Evaluate and innovate your tech stack without losing clarity

Cassidy Jakovickas, CPA

May 15, 2024

There’s an age-old maxim that advises us to spend more time sharpening our axe than chopping down a tree. Similarly, when it’s time to improve your firm’s tech stack, it’s best to plan and evaluate your tech stack with a lot of prudence and planning to ensure your firm’s success and avoid chasing every shiny new tool on the market.

Evaluate your tech stack often to stay ahead

Accounting Today’s Top 100 Firms and Regional Leaders report in 2023 showed that, along with staff retention, rising salaries, and capacity troubles, firm leaders cited technology struggles as one of their main challenges. The release of ChatGPT and other technologies based on generative artificial intelligence has exponentially increased the pace of software development.

To avoid being overwhelmed and distracted by the flood of “shiny objects” on the market, evaluate your tech stack annually based on your firm’s current stage of growth and your customer’s experience. Even if your firm’s tech is serving you well, do an evaluation anyway. There may be an app or product that makes both your firm’s productivity and client experience better.

Factors to consider as you improve your firm’s tech stack

Evaluating your tech stack is about more than saving money or choosing the trendiest tool. Rather, each part of your tech stack should support your firm’s mission, improving your client experience, and helping your staff work productively and efficiently.

  • Specificity and clarity: It’s easy to be swayed by clever marketing or be tempted to buy in a moment of frustration. This is why I recommend being specific about the intended purpose of the potential addition to your tech stack. Also, be clear about how it supports your firm’s overarching mission and goals.
  • Integration and compatibility: Buying the newest piece of technology does you no good if it does not connect to the rest of your ecosystem. I suggest listing the apps in your current tech stack and evaluating a new addition based on its compatibility with them.
  • Compliance and security: In IRS 4557, the IRS outlined security measures that tax professionals and accountants should take to protect client data. When evaluating a new tool or system for your firm, ensure you can comply with these measures, along with any regulations for security and privacy specific to your firm or your client base.
  • Support and training: When troubles come up, having helpful and prompt support will be the difference between a minor annoyance and a major failure in your firm’s operations. Make sure the vendor behind your potential tech addition is reputable and has a knowledgeable of frequent questions and answers, video tutorials, and convenient ways to reach their support team. You’ll need help as you onboard your staff and train them to capably use it.
  • Budget and scalability: Along with other significant concerns, cost is an obvious factor to consider when making your decision. But just as you shouldn’t choose the cheapest tool merely to save money, you shouldn’t overbuy and choose an enterprise tool for your small or mid-sized firm.

5 categories and app recommendations for your firm’s tech stack

Intuit’s 2022 Taxpayer Insights & Intelligence Brief showed that 66% of taxpayers expect e-signature options when signing tax documents and over 70% appreciated automatic reminders and dynamic lists that showed remaining tasks and documents to be completed. Data like this underscores the importance of selecting the right tools for your firm’s technology stack. Your tech stack is about more than your budget or personal preference. It’s about vetting tools that blend into a winning client experience.

While every firm’s tech stack will differ based on needs and audience, here are some general categories to consider when building your suite of tools:

  • Practice management: A good practice management platform is the deciding factor between chaos and progress in your firm. Our firm has been using Karbon for over a year and we appreciate the context it provides for work through notes, comments, time tracking, and billing features.
  • Client portal: In the era of mobile pay and grocery pickup, consumers expect your firm to have a paperless document management system in place, as well as an e-signature option. As trusted advisors, we must remain vigilant about our firm’s security and avoid sending or requesting sensitive information via email. In my firm, we use Sharefile because of its dynamic document lists, security, workflow automation, and e-signature integrations.
  • Accounting: We use QuickBooks Online and, for a select group, QuickBooks Desktop. Whichever accounting software you’ve selected, the priority should be to ensure your other apps and tools support, and not impede, your accounting work.
  • Tax: For firms offering tax services, great tax software is vital. In my firm, we use ProConnect Tax because of its integrations, automation, and client collaboration features. Whichever software you choose, make sure it fits your workflow and helps you work with clients seamlessly. For example, ProConnect Tax and Lacerte integrate with the SmartVault document management system and the Karbon work management platform, allowing for an efficient and seamless work environment.
  • Communication: Not everything needs an email, which is why I recommend using chat for internal communications. We use a blend of Google Chat and Karbon’s comment feature, but many firms also use Slack. Incidentally, using chat instead of email has helped my team and me avoid many phishing emails pretending to be a team or one-on-one “urgent” message.

Upgrade your tools with purpose and achieve new heights

Changing your tech stack can be a massive undertaking for any firm, which is why it should be carefully planned and aligned with your firm’s overarching strategy and growth goals. It’s more than choosing the cheapest option to save money or the most premium option as a subtle status signal. Rather, a good tech stack should help your firm achieve its growth goals while delivering an amazing client experience.

Author’s Note: This blog was published as part of a paid partnership with Intuit.