Choosing the right practice management software for your accounting firm is more important than you may think. Not only will the platform you select integrate all the main functions of your business, it can also boost productivity amongst your team and even provide a competitive edge against your competitors.
Accounting practice management software should consolidate and track your team’s work, timelines, budgets, and allow you to manage your practice from anywhere in the world. Specifically now in the digital age, solid software can truly whip your practice into shape, or, conversely, bog you down and require far more work to upkeep vs. the amount of work you’re putting in for your clients.
Ideally, at the end of the day, you want to choose the right software for YOU, which may be radically different from what was right for your firm a year ago or what is needed by your competitors.
These factors will include things like the size of your practice, budget, portfolio and your clients needs, to name a few. Begin by taking stock of your needs and review the questions below to help you determine what practice management software is the right fit for you.
What Do You Need?
Identifying your firm’s unique needs is step #1. List out all of the things you need, things you’d like to have but aren’t necessary, and start looking up software options that cover the bases. It’s important to take into account the type of accounting you practice, the size of your team, the specific needs of your clients and even the amount of clients you have. These factors will help you narrow down your options.
TPS Software was designed with small to mid-sized firms in mind. If you have a firm under 100 employees and want a practice management software that has all the accountant-specific tools you‘ll need, this is a great place to start.
What Do Your Clients Need?
When choosing your new software, you have to realize it’s not only going to affect your business, but your client’s businesses as well. You need to make sure your software will be able to generate reports and deliverables that are easy to understand.
If your client is tech/number-savvy they may want to be more involved in the accounting process and be privy to budgets, timelines, projections, etc as they are in progress. They may also want to collaborate on projects, so you’ll want to be able to give them permissions to certain documents to streamline this process. If this is the case, you’ll need to secure software that gives you cloud and sharing capabilities. Specifically in the COVID-19 work world, it’s likely that your clients aren’t in the same city, or even country, let alone the same office space.
Your new software should make communication with clients easier, not more work. So search for a program that facilitates your relationship with them, because at the end of the day, you’re in the business of helping others, and the best way to do that is by keeping them happy (and helping them save money, of course).
What’s Your Work/Management Style?
Are you full time remote? Do you travel often? Do you have any employees or are you going it solo? These are all factors that should be considered when choosing the right software.
If you are remote or move around often, you need to make sure your software is set up for cloud capabilities and is accessible from other countries. Small things like time zones can jam technology up sometimes, so it’s actually an important consideration. You don’t want to miss a deadline just because your app doesn’t automatically update to PST from EST…
When it comes to managing (or not managing) a team, recognize that it requires different capabilities. If you do have employees, you’ll need software that allows you insight to their projects, the ability to track timelines across your organization, and provides a high level view of all the moving parts within your firm. Insight into your team will ensure higher performance and give you a level of insight that you may not even get in person. Keep your team on time and accountable, and you’ll be sure to see results. If you can’t manage your team on a new practice management tool, then it’s not the software for you.
What’s Your Budget?
As an accountant you must realize staying within budget is important. Practice management softwares can range in price, so be realistic with your budget and goals, and get something that works but won’t break the bank.
Programs like TPS Axis actually run on a monthly subscription basis, giving you flexibility over your account (and even lets you cancel at any time – no strings attached). If you want to dip your toe into a program without fully diving in, ask for a trial basis or consider investing in a month-long subscription to check out how practical it really is for you and your firm.
Do You Value Employee Input?
If the answer to this question is ‘yes,’ then ask your team what they want out of the practice management software they are destined to use each and every day for the rest of their time with you.
Not only do you want to ensure that your employees are capable of getting the job done efficiently and effectively, you also need to make sure that you are capitalizing on your employee’s time and keeping them happy. Happy workers usually equal good workers. If your team feels heard and valued, not only will they be good at accounting, they will also remain loyal and work their hardest for you and your practice.
In addition, the way your employees will function with the software is imperative. If you’re the only person at the firm who ‘gets it,’ while everyone else is struggling, it’s probably not the right pick for your team.
To be clear: your accounting team should be able to focus on accounting, NOT updating the software checklists every 3 minutes. TPS Software is easy to use, boosts productivity, and offers in-depth features for managing your team, like check-ins on time usage, project progress, and simplified workflow.
Do You Have a Team?
Are you a one-person show or do you work with a team to get the job done? There is no wrong answer here. Lean and mean or a robust close-knit approach — both have their perks. But if you have a team (or even just heavily involved employees), it’s going to impact the software you choose.
Being able to collaborate on tasks and timelines is a big plus in the digital era. Even more important, is ensuring that everyone involved is able to view each other’s work and understand who has been tasked with what. You don’t need two employees working on the same project, and a team-centric software can help you avoid these common mistakes.
Evaluate how efficient the system is at allowing you all to work together and deliver meaningful results before investing in a new program.
Don’t Forget About the Nitty-Gritty
As many companies are getting leaner (thank you technology!), you are probably your own accountant, but you may also be your own HR or even IT department. Select a practice management software that allows you to be all of those things without sucking up all your time.
Your software should log hours and billing, making invoicing much easier. Make sure the software has what you need to be an effective leader and hopefully makes your job easier, not harder.
How Tech Savvy Are You?
How much do you really share with your clients/team? If the answer is ‘a lot,’ you may want to consider an accounting practice management software that mainstreams uploading and sharing work on a cloud.
If this sounds daunting to you, you may want to take a crash course in tech because, honestly, collaborating and uploading your work online will eventually save you space, time, energy, and can help keep clients happy. At the end of the day, isn’t keeping your clients content the goal?
Do You Even Like the Platform?
At the end of the day, if you are choosing new software you have to like it. Don’t just choose it because it sounds like a great deal or it worked for your buddy’s firm–they may have different needs or a different outlook on technology. Make that ‘need, want, don’t want’ list we mentioned at the beginning of this article and ensure that whatever software you pick ticks all your necessary boxes.
Play the field. Request a demo of the software– most companies offer them at no cost. Go through the demo and select a few trusted staff members to do it as well. Get their honest feedback to help you make your decision. TPS Software has built-in video tutorials for every feature you come across, and support specialists that can guide you should you ever have a question or issue. Companies like TPS will even help you migrate your data into their software, making the transition smoother.
The most important thing a software should provide is high performance and peace of mind to you and your clients. If you find something you think you like, we highly recommend starting on a trial basis or signing up for a subscription service like TPS Software. Give yourself time to get to know the program and truly figure out if it’s the right fit for you.