How accountants should choose their tech stack: Interview with Amplify Advisors

Whether you’re building a tech stack internally for your accounting firm or externally for clients, there are a few key steps to take into consideration. As part of an interview series we’re running with a range of accounting technologists listed on the Amaka Advisor Directory, we spoke to Jamie Smith, Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer at Amplify Advisors.

This is number one of five snippets we’ll be releasing over the next couple of weeks with Jamie, exploring the way her team at Amplify have adopted technology across their practice to maximize efficiencies and convert leads. She worked in the accounting profession for about two decades before founding Amplify Advisors. Below, you’ll find the recording of the interview snippet, a summary of key points and the full transcript.

Key points on how to choose an accounting tech stack

  • Take a look at your current state, what’s working and what’s not
  • Define what the future desired state looks like from a technology and process perspective
  • Make a list of the gaps between your current and desired state
  • Allocate time to figure out what processes are taking up the most time or causing the most bottlenecks
  • Hone in on your North Star, e.g. timely tax returns, customer experience, employee experience, etc.
  • Consider whether using more tech in a certain process actually aids in your North Star, don’t just get a piece of software for every single gap on your list
  • “You have to step back and reevaluate things compared to your strategy, your vision, your values, your North Star and make decisions that way.”

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Full interview transcript with Amplify Advisors

Gian Ottavio (Amaka)

Hi, everyone. My name’s Gian Ottavio. I’m the Strategic Partnerships Manager here at Amaka. Today I’m joined by Jamie Smith, the Co-Founder and CXO of Amplify Advisors. Amplify Advisors is a full service accounting practice and also a growth consulting firm based out of Calgary, Canada.

Jamie’s team at Amplify offers a holistic accounting and finance service ranging from Outsourced CFO, CPA recruitment and consulting to technology and business strategy. They cater for small, medium businesses who typically utilize Xero and QuickBooks, as well as more enterprise-size clients who leverage ERP systems such as NetSuite. So, Jamie, thanks for joining us today.

Jamie Smith (Amplify Advisors)

Appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.

Gian Ottavio (Amaka)

All right. So, look, we’re moving to, I guess, the five fireside questions. I mean, the first one that we’re really keen to understand is the type of processes that Amplify Advisors goes through in choosing your tech stack.

Jamie Smith (Amplify Advisors)

Yes, great question. So funny enough, my Co-Founder and I have been working in systems selections for a long time, even at Deloitte, where we both came from as alumni. And so in the original days of Amplify, we actually saw system selections as one of the projects that we would do for clients. And so to the degree that we can use our own process internally, that’s when we have the best success.

And so that system selection process is really about taking a look at your current state and what you’re doing and and what’s working, what’s not, how that’s all set up. And then really defining what that future desired state looks like from a technology and process perspective. Right? So it’s essentially your wish list and what would be an ideal optimal setup.

And then when you see the gaps, you need to take that laundry list of gaps between what you currently have and what you wish and your future desired state. And you need to prioritize those. And that’s where it gets incredibly important because different systems do different things better than others.

And so if all you do is take your wish list or take your gap list and you go to market looking for a system, you will end up having an expectation misalignment because things that you make assumptions about or things that you didn’t realize were as important as they were may not fit into the systems and the tech that you picked.

So it’s incredibly important to get that gap list complete. But then the next step of prioritizing is really crucial. And obviously for every firm, we’d be silly not to admit it. Cost is going to be on that list, right? And so cost is always going to be a factor. And in certain cases, when the priorities are high because of the hours that are manually being exerted right now or the risk of error or what have you, that cost is obviously going to be a lower factor.

But a nice to have where realistically say you’re doing something 2 hours a month on a spreadsheet, you’re what you’re willing to pay to replace 2 hours a month on a spreadsheet that’s not resulting in errors is incredibly less than something that you’re spending an entire year full-time employee on.

So really, really important to take cost as one of the factors and and really evaluate that as your last your last evaluation. How much you are going to spend is really going to depend on the rest of the items.

So if I think about classic examples would be the user interface. So if you’re a firm and you’re you have a sales team that’s a non-CPA, for example, out there in the market selling then you really need to think about how does my salesperson use my system and, in a non-COVID world hopefully, maybe they’re out and about and they’re in their car and if they don’t have the ability to put information into an app on their phone, then they’re not going to do it or they’re going to save everything till Friday.

And do kind of a bad job putting that in because it’s the last thing they do Friday before they log out. So things like that have to be considered, right? So a user interface or a mobile app application for a sales team could be a critical function, for example. And so it’s those types of things that have to be listed, evaluated and considered.

Gian Ottavio (Amaka)

Yeah, no thanks for that, Jamie. And I guess to that point where it’s a lot more of a process improvement based approach, is there, I guess, regular reviews or is there a certain process that you and your co-founders take in determining, okay, this quarter, you know, this was an inefficiency that we found, or is it something that is, I guess, ad hoc in nature?

Jamie Smith (Amplify Advisors)

Yeah. So I think, you know, it’s really important from a continuous improvement or transformation perspective to constantly be looking at your priorities. So for us at Amplify, we have a client experience as a North Star. So I’m the Chief Experience Officer as one of the co-founders, and my co-founder is our CEO and that’s one of the ways that we show that experience is our priorities.

So within your firm, if you’re a tax accountant, for example, your priority might be timely and accurate tax returns and tax compliance. If you’re an audit firm, chances are you want efficient, cost effective and quality work, etc. Right. So what you decide is your North Star should really drive how much effort and time you put into something.

So for us, experience is our North Star and part of the client experience is an employee experience. So if something comes up where we have our CFOs putting up their hand and saying, you know, this is a pain, or I don’t understand this, or they’re constantly needing help or asking for help, that goes to the top of the list versus if our accounts receivable clerk is having some struggles that is not necessarily allied with our North Star.

So that would get prioritized and evaluated on a monthly or quarterly basis. So I think that going into your North Star, your purpose in your why and your values, that’s what you need to evaluate decisions. And if something is urgent, it’s because it’s directly aligned with your actual strategy and your ability to achieve and execute that strategy versus the other things have to be looked at at a more diligent level because if everything’s an emergency, just because it pops its head up, you won’t get to the big things, right?

And you’ll be doing things that aren’t actually impactful or can be quite expensive, right? Like, for example, this is the issue in today’s world. If you get an app for everything that you need before long, you’re going to bleed $7 a month at a time rate. It just gets out of control. So you can’t be doing that.

You have to step back and reevaluate things compared to your strategy, your vision, your values, your North Star and make decisions that way.

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