From XU Magazine, 
Issue 19

App Advisory: 9 Pitfalls to Avoid

The last few years have seen a number of players in the cloud app industry discussing the benefits of app advisory. While the rewards are clear, there are some common traps that may prevent accounting practices from making the most from advising their clients on cloud apps…
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Here’s Haley Norton from Unleashed’s AU Partner team on nine common app advisory pitfalls — and how to avoid them:

1) Not doing enough research

Before setting up your app advisory service, you should know three things:

  • The type of clients (e.g., size, industries) you are targeting
  • Some common problems these clients are facing
  • Which tools will help solve those issues

One amazing thing about app advisory is that it enables you to get to know your clients even better. The research phase is a pivotal part of that process — but some practices don’t spend enough time on it.

2) Too much, too soon

Offering implementation and support as part of your advisory service requires significant expertise. Attempting to do too much, too early is one error I see accountants and bookkeepers make far too often.

Get an implementation wrong, and you risk costing your client a lot of time and money. It will also be difficult to repair the damage that this will cause to your relationship with them. The incentives to offer implementation and support are strong, but doing so without putting in the required resource and planning is often a step in the wrong direction.

3) Not being selective

Apps exist to perform a potentially limitless list of functions for your clients. Team up with too many, though, and you’ll only end up overextending early on.

The best advisory practices really get to know the apps they work with — that way, you know precisely what you’re recommending.

The more partnerships you enter in to, the harder it becomes to maintain those strong relationships.

I’d recommend starting with a handful based on your research, then growing from there.

4) Going alone

Keeping bias out of your advice is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to do things entirely solo.

For example, one way of ensuring that your clients get all the implementation support they need is to team up with a cloud integration specialist. That way, you have peace of mind that they’ll get the best possible experience from the apps you recommend.

App providers should also be able to help with onboarding your clients onto their app. Plus, many of them will offer partnership schemes that offer exclusive support and training for accountants and bookkeepers.

5) Forgetting the client

Your clients’ needs should dictate how you plan, prepare and execute your advisory strategy. I’ve seen some practices forget this — for instance, by recommending an app that might not actually add value.

Sometimes, an app might offer powerful incentives as part of its partnership programme. But remember, these are only bonuses. The primary factor in deciding which apps to work with is how they benefit your specific clients.

6) Undefined roles

Where does your advisory service begin, and where does it end? This is a key question that many accountants and bookkeepers overlook.

Once you’ve set out exactly what your service comprises of, put it into writing in the form of a service level agreement (SLA) making it clear what your role is. That should make it clear for both you and your clients, and ensure that you are ready to scale. Otherwise, you’re at risk of getting bogged down in minor requests when you could be growing your services.

7) Selling apps, not the cloud

If your clients aren’t already using any cloud apps for their core functions, then your job should be easy. At this stage, though, it’s best to sell your client on the power of the cloud itself, instead of focusing on a few specific apps you work with.

Once your client is fully on board with the revolution that cloud technology can bring to their business, then it’s time to start discussing which apps to use. Not the other way round.

8) Build it and they will come

There’s probably one pitfall we see more than any other at Unleashed. Practices will build out an amazing advisory service — doing thorough research, partnering with a few great apps and getting everything ready to help out lots of clients. But then, they don’t tell anyone about it.

A comprehensive marketing strategy will ensure that your clients know all about the help you can offer. But external communications aren’t the only thing to consider: all the staff at your practice need to be on-board and aware of the key apps you are recommending.

9) App evangelism

Some of the cloud apps you’ll be

recommending are amazing and can help your clients do some amazing things. But you’re an impartial advisor, not a spokesperson for the companies you work with. And just because you love one particular cloud tool, doesn’t mean that it’ll be of benefit to everyone.

Try to make sure that you know exactly what each app can and can’t do, so you can make recommendations based on real functionality and your client’s needs. If you get too attached to one solution, your entire service can suffer.

Why leave it there?

Are you starting out with app advisory? Download Unleashed’s ‘Upgrading to app advisory’ guide

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