Source: Xero – App advisory: How to streamline your app selection process
– Guest post written by Victoria Hoffman, Content Marketing Manager at Hubdoc
As the accounting technology ecosystem grows and more firms make the jump from desktop software to the cloud, it’s becoming increasingly important for advisors to be able to recommend the right tools to their small business clients. Moreover, the demand for app advisory services is growing among small businesses, many of whom who are eager to automate time-consuming administrative tasks.
A critical component of app advisory is being able to efficiently discover and assess apps to see if they’re the right fit for your firm and for your clients. One of the best ways to go about this is to standardize your app evaluation process using a checklist – but what criteria should that checklist include?
App selection – what to consider
Unfortunately, implementing a new app isn’t as simple as signing up for a free trial, testing out the app, deciding that you like it, and bringing on your clients. Every practice will have a unique set of requirements that the app must be able to fulfill. These requirements will vary based on your firm’s niche, the industries you serve, the number of clients you’re looking to support, and so on.
At a high-level, some of the areas to consider when building your standardized process/checklist for app evaluation include:
Features, functionality & integrations – It’s most important to ensure that the app will actually help to solve a defined business need. Moreover, the app should integrate with the tools that you already have in place to support a seamless and secure transfer of data.
Support, implementation & training – Understand what kind of training and implementation support is provided (i.e., is it instructed or self-guided?). Support requests are usually unplanned, so it’s important to know that the app’s team will be available to assist you when you need them most.
Security – The security of your clients’ data should be your firm’s top priority. Review the app’s security policy in detail and ensure that it complies with your own protocols, as well as any applicable industry standards.
Innovation & development – Given how quickly the accounting tech ecosystem has grown over the past few years, it’s important to get insight into the longevity of the app. Find out how they accept feedback and process feature requests, and determine if they’ll continue to enable you to be a better partner to your small business clients.
An effective way to gather this information is to get to know the team behind the app – Steph Hinds, Head Ninja at Growthwise, explains why this is important: “We want our clients to be using applications for a long time. We want to know that the people who are behind the app we’re recommending are passionate about what they’re building, have a roadmap for the future, are going to want to listen to our clients’ feedback and our feedback on what’s working and what’s missing.”
Pricing – If you’ve determined that a particular app will help you save time and better advise your clients, then it should be well worth the investment. However, be sure to understand the app’s pricing structure so you can determine if the investment will continue to pay off as your firm grows.
Community – Accompanying the growth in the accounting app ecosystem is the rising level of engagement in the accounting and bookkeeping community. The online community is not only an excellent resource for gathering peer advice, but also a great place to interact with the team behind the app and see how they empower their partners.
Standardize your process
The best way to keep track of all of the items listed above is to build and maintain a standardized checklist for app evaluation. Listing out all of your required criteria will allow you to have a more productive free trial and/or get more out of a demo. You’ll be able to quickly identify how the app will work with your existing app stack and how effectively it will fulfill your clients’ business needs. Moreover, having this information on-hand will make it easier to audit your tech stack and provide app recommendations to clients in the future.
We teamed up with Xero to put together a checklist that aims to help those looking to offer app advisory services better evaluate and manage apps. Download the checklist to get started. For more help, check out the first edition of Xero’s App Playbook series to get started on your app advisory journey, or tune in to our webinar with Kenji Kuramoto, CEO of Acuity, as we discuss how to choose the right apps for your firm.
Updated: 27th August, 2018