‘Human Centred Design’ is a philosophy that empowers people to create solutions that consider the human perspective throughout the design process. It’s a philosophy we take seriously at APS.
Back in 2019, in the days when large gatherings were possible, we ran over 50 events where we connected with our APS accounting firm clients.
At these events we surveyed over 250 of the biggest and best accounting firms in Australia, and the one theme that kept coming back was “workflow”.
On one level, workflow is about managing processes that are repeated over and over again, like producing a set of financials and a tax return thousands of times a year. But also, workflow was increasingly broader than that. Accounting firms are delivering more non-compliance-based services and a workflow tool needed to be flexible enough to cater for all these service lines and in novel, ad hoc situations.
The current landscape of “workflow” tools ranges from simple task management right up to complex project management.
There are many options available, but no one has nailed workflow for accountants. With that in mind we began our journey to APS Workflow+.
We started with the voice of the user, the voice of the accountant, and it stayed with us throughout the design and build process, helping us make decisions. It’s what we call ‘Human Centred Design’.
The holy grail was to make a product that was designed by accountants, for accountants. A platform, not just for today, but one that would futureproof the accounting firm of the future.
APS is completely focussed on the accounting firm. What we do starts and finishes with them. We’re the only solution in our industry that’s focussed on software for accountants only.
For 20 years, we’ve worked with accounting firms in Australia and New Zealand. From innovative smaller firms, up to the biggest and most advanced and today we’re very proud to be trusted by the top firms in Australia. All of this experience has been channelled into APS Workflow+.
We have different priorities to our competitors and that means we have a different definition of success. We see ourselves as being in the accounting industry, not so much in the software industry.
We’re shoulder to shoulder with accountants as technology changes. We’ll always be working, pivoting, developing and delivering solutions that position the accountant at the centre of the ‘trusted advisor’ network.
Designed by accountants, for accountants
The voice of the user was central to our development of APS Workflow+. Our ‘Human Centred Design’ process has produced not only a fresh new look and feel, but also a highly intuitive and efficient navigation experience.
We were very much visualising the user at every stage. From research to prototyping and UX design and development. We’ve had the accountant at the centre of that process right from the start.
What is APS Workflow+?
APS Workflow+ is collaborative software that’s part of our next generation cloud-based range. It’s not just for APS clients – you can use it no matter what you’re running.
The feedback we have so far is that Workflow+ is intuitive and easy to use. It’s flexible and can handle a wide range of jobs and tasks.
It also looks and feels very different to the traditional, on-premise solutions. We spent a lot of time in the design phase of the product development process.
This year our working environment has been disrupted and we see an increasingly dispersed workforce. People are now scattered across many locations and something has to pull that all together.
Remote teams need a place where they can collaborate and the people managing them need visibility. A product like APS Workflow+ gives you that.
It also has powerful, best practice templates specifically designed with accountants in mind.
What we’ve found is there’s often huge variation, even within a firm, as to how things are done. As a believer in best practice, we’ve worked with accounting firms to design and evolve templates that support best practice, and drive consistency in the firm.
All of this is about driving a better result for the accountant’s client. Businesses dealing with firms using APS Workflow+ will ultimately have a better experience.
Why is workflow more important than ever?
Accountants are the ‘first responders’ in the economic and financial side of the significant global event we’re going through right now.
Businesses that are supported by sound financial advice are a critical component of a healthy economy. Accountants are only going to be more important in this next phase.
Accountants are under increased and unprecedented amounts of stress. Clients are reaching out saying they’re in trouble and it’s been demanding for accountants. They’re at the frontlines.
A crisis like this is not solved by technology alone. It needs problem-solving, relationship-managing human beings as well. It requires expertise but in way that has genuine human connection. The last few months have been a fantastic insight into the value of accountants and the advice they give.
APS Workflow+ is crucial to that value because it’s about effectively planning and managing the capacity of your people and the efficient deployment of expertise.
It’s about understanding the capacity you have in the firm and about monitoring your people and what they’re working on. As individuals and teams across a firm, the more visibility you’re able to have of your capacity and your clients’ needs, the better job you’re going to do of covering more ground and helping more clients.
APS is passionate about and highly values the work accountants do. There’s an art to accounting. There’s a big human component and that’s what we support.
The future for APS and the cloud
The new Workflow+ product looks and feels fantastic. Just as important, we’ve also made big investments in our backend architecture.
We now have state-of-the-art architecture to deliver new cloud products which ensures APS and our clients are ahead of the technology curve. This underpins not only our products but the way they integrate and flow data between APS and other software.
Despite what you may have heard, APS clients are already enjoying the benefit of cloud technology supplementing their current system.
We currently have cloud technology that brings in financial data from your client’s accounting software, APS accountants are entering time via their mobile phones and we have some of our beautiful data analytics reporting, which is delivered via cloud technology.
Workflow+ is by no means the first piece in the APS cloud solution, but it’s a big one because we really see workflow as something which pulls it all together for the future – we’re 100% committed to the next generation of APS+ Suite range being in the cloud, complementing our on-premise solutions.
In the last few years, our investment in product development has increased significantly and this investment will continue to grow as we continue to evolve the next generation of APS.
We’ve been around for a very long time and we’ve got decades of expertise in making software for accounting firms.
But the next generation APS+ range is a huge mark for us as we move from having the best and most feature rich on-premise solutions to adding the APS+ range, the pure cloud solutions, for today’s accountant.
APS is a division of Reckon, an ASX listed company. We develop the software used by the best Accounting firms in Australia and New Zealand to run their business’ and advise their clients.