Welcome to Consulting in the World of Apps – A primer. (Part 2)

by Heather Satterley Contributing Author

appsappsappsIn part one of this mini-series we examined the preliminary steps to finding the best App for your client. Key among these preliminaries is to ‘get to know your client’, examining the total environment in which the App will become one piece of the puzzle. Next we looked at ‘finding the right App’ with the intention being to find the right App to help your client run their business better. Now that we are on the trail of one or a few possible Apps that fit the generalities, it is time to hone on the one perfect App and that involves research and testing.

Research and testing…the fun part!!!!

After I identify the area(s) that needs improvement, I start shopping for apps to meet these needs. Most of the time, there is more than one solution out there and you should really take a look at more than one. Even though multiple apps are designed to do the same function, they usually offer different features, interfaces and price points. I also recommend asking other professionals that have used a product how they like it and what issues they may have encountered.

Most vendors offer a free trial for a specific period of time. In fact, Intuit requires all the vendors listed on apps.com to offer a 30 day free trial. This will allow you to test the app before you sell it to your client. I recommend watching demo videos and using a sample file to test the app instead of linking it to your client’s live data. Vendors love to give demos and some will even give you trial files to test. Take your time, ask questions and make sure that the product is a good fit for your client.

Once you have determined an app is a good fit, you will need to test the app with live data. If you are working with a vendor that will need access to your client’s file, make sure that you have appropriate authorization from your client. It is important to document your progress as you test so that you do not compromise your client’s data. I keep a log next to me with document numbers, amounts and dates, etc. of the data I am importing. That way I am sure I have not recorded duplicate entries. You can also use the audit trail (log) to find which transactions have been imported.

Implementation

A well written app will be easy to implement and will integrate seamlessly with the QB data. I have already tested the app and know what the implementation will entail. My next step is to develop an implementation plan and procedures for my client. The amount of time needed for this step is dependent on several factors:

  1. Technical requirements – Most QBO apps are cloud-based and only require browser specifications, but some do have specific technical requirements that must be met in order for the app to run effectively. Make sure that you have access to the client’s IT professional or all user permissions required. Desktop apps will require greater scrutiny. Some engagements will require upgrading the system and it is definitely better to know that upfront!
  2. Licensing – How many licenses does my client need and how will they be billed?  Will I pay for the service and then bill my client or will they purchase the app directly from the vendor. (Don’t forget to leverage partner programs!)
  3. Training and Procedures Manuals – Does the vendor have existing documentation that can be customized to fit my client or do I need to write procedures from scratch?
  4. Training – How much training is needed, if any? Some apps are designed to capture financial and business management information through user interface, meaning that the client will have to enter data into a screen. Other apps use technology to import data from other sources such as financial institutions or third parties. Apps that require user interface typically will require more training.

The emerging world of apps is exciting! The technology being developed is changing how we interact with our clients and ultimately the types of services that we offer. It is vital for practitioners to stay on the cutting edge of this evolution and understand what solutions are out there and how they can benefit their clients and their practice. Along with that comes the responsibility to apply our knowledge of accounting, internal controls and security to every solution that we offer to our clients. Our value as accounting technology professionals is made by joining our knowledge of our client’s needs and the innovation of our industry together successfully.