Automatically adds clients’ workload to firm’s schedule.
A cloud program designed to cut the time accountants spent signing clients by more than three hours has reached private beta stage and would be launched at the upcoming Xero conference in Melbourne on 21 July.
“Our biggest problem with growing at the moment is signing on new clients,” said Guy Pearson, owner of Interactive Accounting, a gold Xero partner. The firm has been involved in many demonstrations with Xero and received many leads each week. It took several hours to sign up a new client.
Pearson had streamlined the process using web forms which had reduced the time to send a scope of engagement letter, set up client files and add the client’s workload to the firm’s schedule from six hours to four hours.
“I want to reduce the administration of engaging and re-engaging clients. If you have hundreds of clients every year that’s a lot of work,” Pearson said. Most firms employed one administrative assistant for every four accountants to manage the process, he said.
Pearson founded a separate company to build Practice Ignition, an application to automate the process of engaging new or existing clients. It was one of the first programs designed to work with Xero’s practice management software, a customised version of WorkFlow Max, by adding a complementary layer of features based on accountants’ work practices.
An accountant used drop-down menus in Practice Ignition to select a client, choose an accounting package, add subscriptions to Xero and compatible applications such as an Unleashed inventory or Vend point-of-sale, and add manual items such as additional hours of bookkeeping.
Once the selections had been confirmed the client was emailed a customisable letter of engagement that was branded with the firm’s logo and listed costs and descriptions for each item. The letter included industry requirements such as limited liability, scheme of professional indemnity and privacy information.
Practice Ignition saved the client’s details in WorkFlow Max and created documents, jobs and tasks according to the items selected in the client’s accounting package. For example, if the client had selected annual reports and a monthly review in their accounting package, these items would be added to the accountant’s workflow and schedule.
Practice Ignition created an invoice in the accountant’s Xero account and pushed it automatically to the client’s account using the WorkFlow Max job identification number. Practice Ignition included default accounting packages although accountants could create their own packages, Pearson said.
Practice Ignition used a graphical interface to show accountants the number of tasks with daily to-do lists and upcoming events displayed in a timeline. The data was pulled directly from WorkFlow Max.
“In WorkFlow Max it’s hard to see expected revenue, the current run rate, you don’t know how many debtor days, there’s no smart reporting. The data is in there but it’s hard for accountants to see it easily,” Pearson said.
Clients could access a limited version of the interface to update address and contact details for their entities and see important dates. The portal would eliminate common questions such as “when is my tax due?” Pearson had tried giving clients access to WorkFlow Max but said the program was too complex for them to navigate.
Practice Ignition couldn’t set up payment such as direct debit or add clients to the Taxation Office’s tax agent portal. Pearson said the program would eventually create accounts for the client with add-on applications automatically.
Pearson estimated his firm would take under an hour to engage a customer instead of four hours, excluding conversations with clients to select accounting packages. The program would cost $10 per month per active entity, Pearson said.
Accountants that wanted to take part in the private beta could contact Pearson at email@example.com.