Four Productivity Apps Ideal for Smaller Firms and Their Clients
by Michael Amoresano, Hunter Group CPA, LLP –
November 9, 2017
These days, there’s no shortage of software claiming to revolutionize the way your firm does business. While truly powerful programs are out there, smaller firms without an individual dedicated to technology initiatives can find themselves overwhelmed by the choices and intimidated by the execution. To cut through the noise, here are four apps specializing in a variety of practice areas with a focus on low cost, light administration and straightforward implementation.
Communication and Collaboration
If you’ve heard of one program on this list, it’s probably Slack (slack.com). Beyond just messaging, Slack’s potential as a productivity tool is rooted in its incredible customization features. You can set up a Slack server or “team” for your office and create sub-servers or “channels” for any job or project requiring multiple people. These channels become an instant open line of communication between team members with support for not just messaging, but file sharing, voice and video calls, and screen sharing, as well as a range of (free!) feature-rich plugins. More advanced users can even build custom programs directly into the software.
Slack supports being a part of multiple teams, and creating a basic team is free. In addition to having a team for your firm, you could set up basic teams with priority clients and the staff assigned to them, creating an additional point of contact with many of the same features as the paid version.
Task Management and Deadline Control
Every firm has some method for tracking outstanding work along with client and IRS deadlines. For many smaller firms, it is often an outdated system that might be painful to overhaul, but it is usually the area with the most room for improvement.
Aero’s (aeroworkflow.com) task management, scheduling, staff assignment and time tracking features are custom-built for accountancy, but where it really shines is with Aero Templates. Not only does Aero make it easy to record and share best practices and procedures, but the Aero Library, a constantly updated collection of procedures ranging from reconciling a bank statement to filing your clients’ 1099-MISCs, is also available.
Document Request Management
Citrix’s ShareFile (sharefile.com) is a cloud-based data services solution, similar to Dropbox or OneDrive, but with a focus on client-facing tools and enterprise-level encryption. One of the true standout features of the software is the secure client portal, an easy-to-use web service that can be custom branded to match your firm’s image. You can direct clients here to upload files or create a free account and share synchronized folders.
Workflows enable you to build dynamic request lists, with line items that can be directly uploaded by clients, allowing you to easily track documents as they come in. It also features RightSignature, an e-signature tool in compliance with IRS guidance, excellent for quick turnaround on Forms 8878 and 8879. Finally, ShareFile can integrate directly into email programs such as Outlook, providing a more secure way to send sensitive documents over email.
While QuickBooks is likely to remain the gold standard in bookkeeping, there are a number of reasons for smaller clients to consider other options. In many cases, a client may not have a dedicated bookkeeper, requiring an easier-to-use solution they can handle themselves. Furthermore, the licensing fees often leave small businesses paying for features they don’t need.
Among the handful of upstart cloud bookkeeping programs, Wave (waveapps.com) appeals on all counts, especially cost. Wave’s accounting software is totally free, with their business model centered around cross-selling payroll and merchant services. It has many of the features of QuickBooks Online, including online banking integration, invoice design, receipt and statement scanning with text recognition, and a robust mobile app. While you likely will not be advocating the switch for clients who already send you a QuickBooks accountant’s copy, Wave is a great pitch for the client who sends you a spreadsheet and a stack of marked-up bank statements.
Michael A. Amoresano
Michael Amoresano is a software engineer hobbyist and a tax staff member at The Hunter Group in Fair Lawn, NJ, where he has taken up the role of technology advocate. He is a CPA Candidate member of the NJCPA.
This article appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.