accounting firm tech stack

How to Build your Accounting Firm’s Tech Stack

Date
11 November

Author
Caroline Harridence

The rise of cloud based accounting over recent years has led to an increasing array of technology available for accountants to use both in their own firm and also for work with their clients. The selection is growing and we have thousands of applications (apps) now available. This has lots of advantages such as time and cost savings in many cases but there also is the risk that you spend hours researching the apps and then end up with a lot of subscriptions which leads to huge costs and often wasted licences. Do we have an accounting firm tech stack or how do you build the “perfect” tech stack for an accountancy firm?

The Tech Stack

Firstly, I don’t believe that there is a “perfect” stack. To get a stack that does every single thing you need for all your needs and those of your clients I don’t think is possible. There are a lot of apps but a many of them are still in development so won’t do every single thing that you want.

I also think a smaller tech stack (at least to start with) for accounting firm is a good plan. A large stack as a number of downfalls including –

  • Subscription costs – the more tools you use, the higher the costs will be and before you know it, the monthly outgoings are huge.
  • Keeping it updated with the new developments to the apps – usually, the software is regularly updated with new features so the more products you use, the more features that you need to keep up to date with and test out.
  • Time spent – it takes time to pick your apps, set them up and get to grips with them and so keeping to a small stack really helps.
technology stack

Also, by having a small stack that you use for most, if not all, your clients, you have the advantage of both consistency and familiarity with the app and how it works. In many cases too you will be offered reduced costs from the app depending on the number of licences that you have. In addition, you will be confident using the apps and discussing the usage and benefits with clients too.

Here are the key points for building an accounting tech stack:

  1. Begin with a fundamental accounting software like QuickBooks Online or Xero, which are suitable for US accounting firms.
  2. Evaluate additional components that can enhance the core software, such as integrations for inventory management and merchant processors.
  3. Recognize that many add-ons operate in the background to optimize processes, even if they may not be directly visible to clients. For example, proposal software can streamline operations behind the scenes.
  4. Conduct regular reviews, like IncSight, to assess where time is being spent, even if billing is not based on hours. Identify areas that could benefit from automation.
  5. Be cautious of integrations that may appear superficially beneficial but end up consuming more time than they save.
  6. Thoroughly test each integration and delve into the root of any issues.

By following these key points, you can effectively build an accounting tech stack that streamlines processes and enhances efficiency.

Consider Tools Specifically Designed for Accounting Firms

There are numerous advantages to utilizing technology that is specifically tailored for accounting firms.

Specialized Features: Software developed explicitly for accounting firms is likely to offer features designed to meet the unique needs of accounting professionals. These may include tax preparation tools, invoicing and billing functionalities, financial reporting capabilities, and more.

Enhanced Efficiency: Utilizing specialized technology created for accounting tasks can significantly improve efficiency and productivity. These tools are typically designed to be streamlined and user-friendly, enabling faster and more accurate completion of tasks.

Improved Integration: Specialized accounting tools are often better equipped to integrate with other software and systems commonly used in the accounting industry. This seamless integration streamlines workflows and eliminates the need for manual data transfer between systems.

Enhanced Security: Accounting firms frequently handle sensitive financial information, necessitating software that prioritizes security. Specialized accounting tools typically offer robust security measures to safeguard against data breaches and unauthorized access.

By leveraging technology specifically tailored for accounting firms, professionals can enjoy specialized features, increased efficiency, seamless integration, and strengthened security, ultimately optimizing their workflow and protecting sensitive data.

secure accounting

So what are some of the key considerations that you need to address when picking your core accounting firm tech stack ?

The Core Tech

It is important to get the core technology in place first and this will include –

  • your core accounting software solutions you will use for your client work,
  • an invoice processing app to save time with inputting data,
  • a practice management app to help you manage your client data and services as well as task management for the team,
  • an electronic signature application so you can easily send and request signatures on documents such as letters of engagement and
  • a CRM to keep all your contacts and prospect information in one central location.

There could be others that are important to the firm but this will vary depending on the work done, the size of the team and the overall goals of the business.

Integration

It is beneficial to have apps that integrate with your core software like Xero accounting software. This will save you time and as it will pull information in/push information out of Xero and it will mean that you don’t waste time inputting data. Also there is the big advantage that the data used is most up to date data and you no longer have to spend a hours doing this manually compared to if you used a solution such as a spreadsheet.

Relevance

With the wide array of applications available, it is very easy to get interested in some super apps which you are unlikely to use much – or use at all. It is really important that you drive the search for your apps and limit this to what you actually need and will use. Tempting as it is, you need to ensure that are not like a “child in a toy shop” and take out a subscription because the app looks interesting or you know others who are using it.

Think about the clients and the services that you are offering and then look for the app to meet your needs – not the other way round!

Selecting Apps

The number of apps available is growing all the time so it can be difficult to pick the apps to use. Once you have considered the points outlined above, narrow the choice down to 1 or 2 apps and then –

  • take out a trial for them and try it out before you take out a licence,
  • speak to the key app team and get to know them,
  • find out about the support and set up help that the app provides and if this is included or is there a fee,
  • research the app online and read some reviews and watch webinars and
  • ask your peers for their thoughts on the app and if they would recommend it.

Subscription Costs and Licence Bundles

Be careful with the costs of the technology that you choose to use as it can soon mount up. It is a good idea to look for opportunities to get reduced monthly fees if you can take out a number of licence bundles but be careful – you don’t want to take out lots of licences in advance and find that you don’t use them.

Put The Blinkers On!

Once you have selected your core app stack then put the blinkers on!

Don’t keep looking as you probably will get tempted again very soon to try some new apps and change your accounting firm’s tech stack. This takes time and money and also means that you never get to know how to use the apps you have well. The only exception here is if you are finding the app you chose is not giving you the cloud accounting solution that you expected and then you will need to look again.

So once you have the core stack in place, get to know the apps you have selected inside out so you get the maximum from them and use their functionality. Often the apps will send out frequent news about their new releases and also about their road map so you know what is coming.

Ensure that you read this and keep up to date – ask for help from the app if questions arise as they are there to support you.

If you have some functionality that you think would be useful but is lacking then tell them about it. Often, once they have a few similar requests, they will aim to add the functionality to the app. It is really important to keep up to date with the new developments that they bring out and maximise the value that you get from the apps.

Selecting your accounting firm’s tech stack takes time and it is important to start small and then add to it when time and needs permit. Maximise the use of what you choose to get the most for your money’s worth. When you have that core stack in place then stick to these apps and keep away from the temptation of trying new ones or you may find you are constantly changing them!


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


What is an accounting firm tech stack?

An accounting firm tech stack refers to the combination of software, applications, and tools used by accounting firms to streamline their operations, manage financial data, and enhance overall productivity.


How does a tech stack benefit accounting firms?

A tech stack can benefit accounting firms by automating repetitive tasks, improving accuracy, facilitating efficient data management, enhancing collaboration among team members, and providing real-time insights for informed decision-making.


What factors should be considered when choosing a tech stack for an accounting firm?

Factors to consider when choosing a tech stack for an accounting firm include the specific needs and goals of the firm, compatibility and integration capabilities of the software and tools, scalability, ease of use, security features, customer support, and cost considerations.


What are the potential challenges or risks associated with implementing an accounting firm tech stack?

Potential challenges or risks associated with implementing an accounting firm tech stack include data security vulnerabilities, learning curve for new software, integration complexities, potential system downtime, and cost implications.


Can a tech stack improve collaboration and communication within an accounting firm?

Yes, a tech stack can improve collaboration and communication within an accounting firm by enabling real-time sharing of data and documents, facilitating project management and task assignment, and providing centralized communication channels.


What are some popular accounting software options compatible with accounting firm tech stacks?

Popular accounting software options compatible with accounting firm tech stacks include QuickBooks, Xero, Sage Intacct, NetSuite, FreshBooks, Wave, and Zoho Books.

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