Few cloud replacements for practice management software, consultant says.
Cloud accounting program Xero would have greater acceptance among accountants if it had more practice management tools, an accounting consultant and partner at one of Xero’s largest accounting firms has said.
“Accounting firms aren’t taking up Xero at the rate they could be because it doesn’t have the necessary tools the firms need to run their practice,” said Tim Calcott, professional services expert at consultancy Focus Growth Strategies.
Accountants were more likely to recommend Xero to their clients than to use it for their own practice which were either running MYOB Accountants Office, MYOB Accountants Enterprise or Acclipse. Callcott said at least one of his accountant clients refused to move to Xero because he was unable to manage his practice entirely from the software.
“If Xero want more accounting firms to take up Xero they need to realise that they don’t use Xero for their own practice. They can sign their clients up but they’re not using it in their own practice very well because they can’t have their staff record time sheets or print out debtors’ ledgers” in Xero.
Callcott said his firm, Clark and Associates, didn’t really take off with cloud software “until we got the practice management part down pat”.
Clark and Associates moved all its clients onto Xero but kept using Quicken’s Reckon Elite for practice management. The firm was forced to manually re-enter data between the systems because they couldn’t be integrated easily.
Once the firm moved to cloud-based alternatives, the time taken to prepare practice reports fell from three hours to 10 minutes. Callcott said he found other accounting firms were also wasting many hours building reports manually.
“I’m finding that in 90 percent of firms they cobble reports together themselves. The legacy desktop systems need a lot of work to actually get them to do the reporting. They take one bit from MYOB and a bit from another program, export it to Excel and create their own report and graphs.”
Callcott said he used workflow-management software WorkflowMax because it integrated well with Xero. (WorkflowMax has appointed Callcott’s consultancy as its Australian business development manager.)
There were few alternatives for cloud-based document management and Xero didn’t provide enough help in guiding accountants to transition to a cloud-based practice, Callcott said.
“Xero talk about ‘the modern practice’ which is a suite of products that run your practice in the cloud. I don’t think they’re helping in that process because they don’t hold accountants by the hand and say, ‘Here is what you want to do to get accountants online’.”
Another barrier was the number of client files kept by accounting firms and the high cost of moving them to the cloud. Callcott said Clark and Associates estimated it had 1 million files and paying to store them all in the cloud was unrealistic.
“It would be very expensive for an accounting firm to store everything in the cloud. Microsoft’s advice is to store client information locally and have standard documents and templates and commonly used tools in the cloud,” Callcott said.
Focus Growth Strategies was moving to Microsoft Office 365 productivity suite in January for its emails and already used Business Fitness’ HowNow for document management and Box.net for document storage and collaboration.