• Gecko Cloud Solutions

What is an App Advisor?

Before we dive into what exactly is an Application Advisory service (app advisor for short), let’s start with a pre-word on what we mean by applications. Applications or commonly known, Apps, are essentially software programs or that are cloud (online only) based - that covers almost anything, from facebook to google sheets, as it is a service used online. When we’re referring to an app advisor, we’re referring to advisory on applications for the purpose of managing your business in more efficient ways. Yes, this can include social media and document applications - but ultimately, no one really needs help with these types of apps!

Social media and apps aside, if you’re a business owner of any size, chances are you’re already using an application or two to manage your business internally or externally.

Examples of this could be accounting software such as Xero, or Quickbooks, or perhaps a payment gateway connected to your eComm website such as Paypal. Perhaps you have lots of client video calls and use Zoom, or Google meet. These are all applications that are suited to help businesses.

What many directors of large or small businesses don’t know is how many more applications there are on the market that can help build better business. From increasing efficiency, to better handling and automation or storing or moving data and files, even marketing and customer relationship management can improve business with the right apps. Look on any Shopify or Xero app store marketplace and you’ll see a plethora of applications available, offering all kinds of services. It can get overwhelming, after all, where to start? There are literally 1000s of online tools to choose from. And many companies need help getting started.

An app advisor's primary role is to help your business sift through the endless offering of applications to find the right ones to help you. Their goal is to be your guide, to help you discover your pain points, goals and all of the laborious, manual tasks you or your staff may be having to do daily (think tracking inventory, reconciling bank feeds, texting rosters) that could be entirely eliminated, with the right connected apps.

Further to helping you discover and find those key applications for your business, they can also help with implementing them, and training you and your teams on how to use them.

The use of cloud technology for business owners is becoming increasingly important, and in turn, app advisory is growing fast as an in-demand, valuable service.

According to Xero’s 2018 USA Industry Performance Report, app advisory was one of the biggest contributors to advisory revenue for accounting firms in 2017, and is one of the most promising areas for firm revenue growth in 2018. That should give anyone familiar with Xero a pretty clear indication of how fast the app advisory industry is growing by demand.

If better use of applications sounds like something your business could benefit from (in our honest opinion, thats almost every business), we suggest you read on.

What do App Advisors do?

We’ve given you an overview of what app advisors are for, but if you’re wondering what it is they actually do and how they can help you, you wouldn’t be the first.

We’ve broken down their processes of work that you can jump to here, but to summarise,

App advisors are well versed in many, leading industry application types for all types of businesses. Their job involves understanding the challenges or opportunities that you and/or your clients are facing, and advising on the technology that will help run your business more efficiently and defining the best selection of apps that integrate together for better business management. Often this is an integrative, or “app stack” offering, where many of your applications are fed into the other, further eliminating the need for manually filling out or moving information.

There are three main levels of service they will deliver, which is referring, implementing or both. Referrers will recommend apps that can benefit you, then take a step back, leave you to the implementation or provide you resources to who can. Implementers are the installers and are usually app or industry specific. They setup, install and train. Referring and implementing app advisors are the broadest, offering a more hands-on approach, they’ll discover the best apps to advise you on, and work with a team in-house that will help with the setup, training and ongoing support.

As there are so many apps out there, most advisors select a few to work with: their ‘stack’. while some may outsource to or have partnerships with different advisors specific to a field or industry type. The latter helps to ensure that regardless of your business specifics, you get all the support you need. Other App Advisory Services can relate to whether you’re needing help with either administrative or operational problems and processes.

Operational processes are more-so related to admin and finance processes, such as managing your financial accounts, data, or team communications. Operational can be more focused on project and job management, inventory and team handling.

Why pay for an App Advisory service?

While moving to the cloud and utilising online applications can transform your business, getting it wrong can be costly, time consuming and very stressful. Understanding which apps will best align with your business processes and needs can be difficult, especially if you aren’t familiar with applications in your field, and aren’t across what they’re offering may provide or how well developed each application software is.

Outsourcing to an app advisor means that you’re paying for a service from a field of experts in application advisory, implementation and sometimes even, development. It’s ensuring that you can have the right support to discover what processes your business needs to increase efficiency, to actually integrate and install the applications, and the right help to learn how to use it.

Cloud-base technology enables many businesses to spend more time on their important tasks at hand by automating or completely eliminating often very manual tasks that simply don’t add value. When implemented correctly, direct benefits are

Save cash

For lots of businesses, a connection of apps, (app stack or cloud suite) costs less than their older systems such as hardware, device native programs or relying on spreadsheets or physician documentation. It also enables them to save time on staff hours and helps them to grow - while saving costs on needing more staff.

Scale stronger

Applications are software that is constantly being updated to suit client’s expanding and changing demands. Most offer subscriptions depending on those needs, giving you technology that matches your requirements now, and years down the line. The right apps can be used to seriously scale up your operations.

Grow your profits

Having the right software can seriously increase your profits, from automating and sending invoices and reminders to get paid faster, to adding new online sales channels, it all becomes much easier to grow with the right tech.

Xero reported that practices that small to medium enterprises (SMEs) that use applications and advisors grow 30% faster.*

The App Advisory process

Now that we’ve broken down what an app advisory is, what they do, and how they benefit businesses, you may be wondering what the process would look like if you were to employ their support. This can usually be broken down into about 5 stages, which we’ve listed out below.

1. Discovery call or meeting

This will be the first point of contact with an application advisor. In this meeting they will be focusing on uncovering your pain points, what you are trying to achieve and the current software or applications that are in use. More often, they will provide you a template to fill out prior to the meet in order to make the most of your time. From here, the advisor may give you a breakdown of the services required, and will usually offer you a map of processes. These meetings are usually free and short, however the next stage will incur fees and you will usually be provided a rough quote for the next stage, as it will require the advisor to research, contact perhaps third party application advisors relevant to your industry, and the next meeting will be somewhat of an investigative process.

2. Scoping session

This is usually a paid meeting that may require some time with yourself, the advisor and potentially additional advisors specific to your needs and industry. The scoping session length will depend on the complexity of your business and customer process. The advisor/s will usually walk through the current processes you and your customers/clients are using to find gaps and opportunities for connecting applications to resolve your paint points.

3. Research and evaluation

After your scoping session the advisor/s will spend valuable time researching your requirements, budget, goals and pain points to source application solutions. This could be as few as 2 applications to as many as over 10! The objective is to find the best apps suited to your business needs, that can connect or at the least, save you time and make your processes both internally (within your business) and externally (with customers) more efficient. Once complete, your advisor/s will provide you with a detailed selection of applications, and an additional quote to implement them.

4. Implementation

If installing and connecting all the needed applications was easy enough to do yourself, this service probably wouldn’t exist! The implementation process is more than just installing an application. Depending on what your needs are, the advisor/s may need to process or transfer data stored locally or on apps you’ve already been using, they may need to troubleshoot connectivity issues, and a testing process will be necessary. Most advisors also supply training during and after installation to walk you through how to use the new connected applications. This too can take some time depending on the complexity of your business and the size of your teams.

5. Ongoing support

This is an integral part of getting the right app advisory support. Of course, many of the applications available today have their own in-house support, but they may not have the comprehensive knowledge to offer you in relation to the other applications connected to it. Investing in a good advisor means you have the tailored support service from a team that have not only installed, transferred and developed your application suite, but have good experience with these particular apps, and how they connect with each other.

How to find an app advisor

With remote learning, working and online operations set to grow, and also considering the growth in ecommerce, and applications blowing up the market, it’s no doubt this will be a growing, budding industry for many tech loving experts. Why? Because if you’ve read this entire blog through, it’s pretty clear that businesses are already demanding the support from app expert advisors, and no doubt that’ll be here to stay.

In saying that, application advisory is still in it’s infancy as a service. Finding the right application advisor is still a bit of tricky business online. We recommend first starting with asking around in your industry, or searching the websites of the current apps you’re already using - generally they have partnered with advisors to help clients with their external connected applications. What we don’t recommend is checking “best app” review sites specific to your needs - as often these can be biassed, paid, or outdated, the same goes for the good old app store in your mac or pc. Again, many of these are paying for advertising and paying a subscription without the right advice could be a waste of cash.

Want to find a local Australian app advisor? Or meet like minded people for support, to troubleshoot questions or learn more about leading apps? Why not join our facebook group! It’s the first of its kind - Software and App advice for business.

We hope to see you there!

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