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Reblog: Xerocon: How to Navigate the App Ecosystem

By Cristina Garza

Special thanks to Seth Fineberg of AccountingWeb for the great interview about Xero Add-Ons and my role at Xerocon. 

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If you are working in any accounting system, chances are you are starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by all of the third-party apps that claim to work with them.

The aforementioned education or best practices often come from those like Cristina Garza, who runs two accounting practices, both of which do payroll and bookkeeping services. She is also a cloud integrator and regularly assesses client needs and vets software and applications on their behalf. Garza has been doing this for six years and currently has a half-dozen employees and more than 150 clients.

AccountingWEB recently asked her some pointed questions about third-party app ecosystems, common integration issues, and how accounting professionals can properly navigate the marketplace, or help their clients do so.

Garza: For us we’ll start with reviews. GetApp is really good at those. We look at rankings, we look at the app marketplaces, and see what people say. Also, we’ll look at the needs of the business. You need to know the needs before you can advise, so we do a lot of due diligence first. Also, we don’t want the software to be too robust. We ask leading questions, like “Do all of your staff have smartphones?” or “How do they check in with work every day?” and that helps to start rather than just say, “I need a time-tracking application. OK, here’s the top five.”

AW: What types of apps may be most beneficial for a firm to consider?

Garza: In adopting software, you have to look at internal needs: your accounting software, your document management next, and then see what is preferred and does work with a core accounting system or has a good ecosystem. I know we rely heavily on project management tools; we use our current system as CRM (client relationship management). If you are working with a ton of clients and don’t have the right system, it’s going to get cumbersome really fast. It has to be visual and easy to use. I want to know touchpoints with a client, and I want to know where projects are.

AW: What is the most common issue raised when integrating a third-party app with an existing program or platform?

Garza: The most common issue is the client not really understanding how the integration works. They may read or have been told things one way, but the reality is something else. We will put a chart together about how things do get synced over and get everyone on the same page so they know what to expect from the specific software. You have to do that way early in the process. Having the right people who understand how integration works or is supposed to work is essential. If you’re working with a client and not paying attention, problems can happen, so how things work one day may not down the road. You also need to speak up to the software company, too. They want to hear about problems or things that need to be changed.

AW: What is/are the most common “workarounds” that you hear accountants utilize and explain?

Garza: We use Zapier to automate the integration process, also Cloudpipes and OneSaas. If the application is mature enough, there are usually natural integrations, but we can push info back and forth on these tools until the application or publisher makes the change. Otherwise, you end up creating invoices in different folders or programs, sometimes even using paper and other software. You really should watch the integration happen, too. Things can occur and get broken, and you may not always need a workaround. Just call a tech partner or the vendor, too.

AW: How much “trust” or security is there in vendor-recommended apps (i.e., in their app stores or ecosystem)?

Garza: In my experience, there’s usually a ton of vetting and developers are given time to fix problems. Also, there’s usually actual user reviews, not shills in there. I think TrustRadius is really good, too, and if I know any colleagues using a software, that is also helpful and honest. You can’t just take it on the faith or appearance in an app store.

Cristina Garza will be speaking in a session entitled “Ecosystem: Practice Tools” where she will speak more specifically about boosting productivity with tools designed for a scalable practice at the upcoming Xerocon SF 2016 conference August 15-17.

Tags: xero