As the New Year gets underway, many of us have resolved to try out some of the third party apps which are designed to integrate with our accounting software packages. We may have a vague feeling that we “should” get to know and start using these apps, but often feel we don’t have the time to vet the app, which requires an investment in reading the app’s reviews, reading articles about the app and/or blog posts, reading the company’s website and watching videos or reading FAQs, and finally, testing the app.
If you’re wondering how much time you should take to explore a new app, you’re not alone. While there is no right or wrong answer, here are a few considerations.
Does the app solve a specific problem for a specific client?
If you have a real-life scenario in mind, it is much easier to ask the right questions to determine if the app will solve your client’s pain point. I’ve heard it said at industry conferences that no app will solve 100% of the pain, so apply the 80/20 rule: an app may be worthwhile if it solves 80% of the pain.
Can you learn how to use it?
I find myself choosing apps which I can test on my own company file, or my personal books. If I am able to successfully navigate the apps’ ins and outs, and it works well and lives up to its promise, I am more comfortable recommending it to my clients. However, I cannot test every scenario (for example, I don’t have sales tax, or inventory, or payroll), so I’m back to trusting my research.
Can your client learn how to use it?
If you have recommended and tested an app, in all likelihood you will be supporting the app – the client will turn to you before they turn to the Vendor when they have questions or problems. Are you ready to start providing tech support for this app, or alternatively, are you ready to make it clear to the client you are not a help desk, and they must use the Vendor’s support portal? Is your client tech-savvy and someone who enjoys new challenges, or are they more grudging about learning new things, but will come on board if you can prove the value?
How much does it cost – is it cost effective?
I work for micro-businesses – none of my clients has more than 7 employees. In fact, most have no staff – they are Sole Proprietors. For these small companies, many of the apps are priced out of reach. Few accounting software integration apps have a one-time fee at download, like a song or a book on Amazon or iTunes. Most have a recurring monthly fee. You and the business owner must perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine if the benefits the app provides outweigh the cost. Some business owners will live with the pain to avoid a $20.00 monthly fee; others won’t. You know your clients, so you should have a general idea of their reaction before you even pitch the app.
What if it doesn’t work?
This can be embarrassing. You have spent time, probably billable time, researching an app, testing it, recommending it, installing and configuring it, and using it. Then it turns out, the app doesn’t perform as expected, or is more complicated than you were led to believe, or even worse you led a horse to water (your client), but you can’t make them drink it (they never use the app, despite telling you they want it). It may make sense to cut your losses, cancel the app, and go back to doing things ‘the old way.’ Treat this as a learning experience: where did I go wrong? What didn’t I see that I should have? What will I know better for next time?
What if it works great?
Congratulate yourself! Your time and effort paid off, you and your client have a tool which makes everyone’s lives easier and at a cost which everyone can swallow. Next steps? Start exploring the next app!