With the dizzying array of Apps available now in the Xero Marketplace, how do business owners make sense of which ones to use, let alone their accountant & bookkeeper advisors? How using a cloud integrator can not only save businesses time, but money too, is explained by Paula Byers…
Many business owners, and even accountants & bookkeepers, wonder why they need a cloud integrator . . . and even what do they do?
When people ask what I do, if I start with ‘cloud integrator’, they’ve glazed over before I’ve finished the second word. Therefore, I lead with how I help businesses use cloud tools to manage their business more efficiently, this usually generates discussion and continues with me describing Xero with its integrated Ecosystem.
An agile cloud integrator brings experience and objectivity to the change process required for the implementation of cloud business management system. Cloud integration is not new, it has been talked about within Xero circles for many years. On the Australian and New Zealand Xero websites, there is even its own directory, separate to the accounting & bookkeeping advisor directory.
Indeed, much has been written by those in the know about cloud integration, what it is and how it can help. Xero for Dummies, first published in 2013 by Heather Smith, had a section of Chapter 16 explaining the benefits.
Blake Oliver has written & spoken frequently over the years about the role of cloud integration. As a Xero Ambassador, he gave a presentation to Accountex Las Vegas in November 2016 where he discussed the Six Degrees of Xero: The network effect. Figure 1 shows one of his presentation slides clearly illustrating the inclusion of the cloud integrator in the advisor part of the network.
Xero themselves have published blogs on the subject and it was a pretty hot topic for discussion in many of the presentations at Xerocon last Autumn.
But an accountant advisor is all that’s needed . . . right?
Not always. With the plethora of Apps (now in excess of 600) in the Marketplace, it would be difficult for even the most dedicated of accountants or bookkeepers to be expert in all of them, in addition to their own job. A few larger accountancy practices do have specialists in house who concentrate just on apps and several accountants are able to cover the financial apps (for example those that manage billing, reporting and expenses) very effectively.
Most accountants will understand what a business needs to be doing to be more effective; the figures will generally provide a good accountant with a clear picture of where improvements can be made. However, few really have the time to sit down and go through business management processes or workflows in detail to give step by step help on how business systems can improve. They also have enough CPD requirements within their own industry to keep up to date to provide advice for efficient financial planning, without the onerous task of staying up to date on the wide range of apps to cover every type of Client they work with as well.
Obviously, I am generalising here, and I don’t want to ignore that there may be some accountants or bookkeepers who focus on a niche and can therefore provide excellent advice on the Apps applicable to that specialism. There are exceptions to every rule of thumb.
Ah yes, but the in-house ITO will have it covered
If a business is large enough to have an in-house Information Technology Officer (ITO), then again, they may be able to assist with the process of implementing a change in business management systems. I say may, because it will depend on where their skills and expertise lie.
You wouldn’t ask a sailor to fly a plane . . . well maybe you would at a pinch, but the result might not be the best outcome for everyone! An internal ITO won’t necessarily have the level of understanding of the current Xero cloud market, or experience in implementing the apps, if they have been employed within an organisation managing its current software (which will, in all likelihood, be desktop software – a very different beast). In addition, sometimes being too close to the current internal structure doesn’t give you the best objectivity to identify and implement change.
For most small businesses however, the role of ITO is fulfilled by an external consultant (if at all) and usually more limited to network & hardware support and so definitely not suited to implementing a Xero app stack.
The Cloud Integrator piece of the puzzle
Ben Rossi, Vitesse Media’s Editorial Director, wrote in his article for Information Age magazine: “For many businesses, the skills and experience of a cloud integrator who can identify opportunities and priorities can become the ‘silver bullet’ they need.”
As part of the advisory team, the cloud integrator can add value to the business conversion to a Xero app stack by:
• helping to identify suitable apps for the stack
• advising on the most cost effective and efficient implementation
• providing training and support for the bespoke app stack
Most cloud integrators are experienced at working with existing business advisors, whether financial or other consultants (such as web developers etc). Our skills in connecting apps together for a holistic management approach, transfers to understanding the importance of advisors working together for a business too. In short, to get the best for Clients, we have learnt to play nice with others!
Yes, an accountant or bookkeeper advisor may be able to help, or an ITO may be in a position to do it in-house, but using an integration expert is beneficial in terms of time and cost. By bridging the gap between execution and best execution, cloud integrators can drive innovation to help take a business to the next level. We may not be that well recognised as a discipline in the UK yet, but we are here and we are ready to help power up the engine of the economy: the small business.