XU Magazine - Issue 15

Are they right for the cloud?

Caroline Harridence - MHA MacIntyre Hudson-CMYK (1) copy

You have a meeting with a prospective client wanting to move to a cloud based accountancy package. What do you need to ask them and does one size fit all?

Get the basics right

First and foremost you need to understand the client and establish what the issues are with their present accounting package.

They may currently use a manual system, want to be ready for Making Tax Digital, require better reporting or they work in multiple locations so need easy access to their financial data. The list is endless! Whatever the reasons, this information will allow you to establish the requirements and the deliverables needed.

Next, you need to find out about the client – this includes what do they do, where they operate and if they are VAT registered. Ask them about the shortfalls of the system they use at the moment as this will help you find out exactly what they want to achieve. This is essential as you need to address their needs at the outset. By getting to know them and letting them tell you their current problems, you can customise the solution to their needs and suggest some ideas which they may not have considered.

Another decision to be made is if they want to migrate their accounting history and also establish if they operate with multiple currencies as this will dictate the version of Xero that they should use.

Systems and Procedures

It is essential before you plan their new accounting package that you understand the processes and systems that they currently have. Discuss this with the client and confirm the document flow and approval processes as this will all feed into the development of their new accounting package.

Start Simple

I often find that clients have an idea what they want but many are not aware of the apps that work alongside Xero.

Start by informing them about the benefits of bank and credit card feeds, apps to reduce processing times (such as Receipt Bank and Autoentry) and apps to assist them with reporting and forecasting such as Futrli and Fathom.

Not all apps need to go live on day one. By implementing the system in multiple stages, the client can become familiar with it and gain confidence and experience before adding further apps at a later date.

Migration Date

Suggest migration at the end of the financial year or at the end of the VAT quarter if the client is VAT registered. Where they are not registered for VAT, there is no need to be as specific on the migration date as it is less critical.

The target date to go live on the new accounting package will require forward planning because there will be preparation time needed. This is the perfect time to clean up the accounts, including tidying up customer and supplier information and reviewing and modifying the chart of accounts.

Transaction volume

Remember, some businesses are too big for Xero. This is not based on their turnover or profit but on the number of monthly transactions. Therefore always ask the client transaction volumes when deciding on a cloud package.

Authorisations and Approvals

Establish who is required to approve and authorise documentation at each step during the process. It may be that apps outside of Xero (such as ApprovalMax) are needed to manage approvals.

Staff Expenses

Find out if they have staff expenses and how this is currently managed. In many cases these will be very manual and time consuming.

Often moving to a cloud package is an ideal opportunity to improve how they manage expenses. Discuss expenses in Xero and also the use of apps such as Expensify.

Other Key Requirements

At the initial meeting find out what the client wants both now and in the future. There is no need to add everything on day one, but it can impact on the system you implement. Examples include –

• Xero Projects

• Inventory management

• Xero Payroll

• Consolidated reporting and

•Tracking

Training

Ask the client who will be using the accounting package and establish if they need training and when this will be needed. Some clients may want training ahead of going live so they can become familiar with it through adding contacts, revising their chart of accounts and reviewing their product lists. Others may prefer to be trained just after their migration date so they learn the system with “live” data. Therefore discuss their training needs at the outset so you can factor it in.

Be realistic

I have had clients come in and see me with the expectation to be up and running on Xero and the apps ready in a matter of a week or two. In the majority of cases, these are very short time frames which are totally unrealistic.

It is better to take your time and do it right than try and rush it and end up with issues. Explain the steps involved, the training needed and planning required. Bank feeds usually also take time to go live so time is needed to have these set up in good time.

It may seem like you have a lot to cover but, use the initial meeting as a fact finding exercise and this will be the basis of the work to do in the future. After the first meeting you can prepare a project plan for implementation which will ensure everything runs smoothly and all requirements are fulfilled.

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About the author

Caroline Harridence

Caroline Harridence joined MHA MacIntyre Hudson Peterborough office in February 2017 having originally trained with PWC. Caroline is a Business Services Manager running the outsourcing team. Her team provides the full spectrum of services from general bookkeeping and payroll functions, through to the preparation of management accounts for presentation to clients at their monthly board meetings. Caroline has a keen interest in Cloud Accounting and is the Eastern Regional Cloud champion.