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4 ways to get more from your existing app stack and improve internal efficiency

Are you struggling to stay on top of all the new apps entering the accounting ecosystem?

You’re not alone.

With over 1000+ connected apps in the Xero ecosystem already, and approximately 10 new apps being added each week, there’s no wonder why we saw the App Village packed out at this year’s Digital Accountancy Show. 

And whilst many firms are still on the journey of building out their app stack, looking for the right apps to help service clients and improve internal efficiency, other firms are pressing pause on new app-quisition and are shifting their focus onto something else…

Getting more from their existing app stack.

Are you and your team using 100% of your existing app’s functionality?

Are they fully embedded in your daily/weekly/monthly workflows? 

A growing volume of work, challenges with hiring staff, and general firefighting are just some of the reasons why some accounting & bookkeeping firms haven’t been able to fully engage with their existing app stack to date. 

So, what can you do to make your apps work harder?

We caught up with the community to find out 4 ways to get more from your existing app stack.

Related reading – Building your App-Stack as an Accounting Firm

1. Utilise more features & functionality

If you first implemented an app 18 months ago, it’s likely that a number of new features and functionality have been released since then.

So, finding out what more they can do and exploring unused features & functionality is a great starting point for getting more from your existing app stack.

For Karen Kennedy from Kennedy Accountancy, “using the people behind the software is key”. This means reaching out to your Account Managers/support teams and working with them to understand how you’re currently using the app vs. how you could be using it. Keeping on top of product updates can be time-consuming, but worthwhile if new functionality can save you more time down the line.

Despite all of the great tech support available in the ecosystem, not all support teams are made equal, so the onus might be on you to initiate these conversations and find out what more you can do.

Speaking with other accountants & bookkeepers in communities like the Digital Accountancy Community or App-Advisory Essentials are also great ways to find out what more you could be using your apps for. 

In smaller firms where the responsibility for app implementation often falls onto the shoulders of the Founder, time is a big factor as Lara Manton from LJM Bookkeeping describes…

“There are some really proactive account managers out there, but sometimes I’d like to hand it all over to someone to set up (the internals) & show me what I need to know or point things out. Time is the big factor & I’m probably not getting the most out of all of it, but sifting through all the tutorials etc is a pain.”

If time is a factor for you, then it might be worth considering using a cloud-app integrator or app-implementation specialist to help you get more from the apps you’re using. They can help with the entire process from scoping through to implementation. 

Related reading: Why do I need a cloud app integrator?

2. Encouraging more use from team members

You might be using all of the features & functionality an app has to offer, but unless your entire team are up-to-speed and embedding the app use as part of their regular workflows, your internal efficiency will still suffer.

But getting your team up to speed with tech isn’t always straightforward, as Jon Jenkins, CEO of Hindsight describes: “The problem is I love the tech, researching, testing, workflows and implementation. I can pick something up very quickly. The team not so much.”

This probably rings true for a lot of smaller accounting & bookkeeping firm owners that are responsible for testing and implementing new tech themselves. 

The solution? Get your team involved as early as possible. 

For firms like Gravitate Accounting, they do this by encouraging as much of their team to attend events like Digital Accountancy Show to hear first-hand about the apps that are available and how they can help.

Giving your team ownership over finding and implementing new tech is a great way to encourage their adoption from the start. “Listen to your team and let them take the lead. They are the ones that are going to be using it day in and day out, not you” said Jenkins. 

But these challenges aren’t unique to smaller firms. In mid-tier and large firms where they have dedicated teams of cloud champions and digital solutions experts, getting buy-in and encouraging use from the wider practice remains one of the biggest challenges. 

3. Increase client adoption

Are your clients all using the apps available to them as much or as well as they could?

The chances are there are a few opportunities in your client base to help your clients use your app stack better (which in turn should mean efficiency improvements for you and your team!).

So what’s the best way to do this?

For Leanda Daddow from Celtic Bookkeeping, it consists of “doing Zoom calls or on-site visits to use the software, explain how it helps and how it reduces their costs by using it.”

The key thing to focus on in any training is helping the clients to understand the value behind using the app and why it’s relevant to them.

Robert Davidson, Co-Founder of Sllick and Tax Torch, said “for me, it’s all about showing the client the value and the only way to do that is if they understand what it does and how it works, but also how it’s relevant to them. On Zoom calls, I’ll often show a client a product that will help them, how it works, and then tailor it to a specific task they have to do in their business.”

Client training sessions can be run individually or in a group setting, depending on what’s most suitable and the needs of your clients. Some firms might choose to deliver training for free, whereas other firms like Sllick have a number of paid-for training options available to clients. 

4. Consolidate & integrate 

We’ve all heard the saying that ‘less is more’. Well, when it comes to getting more from your app stack, less really can be more.

As Jon Jenkins described: “As early adopters of so many bits of kit we suffered massively with using multiple products to do what one ended up doing. The learning curve was relentless. I was also tight and would use 3 bits of kit if it meant getting them all free which is a false economy.”

Many apps being released now often have a lot of cross-functionality e.g. you might be using a practice management app with a built-in document portal, whilst also running a standalone document management system alongside it. This is fine if there’s functionality you can get from one that you can’t from another, but it’s often the case that apps can do pretty much the same thing.

Reviewing your app stack for this cross-over and looking for ways to consolidate can help to remove any areas where you’re doubling up, and instead highlight opportunities in the remaining apps to double down. 

As well as consolidation, integration is another great way to get more from your existing apps. Lara Manton described her focus over the next 12 months as “making sure I’m utilising every feature & not doubling up anywhere, using the integrations to avoid rekeying or missing crucial bits of info, and gaining any additional efficiencies available.”

When it comes to integrations, speaking with your app providers as well as other accountants & bookkeepers is a great way to learn what’s possible. There are also great resources available like the App Stack Builder from App Advisory Plus that will allow you to build an app stack based on whether apps integrate or not. 

Where apps don’t have native integrations, it’s worth checking out if they have integrations with tools like Zapier, or Make (formerly Integromat). If you’re a Microsoft firm, then delving into the Power Platform can also highlight some integration and automation opportunities between the apps that you’re already using. 

Related reading: Zapier Tips: How to request receipts from your clients automatically!

Do you want to get more from your existing app stack?

If you’re pressing pause on implementing new apps and want to get more from your existing app stack, then hopefully the ideas above have given you something to think about and somewhere to start. 

  • Utilise more features & functionality – it’s likely that new features are available since you first implemented them (or maybe you never fully implemented them in the first place). Speak to Account Managers for additional training or work with external suppliers to implement fully.
  • Encourage more use from team members – get them bought into the process early on and allow them to take the lead with finding and implementing new tech. This takes it off your plate and they’ll be more inclined to use the tech to the full potential 
  • Increase client adoption – regular training for your clients helps them to get the most out of the apps. They have to see the value in using them, and that starts by making them relatable to things they’re trying to do in their business.
  • Consolidate & integrate – review your app stack to highlight any possible areas of doubling-up. Remove apps that are not needed and double down on the remaining apps with a focus on integrating together where possible.

Do you have any additional tips or ideas to share for getting more from your existing app stack? Get involved in the discussion in the Digital Accountancy Community today.