One of the benefits of attending an event such as the recent Accounting Business Expo is the ability to speak with multiple suppliers of tools for accountants in a short space of time. I spent most of the two days walking from stand to stand looking at what was on offer and asking lots of questions. Not surprisingly there were quite a few software vendors offering tools to assist accountants deliver advisory services to their clients. Note that I say “assist”. The tools don’t do it for you, they are not a “silver bullet” that magically delivers services to your client, but they can help a lot.
Budget, forecasting, KPI monitoring and management reporting
The key players I saw at ABE in this space, in alphabetical order are:
- Cashflow Story
Started by the guys behind Profit Optimiser and with a focus on keeping things simple.
A longstanding Australian product, particularly popular for complex budgeting and forecasting but used for less complex scenarios too.
Another Australian product, no 3 way budget/forecasting yet but being developed, has some unique ways or presenting KPIs.
From the UK, previously known as Crunchboards, with some interesting ways to present KPIs.
Australian based, dropped their budgeting module, big on content.
From the USA – a more recent entrant starting to get noticed.
- Spotlight Reporting
Well known NZ based company with strong reporting capabilities.
I make no judgment on any of these and suggest you look at their websites and make your own decisions about what you want to look more closely at. The devil is in the detail so get a demo then a free trial so you can play. You will only need one or two of these and they will be the ones that resonate with you or that you think will resonate with your clients.
Business, planning, valuations, profit improvement programs and other things
The key players I saw in this space are:
Australian business well known for valuations and benchmarking and now providing more than that.
A long history in Australia and reinventing itself to offer a wide range of products including for business planning, estate planning and others.
- ESS BizTools
Australian business providing a variety of tools for a variety of services including CFO Style services and helping clients with government grants.
How to select the tools that are right for you
Before you contemplate any tools, my suggestion is that you think about three things:
- What sorts of services beyond compliance do my clients really need and what are they asking for?
- Are these services my firm is, or will be capable of delivering and that we will enjoy delivering?
- Can we deliver these services profitably? In other words, will the clients pay a fair fee for them?
If the answer is yes to the first three then you are good to go and find tools to support delivery of those services.
One good thing about looking at the websites and the marketing material provided by the software providers is that it can give you ideas for services for your clients and how to deliver them. Just don’t get too caught up in the sales pitch! Look beyond that and ask, is this a tool I can realistically see me and my team using? I often hear that a firm has purchased (subscribed to via monthly direct debit) a tool that they don’t use or barely use. Don’t let that be you.