Last week we dug into the most popular tools of 2020, but what are the can't-miss trends that we're leaning into in the new year? These launches were handpicked out of the 324 launches we featured last year as the can't-miss darlings of the list.
These are our no-frill, needle-moving and in some cases industry-changing tools that we feel every accountant ought to be exploring:
Your clients need more than an accountant. They need an advisor.
This was a launch that nobody saw coming in 2020 and is a signal to how tech is repositioning the profession. Five years ago the prospect of managing payroll, HR and benefits in a single platform was unthinkable.
Since then Gusto has reinvented a space that was dominated by a few of the regular cast of characters. It's a great example of good tech enabling compliance, but the question has always been: what's on the other side? Where is the space for me as the accountant, once tech simplifies the arcane?
People Advisory is a proactive approach to defining the next iteration of the profession. Rather than clinging to the work we used to do, it offers a framework to help pull your clients forward to a higher-value relationship. It's an approach I hope to see more of from other accounting partners as our profession increasingly spearheads tech adoption.
Your entire meeting lifecycle made easy
It's rare a new technology comes around that within a couple months has you saying: I can't imagine ever going back to the way it was.
In the last 12 months scheduling tools having become one of those core technologies for our profession. I still remember the aha moment when I scheduled a meeting on someone else's Calendly for the first time. Where had this been for the last ten years?
What's next for scheduling workflows in our profession? How about one-time burner links tied to an instances of a recurring service, prepaid ad-hoc advising, or direct billing integrations? We're just getting started with scheduling tools.
Create beautiful, intuitive, step-by-step user guides, in minutes. Simply record and get an auto-generated, shareable PDF guide.
As accountants increasingly become the trusted tech advisor of small business owners, we find ourselves doing a lot of "click here-click there".
Screen recording tools like Loom have filled in some of these gaps, but often times a video is overkill for simple applications. Enter Scribe, a tool for building libraries of simple, easy-to-record guides.
By simply hitting the record button Scribe captures screenshots of each click, and in a matter of minutes you have a simple guide to send to your client. Here's the kicker though: they're reusable.
I think we're just scratching the surface of tools like this. Ad-hoc 1-to-1 explainers are valuable, but the next step is service-based libraries for your support team around the apps your clients use most.
The most powerful screen recorder for Chrome. Capture, annotate, edit, and more
Right up there with scheduling tools, screen-recording tools exploded in 2020. In-person meetings are out, Zoom meetings are exhausting, and recording tools have emerged as the asynchronous alternative.
The applications for these recording tools are across the board, from simple software demos, to building affinity with your clients asynchronously. A phone call or a sit-down meeting with every tax return delivery may feel like a chore. But a boilerplate explainer on video with each delivery? It's a new channel your clients may appreciate that won't clog up the tax season schedule.
New options seem to be coming out every week, but with Loom clamping down on its free tier in 2020, and security concerns over video hosting, this free self-hosted alternative gets the nod from us.
Connect bots to Zapier, IFTTT or APIs
Robotic process automation(RPA) has been knocking on the door of mainstream small business for several years now. While enterprise leans into RPA, it hasn't quite trickled down to the small business owner yet.
In the meantime API connectors like Zapier have taken off, enabling bespoken integrations between different tools. Electroneek's Orchestrator tool took a different approach than other RPA vendors: rather than scrapping your current processes and starting from scratch, augment your existing Zapier processes with RPA.
This offers no shortage of exciting opportunities for our profession, particularly where we're reliant upon legacy tools with no APIs on offer.
Analyze, enrich, and take action on your data with Airtable Apps
If there was a single type of operational app we feel will become a future cornerstone of the accounting profession, it's database management systems like Airtable. In 2020 Google and JotForms both released their own versions of the tool that are bringing even more attention to database management systems as a key component of the modern core business stack.
Accountants are particularly suited to capitalize. The mind of an accountant is laid out in columns & rows. Database design is simple for most accountants who already heavily rely upon spreadsheets, but our reusable spreadsheet templates don't always offer a robust interface for our other cloud tools. Use this spreadsheet with every client? That's a start, but wouldn't it be nice to wire it up to an auto-email that was sent on completion? Or your Zapier workflows that can't generally see into your spreadsheets?
With Airtable's latest round of funding came an open app marketplace, and built-in, Zapier-like automations. As these tools continue to mature, expect to see more small business clients exploring what these tools can enable.