July Tue, 2014
Welcome to Consulting in the World of Apps – A primer. (Part 1)
by Heather Satterley Contributing Author, William “Bill” Murphy
Changes, they are a coming… oh wait, they’re already here!
The accounting software industry has been changing, moving and growing. Early adopters have endured the brunt of the evolution. As Joe Woodard put it last month at the Scaling New Heights Conference in San Antonio, “One step ahead, you’re a leader, ten steps ahead, a martyr.” So the challenge becomes, when do I step in? You want your clients to benefit from the cutting edge of technology, but nobody wants to be the over anxious advisor who puts their client into something that is not a proven benefit to their business or even a detriment. Can we all say “egg on face”? Been there, done that. My clients often ask me, “how do you know all this?” and my reply is, “I’ve already made that mistake”.
The tightrope we walk is identifying solutions for our clients that will truly benefit their business. This sounds like a pretty simple prospect; we know our clients business, we find an App that is PERFECT, we recommend, engage, implement, VIOLA! The client is happy, we’re a hero, and we have a brand spanking new trading partner…. Not so fast!
It is easy to think only with our techie brain and get super excited about the technology that we are recommending to our clients. It is our goal, after all, to make our client’s accounting processes as easy as they can possibly be while providing the most accurate and useful information. But we must also consider other factors before we jump in with both feet!
Getting to know your client
A total environment assessment is necessary before we take the plunge. What I mean here is the client environment. After all, that is what this is all about. Here’s a list of questions you MUST answer before you even begin to research solutions for you clients.
- Who is your client? Are they an early adopter or are they nervous or afraid of technology? Many times a client will say they are ready to “move up to the times” but they don’t really mean it. This doesn’t mean you can’t help them, but it will certainly determine which Apps they will be able to implement successfully.
- Are you dealing with the decision maker? A common mistake is engaging with someone other than the decision maker. Make sure that you are speaking to the person that will ultimately sign the engagement letter.
- How much change are they capable of handling? Many users hear about something great, they really want it, but they either do not possess the skills or the staff to implement it.
- What technology are they using? Make sure you understand their technology environment before you start to research solutions. This will help you determine whether they will need additional hardware or software that may affect their overall investment in the project.Some Apps work with QuickBooks Online, some with QuickBooks Desktop and some work with both. Know your product.
- Who and where is their staff? Who will be utilizing the solution and what skills do they need? What training will be involved? Are there multiple locations? These questions must be answered before you can make any recommendations to your client. You must know who you will be working with so that you can determine the best way to deliver training and support to your clients. You will also be able to recognize if the client will need additional staff to implement or will need to make staffing changes.
- What is their budget? It is important that your client will be able to afford your proposed solution, both to implement or “start-up” the process and to maintain the services you are recommending. Most Apps are offered on a pay-as-you-go or subscription model, so it is important to consult with your client about the ongoing costs involved with the project. Make sure that you include on-going support and consulting costs that you will provide to your client. I usually break out my proposals to illustrate the one time implementation costs and on-going subscription costs.
Finding the right App
What is cooler than learning new things that make running your business easier? Finding Apps that help your client run theirbusiness better and telling them about it! I love technology and innovation, so my favorite part of any engagement is the research and testing phase. It gives me an opportunity to learn new skills, new products and grow as a professional.
When I meet with a client for the first time, I don’t ask, “What do you envision for your accounting process?” They don’t know. That is why they hired me. I ask questions that help to determine where their processes are clogging and slowing the flow of information.
For example, I had a client that was manually entering their web orders into QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions after printing them from a Magento website. By the time they contacted me, they had over 20 full time employees entering these orders and they were still backed up. They called me because their plan was to try to figure out how to add more seats to QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions so that they could hire more employees to enter the orders (they had already maxed out the 30 available). I recommended using an ecommerce App to import the orders into QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions which would automate the web order process, eliminate human error and free up the existing order entry employees to do other tasks.
Another client was having his remote employees fax in their time sheets weekly so he (the owner) could enter them into his QUICKBOOKS file so that he could bill his clients and pay the employees. He was fine with this until I suggested that maybe his time would be better spent running his business. I suggested a cloud timekeeping solution that his employees could use to enter their time and he could simply import the time once a week. This solution saved him hours each week, eliminated human error and ultimately saved him money.
In the past, we would create workarounds within QuickBooks to accomplish tasks that either weren’t available in QuickBooks or did not suit our client’s business processes. These workarounds were usually complicated and riddled with opportunities to make mistakes. The environment has changed! Instead of creating work-arounds, we can find actual applications designed to integrate with QuickBooks and meet our client’s specific needs. And the best part is that most of these applications are inexpensive and super easy to use.
Look for Part-2 of this article when we examine Research & Testing and Implementation of Apps.