Pam Madytianos and the award-winning accounting software consultants at 2 Peas have been advising and training SMEs for more than 15 years to ensure they have the right information systems in place to effectively support their business. In this post, Pam shares her tips for choosing the right apps to support business success.
After a start-up phase, it’s usual for business owners to build out their accounting stack with add-ons or apps, with the purpose of streamlining certain functions in their business. Building the right accounting platform can be a real challenge. The accounting landscape is evolving and there are hundreds of third-party apps and add-ons to choose from. Business owners can feel overwhelmed with the myriad of choices.
Here’s how our team helps business owners to find the right solutions for their business.
Step 1 Understand Needs
It’s important to articulate the pain points in the business. Ask the following questions to understand the most pressing challenges:
- Which tasks are very time consuming?
These are the jobs that end up taking much more time than you originally anticipated. These could also be the jobs that your staff never finish to their (or your) satisfaction, simply because there’s not enough time in the day.
- Which tasks are manual and laborious?
The repetitive actions that follow a routine sequence are ideal for automation. These might also be the tasks that your staff find boring or mundane, and take them away from the more interesting aspects of their job.
- Do you have accounting goals that your current system is not supporting you to achieve?
Stabilising cash flow is a common goal. But don’t stop there. Drill down into where the cash flow is hitting blockages. Are your invoices going out on time? Are your debtors paying you on time? Are you managing your expenses properly?
- What bigger picture goals does your accounting function need to align to?
For example, do you have staff working remotely? Is your office going paperless? How will your accounts team access and share data in a paperless environment?
Step 2 Prioritise needs
Although you may uncover a number of pain points, don’t rush to fix everything all at once. It can be overwhelming to deal with a lot of new service providers and have more than one implementation at a time.
Work with your team to prioritise needs from most to least important, based on the potential impact of streamlining each process you have identified. Which newly streamlined process will have the biggest impact on the bottom line, time saved, and staff satisfaction?
Step 3 Research apps
Now that you have identified your top need, you’ll have the language to start researching the add-ons that are available. For example, you might start looking for solutions in payroll, accounts receivable or invoicing.
Because you want your new add-on to integrate seamlessly with your accounting software, go to the add-on marketplace on the vendor’s webpage. Look for add-ons that are certified - MYOB, for example, considers certified add-ons ‘the best of the best’.
If you already have add-ons in place, research how your new add-on will complement your existing suite.
Testimonials are also a great source of information. Rather than rely solely on the service provider’s website testimonials, look for testimonials on independent platforms such as Trustpilot, GetApp and AppFinder.
Pay close attention to the systems your own suppliers are using. Which systems are they using for invoicing and accounts receivables? As their customer, what is your experience of these platforms? Could this work for your own customers?
Step 4 Do a Demo
Most add-on providers offer an online demonstration of their product. If they don’t, ask for one. A one-on-one demo gives you the opportunity to ask curly questions specific to how the app could work in your business.
Get all the decision-makers on the demo webinar so everyone has the opportunity to have their questions answered and see the application in action.
Step 5 Complete a free trial
Make use of free trial periods to integrate the application with your accounting system and see how it manages your data and feeds back valuable information. Free trials are also excellent opportunities for your staff to test the system and decide if it can alleviate the pain points they are experiencing.
During the free trial period you will also be able to test the customer service you receive from the provider. You want to be confident that you will get timely help, especially during the implementation and roll out phases.
Step 6 Make a decision
When it comes to making a purchase decision, get input from all the stakeholders: the potential users of your new add-on, the finance manager who will be using the new data sets, and team members whose jobs are affected by the new functionality. Also, consider any customer feedback you received during your trial period.
At this stage, the decision may not seem clear-cut. If it is, great! If it’s not, decide if any objections can be overcome with more information, training, or even time.
When you’re making your decision, be careful to consider value, not just price. Think about the benefits and cost savings the add-on will offer i.e. the return on investment. Is this a good investment in your business’s innovation agenda and plans for the future?
Step 7 Have an implementation plan
Once you’ve decided to go ahead, work with your new vendor to decide on a timeline for implementation that includes:
- Integration with your existing software - how long does it take and who will do the integration?
- Training for your staff
- A roll-out strategy - what you will do in weeks 1, 2, 3 and 4 to get up and running with the system
- A feedback loop - how you will collect feedback on the new system so you can iron out any issues within the first month.
Step 8 Review
Review how your new add-on is working for you and your customers after you’ve had time to collect some before and after statistics.
Check in at the 3-month, 6-month and 12-month mark. Our experience with add-ons (that are a great fit) is that productivity and cash flow noticeably improve soon after implementation and continue to improve as users get more and more proficient with their new system.
Send your feedback (positive and negative) to your app provider. Most app providers welcome user feedback as they continue developing their product to fit the needs of the market.
Then, once you’ve become confident with one new application, consider other aspects of your business that can be simplified and streamlined.
A final word
Every business should allocate a budget for innovation and development. It’s an investment in future-proofing your business so you’re ready for the next stage of growth. And partnering with the right people, services and products is key to your continued progress.
To do a demo of ezyCollect's app for complete accounts receivable management: