How to Navigate the Add-On Ecosystem: Advice From a Cloud Integrator

Posted on 9th May 2017 in Advisory

Written by Matt Flanagan

Ahead of his talk ‘3 Steps to Cloud Advisory Success’ at this year’s UK Accountex, we caught up with BlueHub Managing Director Matt Flanagan to find how using add-ons can smooth your transition to advisory services. Having worked with hundreds of accountancy practices across the UK, Matt understands that cloud adoption can have its issues, so he’ll be delving into how to solve the problems you might encounter and ensure the change is a successful one.

Establishing a successful cloud advisory service in your practice can be a daunting process. Getting to know, and staying up to date with, a wide range of apps is a mammoth task. But the juice is worth the squeeze, so to speak. Adding an advisory application, and even implementation service, isn’t just beneficial for your clients – it can be an additional revenue stream. A ‘Cloud Champion’ can create a successful business add-on advisory service without having to learn every app on the market. Work to your strengths and seek out the experts when the need arises.

Clients first

Before you get stuck into the Xero marketplace, you need to segment your clients. Having spoken to hundreds of firms, you may feel confident that you know your client base. This is a really important place to start your research, as many firms don’t have enough data on their clients. By collating a wealth of data on clients will give you the information needed to identify your best target audience.

Client selection is key to establishing a successful service. The time of the generalist firms is not over yet, but niching into locations and specific industries is hugely beneficial and is the future of accounting. For example, developing your firm as the experts of operational apps or wealth planning, will set you apart from other firms. This way, you can focus your upskilling on a smaller selection of apps, be confident in applying them to differing scenarios and maximise the benefits for your clients so they really value your advice.

Initially, identifying your niche through your existing client base is the best way to go. You have a ready audience to target and can build your numbers quickly and effectively, utilising the trust you have with your clients.

Apps second

Now it’s time to take action and begin recommending apps to your clients. However, with the varying requirements and processes of an entire roster, and the complex web of features from the 500+ apps on the Xero marketplace, delivering a service of value has its challenges. By splitting apps into three types we can begin to reduce complexity in areas and provide value at scale.

Type 1 – Financial apps (horizontal) – Apps for reporting, data importing and financial control are universal tools that can be used by most businesses regardless of sector. This is useful as most clients will have similar requirements in these areas we can use the same apps. The best approach with these apps is to select a set package that is offered to clients during onboarding. Examples of financial horizontal apps: Xero, FUTRLI, Datamolino and Satago.

Type 2 – Small and common apps – Apps like CRMs, quoting, booking, HR etc. Similar to Type 1, these apps tend to cover a small specific set of requirements for a business, and they are also quite general. Build fact-find documents for each app type to gather client requirements. App selection is more complex because requirements and workflows will change from client-to-client, and the volume of apps available is also higher, there are hundreds of cloud CRMs available. A good tactic for Type 2 apps is to have a shortlist for each kind, either based on the different sectors you serve (for those with niches), or based on business size (for more generalist firms).

Type 3 – Complex apps – Apps for inventory, ERP/MRP and job costings. These apps are much more complex both as a user and as advisors. There are more features, integrations and parts of the client’s business. The operational process of a business needs to be understood and documented in complete clarity before an app can be selected. To help clients with these complex apps, firms are teaming with software companies like BlueHub, who assist clients with complex app selection, integration and implementation alongside the accountant.

Now you have your clients on board with their new apps, you can start using the data to provide top-level business advice and to coach clients to success. Apps like FUTRLI allow you to go beyond the standard P&L and provide high-value management accounts. Your clients will be able to use your advice to make educated decisions and take advantage of opportunities that may otherwise have passed them by.

Are you ready to launch your add-on app advisory service? You can benefit from a support team of experienced cloud consultants working in the background to answer your questions and work through your client transitions.

Want to identify the right apps and provide access to a learning portal so you can upskill as you get your service off the ground? Check out our Cloud Service Retainer, BlueHubCSR.

FUTRLI will be at STAND 1143 and Theatre 11 at Accountex 2017. Don’t miss our sponsor, BlueHub’s Managing Director Matt Flanagan, discuss the three important steps to cloud advisory success.