I’ve been building software my entire career. Sometimes as a service to others; sometimes for myself. This project started out as a solution for our needs at 74 Systems. As you read, keep two things in mind.
1. Software, out-of-the-box, never works as you hoped.
2. Custom software, while it may solve the problem, rarely gets finished, or meets budget. It’s expensive to start, and so time consuming, that it’s hard to run a business, and build it, at the same time.
The solution, at least for us, is a hybrid of the above. Find best of breed, industry standard, highly functional and customizable applications that run in the cloud and WORK TOGETHER. Integrating these apps can get you to where you want to go faster, without breaking the bank, and still deliver almost all of the functionality you desire. They each have their own workforce of programmers, datacenter engineers and support teams. They each have their focus; which allows them to create better software that does one thing really, really well. When you put them together, make them talk to each other, magic happens. That’s what this story is all about.
I remember the night…it was 4am when I finally made a choice. But until then, I demoed every single product I could find. I worked for hours and my criteria was simple. Will it integrate? Is it open? Is it customizable? Is it in the Cloud? And most importantly…is it easy to use and will we actually use it?
Back in 2000, I started a company that was one of the forward thinking business models that would later become the Cloud. The company was called Push, it was an Application Service Provider aka ASP, and we did what the name implied. We “pushed” applications remotely, from a server farm, over any connection, on any device. It was a Citrix based installation and housed over 100 servers, redundant connections, backup power, and everything a world class datacenter needed. KPMG was our partner, and they funded it. We hosted applications for British Airways, Fedex and a ton of others. We never went down. Our subscribers were very happy. What could go wrong, right?
At Push, we also customized applications and pushed them seamlessly to users, managing all of it at the datacenter. When interviewed by PC Magazine I was asked, “Do you believe that web based software such as Salesforce.com would ever be able to compete with full apps pushed over Citrix [like we were doing it]?” I laughed and said, “no way.” PC Magazine named us the #1 sales force automation ASP company that year. They also mentioned Salesforce.com as #1 in the web based category. We still use QuickBooks Enterprise and tax software over this technology today, but QBO is here and hopefully, eventually, the big tax software brands will figure the Cloud out. Seems like history is repeating itself in this microcosm of an industry.
A couple years later after a disagreement with my co-founder, I sold my shares of Push and left the company. It was a bittersweet day, but in the end, it was business, and I got paid top dollar at the time. It wasn’t long after that the company shut down operations. I heard that KPMG backed out after Arthur Andersen crashed and burned. Apparently, they were concerned about how their sales and commission data was all in a single app, in a single datacenter, with easy access for a team of auditors…or so the story goes. Later, many of the ASPs started to dwindle and the industry shifted towards the Cloud. I was wrong about that part, but still believed in the serving of applications and data centrally, which is how most applications operate today via the Cloud.
The Cloud has changed the world. We can now pay a small fee and run our company without any equipment. We don’t even need a phone system anymore. Mail servers are gone. Storage is instantly available and inexpensive. And the access to our data using web applications, like the one I’m typing in right now, has grown tremendously in ability and function. Software.com knew this then and proved me wrong. Today, they are a massive company, but still not my choice.
The product I chose that night was Insightly. Unlike Software.com, it was built on a fresh, clean set of code, with a simple interface, and a solid, straightforward purpose. It was open, integrates with just about anything, super simple to use and deploy, highly customizable (more so today than ever) and it just worked. We switched our company to Insightly that day and never looked back.
But then it happened. I showed our clients what we were using to manage our own practice. Our business of helping accounting professionals run their companies was very similar to their internal operations. They jumped at the chance to better market, manage and automate their practice. We didn’t brand it back then, as we had no idea what was building. But today, AWS or Accounting Workflow System, is live and functioning and ready for a new tax season!
Accounting Workflow System is built on Insightly, PandaDoc, Mailchimp, Acuity Scheduling, Zoom, GrooveHQ, WordPress, Zapier and others. Why? Because each of these products are in their own fantastic, focused and open. They each are best of breed and they focus on doing what they do best. Insightly knew they’d never be able to build a terrific CRM and build a system as robust as Mailchimp to manage email campaigns or transactional email. You can do this within Insightly, but when you really want to do it right, Insightly has a native integration with Mailchimp so you can get the best of both, working together, in almost perfect harmony. The same can be said of each of the applications above. Whether it’s a direct integration, a connection built through an API, or a Zapier Zap, 74 Systems has designed AWS to leverage each of these applications as needed, integrated and working together, in a cohesive, highly functional, highly customizable and extremely reliable manner.
We have been building AWS, enhancing it, making it better, improving automation, and functionality all year. We officially launched it this year in early January 2019, at the start of tax season. Each of our clients are using it, some differently than others, and so far, so good!
AWS manages prospect and client data. In a few clicks, all of your clients, projects, tasks and more are accessible and useful. You can create, modify and update client data instantly and automatically. You can view all of your staff, projects and tasks in a single view. You can keep tabs on deadlines, milestones and make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to do. You can run your company now, like never before, and do things like…
- Enter a lead and evaluate the opportunity.
- Follow an opportunity until it closes through a pipeline with automatic task creation and emailing as you progress.
- Automatically send an opportunity an engagement letter simply by moving the stage in the pipeline or at specific interval or time.
- Track the engagement letter signing process and automate payment.
- Convert the opportunity to a sale and automatically create a project to manage the client work.
- Track a project stage to stage for processing tax prep, consulting, or bookkeeping.
- Automatically create tasks, groups of tasks, and repeating tasks.
- Run useful reports or view dashboards to find aging tasks, or to monitor staff productivity.
- Complete a project (tax return) and automatically launch a new opportunity for the next season and start the process over again.
We didn’t design the software, we customized it for accounting pros. We didn’t create the software, we automate it, integrate it and make it work your way. We didn’t build the software, we made it better.
Learn more about AWS and pricing information by scheduling a free consultation today!