Things to know about accounting apps

Accounting apps podcastAuthor and Accounting Apps Expert Heather Smith joins Andrew Lassise on this episode of the Tech Talk for Accountants Show to talk about accounting and accounting apps. As always you can listen below, watch on YouTube and read the related article from the conversation below.

Who is Heather Smith?

Heather Smith is primarily a management accountant and got on board with the cloud accountant journey early on. She has written nine books on accounting topics, including Xero for Dummies.

Read next: Why your accounting firm should be in the cloud

“I stumbled onto the accounting apps – the apps that connect with Xero and then they took it further and now they connect with a wide range of solutions,” Heather said. “I try to be very agnostic but Xero was the first that had some open APIs which is key to plug into accounting apps.”

Heather described herself as a modern accountant with clients all over the world.

“My practice is in my handbag,” Heather said. “I can work anywhere and my clients can be anywhere. I’m not a tax accountant. I’m not a compliance accountant. I’m a management accountant.”

Heather explained she works with clients on streamlining their data. “My small business clients can use that to make informed decisions. Along with everything they know about running their business.”

She said she likes management accounting because it involves a good mix of strategy, talking to people, listening and finding solutions together.

“I like the element of workflow and integration of the workflow so you are bringing in efficiency after efficiency,” she said.

What are accounting apps?

Accounting apps tie into other platforms that accountants use, like Xero. Larry Furr of Canopy also talked about the importance of integration in his chat with Andrew here.

Connecting apps “enables workflows and enables data to flow through the system without having to do any manual data entry,” Heather said.

What are some go-to accounting apps?

In the management accounting space, the data is working properly and coming out. Then I want to look at my data. “As accountants we are born to look at the data,” Heather and Andrew chuckled.

For firms that still use Excel, you can connect that to Data Dear and it extracts the data into QuickBooks or Xero. You can then present the data in a format similar to Excel if you prefer that kind of setup, she said.


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For cash flow forecasting, Heather recommended Float. This accounting app also connects into QuickBooks and Xero.

Heather Smith

“When you plug Float in you can actually see two years of cash flow forecasting,” Heather said. “It helps you and clients think about scenarios, purchasing assets, etc.”

There are other out-of-the box solutions that Heather mentioned around the 6:25 min mark in the video below.

“You can plug and play and they generate a lot of beautiful reports,” she said. “You have some ability to customize them to some extent.”

Microsoft Power BI is another platform to consider and consider using Etani, Heather said. Clarity HQ helps with advisory, she said.

“There’s a full spectrum of solutions,” Heather said.

Doing calculations

Andrew mentioned that he had talked to accountants during projects where they use Excel for formatting as opposed to the formulas. “They type 4 into one column and 2 into another and then add it up manually in the next and type 6.”

“I do all of my calculations by talking to my Google Assistant today,” Heather chimed in. “And it tells me what they are.”

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How do accounting apps augment your current skills?

In the medical world, there are different types of doctors. Surgeons of different specialties, for example. That’s also true in accounting. Accountants focus on different areas.

“You need the heart surgeon, but that’s not doing away with the foot surgeon,” Heather said. “So in my case I’m a management accountant and they usually sit in big firms. You need them because of the big infrastructure and processes to get timely information.”

Updates in workflows and technology – including accounting apps – have brought that down, Heather shared.

“Quite a small business can now be plugged into Shopify, can be plugged into a point of sales solution, an eCommerce solution, and the data and information you are looking at can be timely and accurate within perhaps a 12-hour period,” she said. You know can make decisions quickly, she said.

Niching down

As Heather mentioned, having specialties matters. Some accountants certainly branch out as well. “It depends on the person,” Heather said.

Andrew mentioned that Rush Tech niched down to focus solely on accountants due to the tremendous need for managed services and tech support in the area. Data breaches are especially dangerous in the accounting world because of the potential exposure to financial information. Of course, Andrew has also worked in the space for a while, which helps the company talk the talk while walking the walk in projects with accountants.

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“For us to be successful we can’t be everything to everyone,” Andrew said. “We can’t learn every software that every industry uses. The accountants are the people that we can relate to.”

What are the barriers to using new accounting apps?

Sometimes it’s hard to change when the current process seems to be working or is good enough. But, using accounting apps in a smart way can get you time back that  you could use for something else.

That involves:

“If you find five minutes here and there, that can change your day,” Andrew said.

How about picking the right accounting apps?

That can be a challenge certainly and “people do suffer from app overlap,” Heather said. “They have two apps doing the same thing.”

That can happen because one app in your accounting firm’s system may got some funding and is building out functionalities it didn’t have when you first signed up for it.

“If you got two apps doing the same thing you can pull one back and save yourself some money,” Heather said.

“Is there such a thing as too many apps?” Andrew asked.

“Some people say that. I use well over 200,” Heather replied. “And they are working hard in my business.”

She added that high-end accounting firms use many on her list. Smaller firms often use a smaller number.

“If I can add an app that automates something I’m doing, I normally will pay for it,” Heather said.


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