In today’s interconnected world, it’s almost impossible to find standalone technologies that do everything a user wants, and the “one and done” approach is no longer viable when selecting new software. Technology’s inability to be “everything for everyone” is why we’ve seen the proliferation of third-party applications in the marketplace. Third-party applications are created to integrate with an existing product and enhance its performance. In the case of third-party applications for QuickBooks Online (QBO), they provide significant advantages to accountants and QBO users.
In this article, I’ll explore how the power of third-party applications helps accountants and developers deliver better solutions for our clients.
The Power of Third-Party Applications
To understand the full impact of third-party applications, it’s important to have personal experience using them. Fortunately, I have extensive experience in this area. I founded Entreflow Consulting Group—a cloud accounting CPA public practice, licensed recruitment agency, and management consulting firm—after years of global experience in finance and HR across multiple industries, where I selected and implemented new software and improved workflows. For me and my team, QuickBooks is one of our go-to cloud accounting software solutions. As a QuickBooks Platinum Level ProAdvisor, I’ve been a QBO user since I was first introduced to the product in 2015.
While establishing my firm and becoming a QuickBooks expert, I discovered that third-party applications were able to automate and speed up my bookkeeping and reporting tasks, delivering cost savings in time and labor. As a result, my team and I have utilized dozens of apps internally, and even more with our clients.
Document management systems such as Dext allowed us not only a simple method to obtain receipts and bills from our clients but also expedited the data entry process. It flips the bookkeeper’s role from a data entry focus to a data validation process, significantly improving data quality. Prior to implementing Dext, document management was a time-consuming endeavor. Now we access the source documentation electronically (and sometimes automatically), reducing friction while getting the books closed quickly and efficiently.
Fathom, a business analytics, reporting, and forecasting tool, has made a significant impact on our ability to drive value to clients by supporting our ability to deliver beautiful, easy-to-understand reports and analysis, ultimately facilitating better real-time decision-making for our clients. This third-party app automatically pulls reports, KPIs, trend analysis, and variance analysis. These tasks were once performed manually in Excel, taking valuable time we couldn’t afford to give. Today, we can focus on the recommendations and action plans rather than spending hours pulling the data together. This means we provide better service to our clients that ultimately delivers more impactful business growth.
Our ability to easily integrate apps together has improved our data integrity and provided immeasurable savings of time and money. Who wants to waste time manually pulling data from one system and dumping it into another? From a development standpoint, we’ve been able to automate mundane, ineffective processes so often found in organizations. This has allowed my team to focus their time on higher-value work and elevate their skill sets. For Entreflow and our clients, it’s a win-win situation.
Overcoming Concerns about Automating Long-Standing Processes
Hearing about the many benefits of implementing third-party applications is not always enough to convince accountants who are reluctant to automate processes. This hesitance is understandable, but as a business owner in today’s digital economy, I believe the time wasted on manual accounting processes is hurting their business as well as their clients.
I’m fully aware of how difficult it can be to change established business practices and make significant improvements while trying to keep the business running. My experience with Entreflow is a good illustration of this.
Entreflow stands out in the accounting industry as a unique company. We began as a fully remote business in 2015, then switched to a hybrid model, and now operate remotely. Our software had to be cloud-based to accommodate our needs. During our early days, we were leading the way in technological development and quickly realized the need to build solid relationships with our app partners. We collaborated closely with them in order to address bugs and improve integrations, knowing this would result in better products for our team to use in the long run.
Our company’s margin and staff metrics differ from most firms because we specialize in providing fractional CFO services. This specialized offering commands a higher rate than bookkeeping. Our team is dedicated to selecting and implementing software for our clients, which requires a high level of expertise and also commands high rates. The automation provided by third-party applications enables us to get our work done faster, with better quality. Many of our clients are willing to spend more money with us than with their previous accounting firms because they recognize the value in receiving premium service and improved day-to-day workflows. The investment saves them valuable time, making it a worthwhile decision.
At the end of the day, accountants are in the service industry and need to look for ways to improve the client experience to remain competitive. If they don’t, they will likely see a slow decline in customers. There’s no getting around this. Businesses are more demanding of automation and leveraging technology to save time. At Entreflow, we used to have to convince clients to use third-party applications—now they expect it.
The finance industry has moved on from ineffective, manual bookkeeping. This may sound ominous, but it’s not. Specially designed third-party applications can help improve and streamline accounting processes and workflows, presenting accountants with the opportunity to enhance the experience of their clients and grow their business.
The good news here is that accountants don’t have to go it alone.
Moving Forward with Help from Intuit and Developers
From the start, Intuit has made powering prosperity around the world its mission. One of its most recent initiatives, the Developer Growth Program, has been developed with this in mind.
This high-value program is designed to help QuickBooks application developers improve their applications with expert feedback from an exclusive network of accountants, UX designers, solution architects, and go-to-market managers. Although still in its pilot phase, the program has already delivered constructive feedback to developers, encouraging them to explore innovative ways of improving their applications. This not only helps make the lives of accountants and small business owners better, it ultimately helps drive growth and profitability for app developers.
Intuit is investing in the developer ecosystem to ensure a better outcome for customers in the long run. I think it’s important for developers to connect with the accountants who use their apps since we’re often their most dedicated supporters and advocates. In fact, I have the distinct honor of being one of the QBO subject matter experts for the Developer Growth Program, and it’s been an enlightening experience. Thanks to the program, I’ve been introduced to novel frameworks that are valuable when evaluating apps. I’ve also gained fresh perspectives on integration considerations and challenges. These new insights will help me conduct more thorough app integration evaluations in the future.
Genius Sheets is one of the companies participating in the pilot program. Co-Founder and CEO Trevor Lee says partnering with accountants can provide significant advantages. “Accountants make fantastic partners for app developers because once they believe you’re solving a major pain point for them, and for their clients, they will go out of their way to give feedback about everything they like and, more importantly, what they want to see going forward.”
Moving forward, I urge accountants to consider how third-party applications can streamline tasks in QBO, save time, lower costs, and reduce errors—all of which are great benefits for them and for their clients.
For those who want to learn more about the Developer Growth Program, take a look at what some of the first application developers in the pilot have to say about their experience thus far: