API allows any small software startup to build a useful business app, integrate it with Xero and share any relevant financial information between both apps. That’s been a gamechanger and has allowed the popularity and growth of many of the apps we see in the standard Xero accounting firm app stack. Solutions like Receipt Bank, Chaser, Tripcatcher, GoCardless (and even MarketFinance) have all benefited from having that straightforward, simple Xero integration in place.
But with such a large market of apps to choose from, it’s easy to see how a Xero accountant may be somewhat ‘blinded by choice’ when it comes to selecting the apps for their stack.
There’s a giant Xero ecosystem of useful business apps and practice management tools to choose from when formulating your ideal app stack. But how do you know if you’ve chosen the right apps for your particular firm?
Tech and cloud software are now vital to the efficient running of your accounting practice. So, there’s a real imperative to choose apps that work well and support your end goals.
For example, your apps need to provide:
- Simple, straightforward Xero integration – a good app needs to seamlessly connect with Xero, with the minimum of fuss and reference to their FAQ page. The easier the app is to set up, the less of a hurdle there will be to getting your app stack up and running.
- An easy-to-learn user interface – the user interface needs to be intuitive and simple to navigate, so your staff and your business clients can easily start using the app. The last thing you need is a new app with a steep learning curve as this impacts on efficiency.
- Reasonable pricing and subscription packages – most cloud-based apps will work on a monthly subscription basis, so you’ll need to factor this cost into your annual budget. Have a look at how many apps you need, and how many you can realistically afford to take on.
- Excellent customer support and user feedback – it’s essential to have an app helpline that’s available to help you solve any operational issues, when (and if) they do arise. It’s also a plus if the app’s development team is open to hearing about new ideas for functions, processes and innovative user experiences. This helps to drive development and lets the app grow alongside your firm and the wider user community.
The need for solid customer support from your app provider can’t be overstated. In the perfect scenario, you’re looking for a software company that offers friendly, human, 1-2-1 interactions with users. You don’t want interactions that leave you feeling like a job number in a customer support queue (as tends to happen with some of the bigger players).
Ultimately, you need to trust your app provider – after all, they’re part of the ongoing success of your firm. A software company could suddenly stop supporting your app, or be bought out by a large tech conglomerate and lose its customer service edge. These eventualities can have a profound impact on the way you run your accounting firm.
To improve your relationship with your app providers, try:
- Building a solid relationship with your provider’s account manager – get to know your account manager and build up a trusted partnership. This puts you front of mind for beta testing, case studies or events that need an experienced featured speaker.
- Attending webinars and events for end users – become part of the user community for each app and dive deep into the ecosystem. The more users and peers you’re connecting with, the more tips, hacks and shortcuts you’ll hear about.
- Talking to their dev team – make sure you’ve got a line of communication with the app developers, so you can feedback comments from your clients. This helps to drive innovation in the app and make the software more tailored to your needs.
- Becoming part of their beta test team – most apps will want to beta test new updates and features. By volunteering for beta testing, you get all the juicy new features and functionality before your peers, and can help to steer the development process.
At MarketFinance, we’re proud to be part of the Xero app ecosystem. Our integration with Xero means a quick and simple process, from application through to funding. That’s been key to our success in helping Xero accounting firms to provide funding to their clients.
Connecting your client’s Xero account with MarketFinance means they can apply for various forms of business finance in minutes. We can automatically access the information we need to review the client’s application, all with just a few clicks – and our support team is always on hand to help with any issues or questions throughout the application process.
We’re also very happy to support and partner with other providers in the Xero ecosystem. We’ve run and co-sponsored webinars and events for our accountant audience, and support the growth of the fintech and accounting ecosystem for Xero users. If your firm is looking for a simple, elegant way to offer funding services to clients, we’d love to hear from you.
As part of your tried and tested Xero app stack, we’re glad to be the funding route of choice for many Xero firms and their business clients.
Find out more about MarketFinance and how we support your accounting firm at marketfinance.com/accountants.