Apps to conquer workdays
Nick Huber identifies apps to help accountants work productively, manage time and money and stay one step ahead of the competition.
Your smartphone or tablet device is probably stuffed with them, whether they’re for news, entertainment, business, travel or personal finance. The market for apps (software applications designed to run on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet computer) has boomed since Apple’s iPhone transformed mobile phones.
So how could apps help your business? We’ve picked out some of the best apps for finance professionals, and accountancy practitioners in particular.
Managing Cash Flow
Float is online cash-management and forecasting software for small businesses, bookkeepers and accountants. It helps customers manage their business and plan, enabling them to avoid negative business outcomes such as missed payroll or delayed payments to suppliers.
It integrates with Xero, FreeAgent and QuickBooks Online, so customers can see their finances in real time and don’t have to spend hours manually updating spreadsheets. Float is a desktop-only app.
- A “direct” method to calculate cash flow (which considers all upcoming cash receivables and payables to forecast when cash will move in and out of a business). Float reckons that this method is more accurate in the short to medium term than the “indirect” method for cash flow forecasts (based on a balance sheet and profit and loss, and mostly used for longer-term financial planning).
- A forecasting feature and “what if” scenarios/analysis. Customers can change expected dates and figures on bills or invoices to see how they affect their cash flow. The “what if” scenario can help accountants predict the financial consequence of, for example, recruiting someone or losing a key customer.
After a 14-day free trial period, prices start from £39 per month for three user accounts and go up to £165 per month for “enterprise users”, who get extra training, an account manager and 100 user accounts.
Other apps for tracking cash include Wave (free accounting software for small businesses; app available for Android and iOS) and Cashflow Manager (from £12 per month; app available for Android and iOS).
GoCardless software collects payments, subscriptions and fees. It integrates with accounting software, including Xero, Sage, Intuit and FreeAgent.
The software reconciles transactions with invoices, marking them as paid. GoCardless says this can save businesses hours per week, boosting productivity. Customers get instant notifications of payment failures.
Price packages go from Standard (1% per transaction, no monthly fee), through Plus (extra features such as your branding, 1% per transaction, £50 monthly fee) to Pro (volume-based pricing, £200 per month).
FreeAgent has a mobile app, which runs on iOS and Android. It’s free for customers of the Edinburgh-based accounting software supplier. Features include invoicing, scanning expense receipts, bank statements and tracking time on a job.
Xero Business Mobile comes free with the Xero accounting software package and runs on iOS and Android. Features include reconciliation of bank transactions, approving expenses, and cash-summary reports.
Intuit’s mobile app (QuickBooks Accounting) is also free for its customers and runs on iOS and Android. Features include estimates, charts of accounts, invoices, profit and loss and balance sheet. Small businesses can connect their accountant to their QuickBooks Online account.
QuickBooks’ app store has hundreds of apps made by other software suppliers that integrate with QuickBooks. These apps include PayPal (online card payments), AccuPOS (point-of-sale software), Method:CRM (customer relationship management software) and Expensify (for receipts and expenses).
Hubdoc comes free with Xero accounting software. It is available for iOS and Android, and also runs on QuickBooks.
Features include bank statements, bills and receipts from hundreds of vendors; uploading documents by taking pictures of bills and receipts.
Project management and work collaboration
Slack is a popular work-messaging system that enables employees and contractors to communicate and collaborate. Workers can create groups and sub-groups within Slack, organise conversations into different “channels”, make voice and video calls, and share files. It’s often used for projects, particularly ones where workers are in different parts of a business and in different countries.
The software is free but there’s a charge for advanced features (£6.30 per user for the “standard” software, or £11.70 per user for “plus” software).
There’s a store of apps from other companies that can run on Slack. Apps include Dropbox for sharing documents (iOS and Android; prices start at £10, per user, per month, minimum of three users); Google calendar (free; iOS and Android) and Salesforce (CRM software, from £20 per user per month, to £240 per user per month).
Other software for managing projects and personal tasks include:
- Trello, which uses boards, lists and cards to organise projects. Team members can chat and swap files. (Free for iOS and Android.)
- MeisterTask, a free app with “flexible project boards”. It integrates with MindMeister, a “mind-mapping” app for brainstorming with others in real time and creating project plans.
- WorkflowMax (owned by Xero) is free to Xero customers. It integrates with MoneyWorks accounting software. The project manager enables you to manage jobs remotely, edit job costs, enter, record and allocate time to clients, and provides instant access to client information. (Runs on iOS and Android.)
Capturing receipts and invoices
Receipt Bank’s software is used by more than 5,000 accounting and bookkeeping businesses and tens of thousands of small business customers around the world.
The app comes free with Receipt Bank’s software. It runs on iOS and Android. It is compatible with Xero, QuickBooks, FreeAgent, FreshBooks, KashFlow and Sage.
Accountants pay a subscription for their firm, which covers unlimited clients and processing on a fixed fee, according to the size of the firm.
Accountants can extract data simply from invoices and receipts by taking photographs, and create and view reports on the data.
After you have taken a photo of a receipt with your phone, Receipt Bank says the app extracts all the key data with “99% accuracy” and stores it online with the document image. The paper receipt can then be thrown away. The accountant can review the extracted information and publish it to their accounts package.
DIY accounting apps/ apps for clients
MyFirmsApp enables accountants to create an app for their firm, which clients can also use. MyFirmsApp says it has developed more than 1,200 apps for accountants and bookkeepers, and these are used by more than 300,000 end users worldwide.
The app is available for iOS and Android. It integrates with QuickBooks, Xero and other accounting software.
Accounting firms can create a standard app or pay extra for a bespoke one, with no branding from MyFirmsApp and with their own ideas. MyFirmsApp’s team of designers and developers are on hand for support.
To use the app, accountants’ clients search for “My Accountant” in the app store, download it and add their details. Their accountant is alerted to who has downloaded the app and who is using it.
Accounting firms can see statistics on how much their app is being used by clients – for example, which of its web pages are viewed most often by clients.
Features include a mileage tracker, calculators for working out income tax, corporation tax and capital gains, as well as dividends/salary.
There’s also a “secure cloud” login and a control panel enables the accountant to view user data, send messages, and add and remove content to selected sections in real time. Accounting firms can see statistics on how much their app is being used by clients – for example, which of its web pages are viewed most often by clients. This information can be linked to the accountant’s customer relationship management or email systems.
The cost of the app includes design and varies according to the size of the firm concerned.
If your firm doesn’t fancy building its own app, technology can help you make sense of data from different business apps. Startup 9 Spokes has software that connects business apps. It can display information from the different apps on a “dashboard”, putting data such as business sales, marketing, people and finance at your fingertips.
The cloud software is free. Customers pay to use apps from the 9 Spokes app store, including email marketing (MailChimp) and customer service (Zendesk).
Travel and expenses
SAP Concur’s apps (for iOS and Android) come free with the firm’s software and enable users to:
- Manage business travel and expenses.
- Take photographs of receipts.
- Review and approve reports, invoices and travel requests.
- Add attendees to business meetings or meals.
- Import data from credit cards.
- Book a flight/hotel/car.
- Itemise hotel charges.
- Access and manage a travel itinerary when out of the office.
- Integrate an itinerary with TripIt (SAP Concur’s app for organising business travel).
Concur Drive is a mileage tracker that uses a smartphone’s Bluetooth technology to connect to the car being used for business travel or a device within it. This means that it knows when a worker is travelling for business. Journeys can be tracked automatically and the data turned into an expense submission with one click.
Concur’s ExpenseIt software uses optical character recognition (OCR) technology and human analysis to make submitting an expense claim easier. OCR technology and a team of auditors assess and itemise pictures of receipts for expense claims before they are sent for final approval.
Other travel apps (all free) include: Airbnb for booking accommodation (iOS, Android); App in the Air, which keeps track of travel itineraries, boarding passes and frequent-flier programmes, and gives real-time information on boarding and landing times (iOS, Android); and Booking.com, hooking you up to one of the world’s most popular hotel booking websites (iOS and Android).