App-ily ever after:
The 5 secrets to a successful relationship with your software partner
David Tuck Entrepreneur
Software is core to the modern accountant’s role
It is essential that you identify and use software that can benefit your work with clients. Your firm will have a stable of software partners. Yet most of those partnerships are not worthy of the name. They are marriages that have gone stale. You rushed in too quickly. You weren’t clear on what you wanted. There is minimal communication between accountant and software partner. On their best days, the relationships are the sums of their parts. On the others, the accountant is left wondering why they got together in the first place.
It doesn’t have to be this way. It won’t with the 5 secrets to a happy relationship with your software partner.
Clarify what you want
You need to be clear on why you want to partner. There are three possible reasons:
- Awareness - you want knowledge of that software product to reactively recommend it where a client comes to you with a relevant need
- Introduction - you want to proactively introduce that software to clients who could benefit from it
- Use - you want to use that software as a firm as part of running your business and delivering services to clients
The above are not mutually exclusive. But you need at least one. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you “need” to work with a software product because so many other people are. It needs to solve a problem for you and your firm. Make sure you’re clear on what that problem is.
You’ve clarified what you want. But if you have enough clients, it’s likely that any software product will be able to benefit at least one of them. It’s so easy to spread yourself too thin with more software partners than you can sustain. That’s why you have to prioritise. I recommend using an approach I call WEAP:
● W - Wow value to clients - the greater the business impact to them (e.g. game changing funding) the more important it is that another accountant doesn’t deliver it first
● E - Ease of understanding and communicating - both to clients and internally. How likely is it that you are going to be able to roll out this software as planned?
● A - Applicability - what % of your client base or client work is this software product relevant to?
● P - Profitability - what additional fees will you be able to generate by using this software and what costs will you be able to save vs the cost of the software itself
Score each factor out of 10. Prioritise the products with the highest aggregate score.
KYP: Know Your Partner
Doing thorough research can feel like a nice to have. But think about one or two hours in the context of all the time and money you are going to spend with that software partner. Post on LinkedIn asking for recommendations. Use one of the fantastic Facebook groups for digital accountants that are out there. If you’re not sure what they are or how to join them, post on LinkedIn or Twitter (@davidctuck) tagging me. Use the online reviews on the accounting system app marketplaces. Weight them for recency as well as depth of comment.
Then try before you buy. Play the field. Get a demo. Any potential software partner that is confident in their product should be happy to oblige. Take time to think through all of the needs you have. Then ensure that all your questions get answered.
Exercise judgment when it comes to price. We are living in a world of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). You are likely buying a subscription to your partner’s software. Be mindful that long run, the size of that subscription will impact how much they have to invest in improving the product. As well as asking why they are more expensive than a particular competitor, ask why they are cheaper than others and what impact that has on their ability to deliver the improvements you want to see in the product.
You need to be all in on a relationship with a particular software partner. Of course, trial the different alternatives. But then make your choice. Otherwise it dilutes expertise within your team. It also dilutes your clarity both internally and externally. Your team is less convinced to do the work to adopt the new software. And clients aren’t convinced either. A lack of choice communicates a lack of confidence.
As a SaaS business, your customer’s success is your success. If your customer gets good results with your software, they will pay you more money for longer. If they don’t, they will cancel their subscription. Your software partners will invest in team members to help you succeed (these will have various different names - Customer/Partner Success, Account Management, Consultant and many more). Use them. Their job is literally to bend over backwards to help you get everything you need out of their software.
Ensure you have a named relationship manager at your software partner. And that there is a dedicated relationship manager at your firm. Ensure there is regular dialogue taking place. And be proactive. Update your software partners on what is going on with your firm. Why not send a monthly email to the relationship manager at each of your software providers letting them know what your priorities and big challenges are. Give them the chance to solve your problems and spot opportunities for how they could help.