Dear App Partners: Step Up & Keep Up

As the snowball of cloud accounting continues to roar down the mountain towards the masses, a consistent conversation has grown among my peers.  Our stunning app partners who have developed these tools to revolutionize our firms aren’t keeping up.  They have turned our practices on their heads, amped our profits to new levels, made us rock stars in our clients’ eyes, and we need them to continue roaring down the mountain at the epic pace they set for us. These comments are cross-software, cross-app culture, cross-biases.  No one is moving faster than those deploying the apps day in and out. Apps, if you’re ahead of us and dropping in soon with new offerings, let this be a warning to let your updates be known.

As bookkeepers and accountants get more hooked on AI and cloud technology, our skills are rapidly developing.  We’re consistently learning to change and pivot where the best opportunities await.  I cannot remember a conversation with a colleague that didn’t involve thrusting X app aside in favour of Y.  What could have been an acceptable rate of acceleration from our app partners two years ago is simply unacceptable now.  If you offer support chat but only get back within 24h or more, you might as well send me a carrier pigeon.

As my practice has grown, I’m learning to leave more time than I would like for app fixes with my success partners.  If you’re an app partner/’success partner’ your most trusted phrase is, “Can you please give me the details on what you need so I can push it to the Dev team?”    The only issue with that is the dev team best step up.  The current exodus of the QBO devout to Xero is case and point to this issue.

As our industry rapidly grows, the ones moving the fastest are the consumers (bookkeepers and accountants), and our apps have trained us to be smart, cautious, critical, and upmost demanding of what we need. At a minimum, we each get tossed to a new app or two per week.  What can an app vendor do to keep us faithful?   How are they able to keep up with us or will their ever-growing following stay or move to the next shiny app?

Dear app partners,

Step one: whatever rapid pace you and your team think you are moving at, it is too slow and not enough to keep up.  I know, not nice. But I’m being honest as any partner should be.  If you want me to still love you in a year, you need to scramble like you’ve never scrambled before. By the way, that year is really six months.

Step two: the modern practice trend is to move from a single accounting system to supporting many.  People are branching out from their usual solution to try others.  So if you thought your app could be successful just supporting QBO, you need to adopt Xero and Sage asap. Because the industry certainly is.

Step three: Culture.  The major thing I think a lot of app solutions totally miss is culture.  If you really want to call yourself my ‘partner’, your company culture best align as well. You can’t just be an app and have what you think is awesome marketing and not understand that you are an extension of us. I’ll repeat: You are an extension of me and my business.   If you fail me, you ultimately fail my clients and therefore make me, and my business, look bad. Tricky business, I know.

It’s not rocket science: build a stable product and be very clear about what it can do and what it can’t. And what it will do (and by when) and what it will never do (we’re fine with that!). If something goes wrong, let us know what’s gone wrong. Stop selling and start educating; and, Quit the sales calls and start pushing out tips about something that doesn’t involve you directly. Become a community leader in education.  Connect with people in order to indirectly sell to people.

Bottom line: If you are building an app for my community and you actually want to be my partner, follow two simple things: say what you’re going to do, and do what you said you’d do.  I couldn’t ask for more from any partner—business or otherwise.

Alexis Harrington