In this interview, CloudIntegration Partners show how you succeed from coopetition and explain how a cloud integrator can help you or your clients.
Hi! I’m Vanessa Firth, the partner manager for Cloud Integration Partners (CIP).
What does your company do?
We provide cloud integration for 5 verticals – Trades, Construction, Retail, Wholesale and Hospitality.
What are the benefits of CloudIntegration Partners to the customer?
We have experience in the industries that we work in, so we understand the pain points unique to that industry and we know why our solutions work in what circumstances.
What is the most important thing your company does for a customer?
We project manage from start to finish. We help select the right software and then we install, integrate, train and support. We also help with any changes to business process that are necessary.
How did CloudIntegration Partners get started?
Two of the oldest Cloud Integration companies in Australia (TradiePad and SMB Consultants) decided to join forces to create a one stop shop for Accountants and Bookkeepers to make it easy for them to find the integration services they needed for their clients.
Will Tradiepad and SMB Consultants continue to exist as separate entities?
Both businesses are and will remain separate entities.
Cloud Integration Partners is a mechanism to communicate with Accountants and Bookkeepers so they have one place/person to go to for all of their clients rather than having to speak with both companies if they are unsure who can help. The requests get funnelled through to whichever is the appropriate company.
How did TradiePad and SMB Consultants come to work together like this?
TradiePad and SMB have known each other for a long time and were aware that they were speaking to the same accountants and bookkeepers over and over. They are both Xero, Telstra and Apple partners and realised it made sense to work together as they do the same thing but do not compete because they both have very clearly delineated markets.
How do customers get started?
You can contact us directly, or through your accountant or bookkeeper. We will start with a scoping session which will determine the right software for your situation and allow us to plan the project properly.
How do you help customers succeed during an implementation?
We are always available. We don’t outsource support – you have the same people helping you through the project from start to finish. We have seen the common areas of failure and can see if a project is getting derailed which means that we can help get the project back on track.
What role would CIP like accountants/bookkeepers to play during an implementation?
It actually works the other way – we ask the Accountants/Bookkeepers what role they want us to play. Often if there is a Xero set up we leave that to the Accountant/Bookkeeper, although we can do it.
Usually the first conversation we have is – how involved do you want to be? We are guided by them, often it is a case of the Accountant/Bookkeeper not having the time to take on the work.
We try to work in partnership with the Accountant/Bookkeeper and include them as much as possible. This can range from having them in every meeting, to us just going away and doing the work and letting them know when we are done.
Why should a customer use a cloud integrator?
We are experts in the software that we use and we have worked in your industry for years which means that we know the common issues and can help you avoid them.
We also have the time and the resources to make sure you are set up correctly and can provide the support you need rather than you spending your time researching and working out how to do it yourself.
What are the main causes of failure for an implementation?
Time! You have to be prepared to put in the time to learn the system, in the end all of these systems will generally save you time (and often money) but you need to allocate time up front to make sure you know how to use the system.
What are some indicators that there is a time issue starting to occur and what are some steps to recover?
The main indicator is missed deadlines, or training sessions, that get postponed.
The only way to recover is to decide that the project will take priority over other deadlines – sometimes that means delegating other jobs until the project is complete.
Keeping an eye on the end goal is also important – knowing that this implementation will improve business processes in the end.
What surprises you the most with a client’s existing systems?
Nothing is really surprising these days but it amazing all of the different “hybrid’ or cobbled together processes that people have to try and solve a business problem. It’s awesome that we are able to then clean these up and save clients so much time!
What tool do you use internally that you couldn’t live without?
Slack is an awesome team communication tool which helps us stay in touch even though we are spread out across Australia. It is a way to keep in touch every day and make sure that information gets quickly and easily to all staff or the right staff in a timely manner. The most important part of Slack is our message board for “Fast Food Friday” where we decide what burgers we are having this week!!
How should customers adapt to Amazon coming to Australia?
The best thing customers can do is clean up their business processes so they have really good reporting. They will then know how they are travelling and will be well equipped to make decisions if it becomes clear that Amazon is effecting their business.
What does an amazing bricks and mortar retail experience look like? Where is it heading?
We are seeing more “lifestyle” stores that are a hybrid, think a bar and clothing store in one, or maybe makeup and shoes – stores that offer an experience that you can’t get online.
Where can we keep up with CloudIntegration Partners?
[Thanks Vanessa! You can also find CloudIntegration Partners in the Addon Directory – Liam]
Welcome back to our series on add-ons! If you missed the first article, check it out to discover where add-ons have come from and what they are. In this article, we dig deeper into the how – how do add-ons work?
Recall that an add-on is a program used to achieve a task that interacts with the accounting system in some way. This interaction usually comes down to sharing data so that the two systems can stay current with each other.
For example, an inventory program will get the chart of accounts from the accounting program. It will send back journals for profit and loss on the one hand, and balance sheet accounts for inventory, as stock is purchased and sold, on the other hand. The add-on would generally batch an hour/day/week’s inventory changes into the one journal and push it back into the accounting system. Your reports in the accounting system will be correct at a trial balance level, but you’d need to look at the inventory program for more details.
What are the touch points, do they map accounts, do they batch, and how does the synchronisation process work
There are some questions you need to ask for all add-ons – what are the touch points, do they map accounts, do they batch, and how does the synchronisation process work? We will have a closer look at each of these aspects so you can see the forest for the trees and stay away from add-ons that will make your life more complicated rather than easier.
Touch points are the where and the how of communication between the two programs.
In our inventory example above, the touch points were profit and loss and balance sheet accounts. They were communicated via a journal.
In a debtor’s recovery add-on, the touch point would be sales invoices.
Touch points can differ between add-ons, even in the same vertical. What one program does, another may not, simply because different add-on companies made different choices on how they want their own program to run. That means selecting add-ons is serious business!
Your chart of accounts is built for reporting accounting information back to the owners of a business, as well as making day-to-day processing efficient.
An add-on needs to know which accounts are used for what. The accounting system can tell the add-on the type of account, e.g. income, expense, current asset, bank account, etc. However, it can’t usually tell the add-on what your ‘OS TA’ account is supposed to be (yet – look out, AI).
For this reason, there is a common concept of ‘mapping’, where you say
‘OS TA’ in the accounting system = ‘Overseas travel and accommodation’ in the add-on system.
A benefit of mapping is that you can usually assign more than one accounting system account to the same add-on account, which can lead to more summarised data.
The downside to mapping is now mostly in the past: it used to be manual fiddly labour, and getting it wrong used to mean data was out of place and might not be picked up in review.
These days, however, mapping is usually done automatically for you, primarily based on your chart of accounts structure, some type of ‘report code’ system and some AI smarts. Most add-ons will still expose this mapping somewhere so you can check, tweak, and audit it. In other words, it’s now a best-of-both-worlds situation.
Add-ons can generate a lot of accounting activity. As reported at Digital First, at the Accounting Expo this year Kogan CFO David Shafer mentioned they were using Unleashed as their inventory add-on alongside Xero for 10,000 orders a day. That’s 10,000 invoices shifting goods out of inventory into sales in the ledger. How does that get into Xero?
Batching is the answer – data is added to a log, and at the end of a period of time, it gets summarised into a transaction and added into the accounting system. The benefit is that your accounting system doesn’t get smashed with all the data, which is great news. Unfortunately, the disadvantage is not only a loss of detail, but also the fact that you need to reconcile the two when changes happen.
How do I check whether the two systems reconcile?
The question to ask the vendor here is, ‘How do I check whether the two systems reconcile? Which report/s will show me this?’ You are looking for two things in the answer: a) confidence that there IS a way to reconcile the two systems, b) confirmation that the method is something more useful than a generic list of synchronisations/transactions, which would require you to go digging through spreadsheets from both systems with your trusty vlookup.
In the bad old days, synchronisation (sync) was a matter of you, the human, exporting a file from one program and importing it into another.
Now, the computer and this API you’ve heard about (more on that in our next article), will do that for you.
The key questions are: when will it do the sync, and how does it deal with changes in either system?
The sync frequency usually depends on the volume of data being extracted. Smaller amounts of data are usually hourly, whilst larger sets of data are mostly done on an automatic overnight basis.
Some add-ons, for example inventory add-on Cin7, only sync when you tell them to. Keep in mind this isn’t necessarily good or bad – with these programs withholding the sync, you can wait until a transaction is certain enough that it won’t require changes, then shuffle it along.
Changes to a synchronised transaction are the bane of a developer because they are hard to keep track of. Think of it like this: once that transaction leaves the add-on, it goes into the accounting system, where you and your users can do to it whatever you like. If you change the transaction, the add-on can lose track of it. If the add-on then needs to update that transaction, it won’t find it and the two systems will stop reconciling. The integrity of the data can then be called into question, and that’s the end of the world. For us accountants, anyway.
So when you’re evaluating an add-on, keep the concepts of touch points, mapping, batching, and synchronisation in mind. It will help you visualise how the add-on fits into the business’s flow of information, and give you starting points for the scenario in which the two get out of balance and you need to reconcile them. If you use the right add-ons for your business, they can be a great asset for its efficiency. Our next article will delve deeper into how the synchronisation process works via APIs.