How to Help Your Accounting Clients Choose the Right Inventory Software

Jun 4, 2020 | Cloud Accounting, Working From Home

If you’re an accounting firm that’s getting ready to help your clients with their inventory software, we’ve got good news for you:

You’re at the forefront of innovation in your industry.

There are hundreds of thousands of accountants in the UK – but only a small portion of those have the ambition to offer their clients a service like this.

Unfortunately, there isn’t an established library of knowledge and best practices to work with when it comes to the cutting edge of an industry.

So to help you get started, we’ve put together this guide to give progressive accountants the structure they need to help their clients choose the right inventory software.

Ready? Let’s jump into it:

Start with your client (not the software)

If your clients are coming to you for advice on apps and add-ons, it’s tempting to recommend the same bit of kit to everyone.

Your own firm probably has its favourites – and it can seem more efficient to get all your clients using the same software as you.

But when you’re looking at inventory apps, there just isn’t a single, universal package that works perfectly for every business.

And if you try to make all your clients conform to one app, you could be doing them more harm than good.

Imagine a manufacturer using an app doesn’t cover assembly or parts. Or a wholesaler in the food industry using an app that can’t track expiry dates.

If you want to make sure you’re making the right recommendations for your accounting clients, you need to forget your own software preferences – and look at what your individual clients really need.

Ask the right questions with our free scoping form

The first step towards helping your clients is getting a better understanding of their situation.

You need to know what they’re currently using, why it’s not working – and the specific functions and results they’re looking for in a new inventory app or add-on.

That’s no simple task. And if you’re still on your way to becoming an inventory app expert, you might not be confident that you’re asking all the right questions.

So we’ve made it easy for you with our free downloadable ‘Inventory Fact Find’ scoping form.

It’s a useful structured guide to help give you (and your clients) a detailed understanding of exactly where they are and what they need.

Using this form as a template for your scoping sessions, you’ll be able to dig into things like:

  • The complexity of your clients’ products
  • How they process their sales
  • How they manage their stock
  • And the specific details of any manufacturing, warehousing, and fulfilment processes they have.

Pay close attention to these answers

All of the questions included in our Inventory Fact Find form are important.

But as you go through your initial scoping session with your clients, some of their early answers can be more valuable than you think in helping you to understand that client’s challenges.

Here are three of the most common early signs that you might be looking at a complicated move to a new inventory app:

1. “We assemble our products.”

Some businesses sell simple products – and their inventory needs will usually be accordingly simple.

But if any business tells you that they assemble their products, you can instantly assume that they’re going to have some level of complexity in what they need from an inventory app.

At the very least, you’ll know that you and your client will be looking for an app that can handle:

  • Bills of Materials (BOM)
  • Assemblies – and potentially sub-assemblies
  • And specific data fields for each individual component

2. “We need to track people and machines in our manufacturing,”

Any business that’s a manufacturer already has some complex inventory needs. They need to track things like parts, finished pieces, and components for every product.

But when a business says they need to track people and machines, that means we’re moving into a whole new level of advanced requirements.

They’ll need things like scheduling, capacity planning, and cost allocation. And if that’s what they’re looking for, there’s a good chance that none of the pure inventory systems will give them what they need.

3. “We’ve had our current bespoke system for years.”

The longer a client has been using their old system (and especially when it’s a bespoke system), the more complicated you can expect their new project to be.

We know from experience at BlueHub that some of the hardest jobs we’ve had involved moving people away from their long-term bespoke systems.

(That’s not to say that bespoke systems are anything bad. But after such a long time with a particular automated system, some teams see the old way as the only way it can be done!)

These are just a few of the most common warning signs to watch out for. If you’re looking for more useful questions and answers like these, you can watch the full discussion in the recording of our in-depth webinar, “How to Scope Inventory Client Needs”.

(There’s a lot of good stuff all through that video. But if you just want to skip to the questions and answers part, you can start watching from around the 32-minute mark.)

Get it down on paper and send it to an expert

With everything you’ve gathered through your ‘Inventory Fact Find’ form, you should be ready to start documenting exactly what your client needs.

This report should usually include:

  • A list of inventory app requirements
  • A ranking of those requirements (from must-have to nice-to-have)
  • A gap analysis of your client’s current system
  • A map of your client’s processes
  • And a special note of any unique or special processes your client might have.
(You can see more discussion and details about this documentation in the webinar linked above. Just skip ahead to the 61-minute mark!)

Once you have this documentation ready, you can send it to an inventory software expert. That might be the sales team of a particular app – or it could be an independent implementation partner like us here at BlueHub!).

In particular, you should be asking your expert for some feedback on:

  • Which of your client’s requirements are covered by the inventory app (or multiple apps, if you’re speaking to someone like us)
  • Which of your client’s requirements would need a workaround (or an additional add-on or integration)
  • And which requirements simply won’t work out with the app you’re looking at.

Get ready to recommend!

Once you’ve had feedback from an inventory app specialist, you should be ready to sit down with your accounting client and talk them through their options.

This can be as simple as a meeting where you work through the documentation and responses you’ve had.

But for the best results, you should follow up this review meeting with a recorded personalised demo of the app that’s the best fit for their business.

(Again, you can arrange this through the sales team of the particular app you’ve chosen. But if you want the most honest and unbiased demonstration, you might want to talk to an independent implementation partner like us.)

This demo isn’t just a chance to reinforce the recommendation you’re making. It’s also a lasting piece of evidence that your clients can refer back to and show to their team days or weeks later. We all know how slow the decision-making process can be sometimes!

So what comes next?

We’d love to say the hard part’s over.

But your research and recommendation are only the first steps in your client’s journey. Once they’ve made a decision about their new inventory app, they’ll be ready to start with the proof of concept stage: testing their data and processes, and getting the evidence they need to move forward with their project.

And if you want to be ready to support your clients as they move forward, it pays to find out as much as you can at an early stage.

You can see everything we’ve covered here today and more – and in much greater detail – by watching our in-depth webinar recording, “How to Scope Inventory Client Needs“.

(And if you need any more help or advice about moving your clients to an inventory app, we’re only a call away – so drop us a message and we’ll be happy to help.)

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