What to build your tech stack around

Accountants deal with a lot of noise when it comes to making technology decisions. I feel for you.

An image of a person using their tablet on a table that has a stack of papers with financial data and graphs.

The last several years in particular have been filled with all kinds of talk about the importance of a tech stack. But what is it, what should be in it, and is it really so important?

It seems in any discussion about technology with accountants, the topic of the tech stack arises. Often, eyes glaze over or beads of sweat begin to develop on the brow. Why is that? Does the idea of actually building something technical cause fear in the hearts of accounting professionals or is there more to it than that?

Not to mention the questions of what should be at the base of a tech stack, even for small firms? What's actually essential? 

At the most basic level, I can say that often times it does depend on the kind of practice you are running. For example, if you are predominantly focused on tax and partner with a CPA or bookkeeping firm for the accounting, having an accounting platform as your base may not make sense. But for many, it does. 

And what about those pesky integration issues?

Let's get into it!

Where to start with your firm’s tech stack?

First and foremost, I’m not an accountant nor do I play one on TV. 

But business and accounting technology, and what makes them work in a practical sense, have been a passion of mine for decades. I also gleaned some key insights about getting started on a tech stack during a recent expert chat I moderated. The chat was conducted with tech-forward practitioners:

Between what was discussed during the chat, as well as my own anecdotal research during my travels and conversations with accountants over decades, I have some insights to share about the mysterious and elusive tech stack. 

While some opinions vary based on the aforementioned, the best places to begin building your tech stack is with practice management and accounting workflow management in particular. 

At the heart of any firm are its processes, connections to staff and the work they are doing, and of course, client information.

Building out (or up) from this point should be essential. This means that whatever else you are doing as a firm should in some way work, or integrate with, this platform. 

If you work in tax, you are very familiar with what I’m talking about as whatever you use for tax needs to connect with your practice management system. The better practice management systems, of course, will have workflow and document management functionality, as well as contact management. These are core components of any tax practice.

Recommended reading: Best tax practice management software

What’s next for your tech stack?

So whether your base is a practice management system or even core accounting for bookkeepers, what I hear most often is how systems simply don’t work together. 

Of course, you can go into the app store of your preferred system, but still, seamless integrations aren’t always the case. The tone of the day for accountant tech adoption and growth is ‘low-code, no-code’, meaning (other than the initial set up), the less you have to mess with the software or system, the better. 

Recommended reading: 15 no-code resources and tools you can use to improve your firm’s operational efficiency

Nothing turns most accountants away from a product more than having to do some level of coding or integration work on their own. And even when products are marketed to integrate with one another, the reality is that there’s still some work to do to get them to actually work together (so you don’t need to work in two or more products at once).

So, how do you avoid these issues? How do you know the right way to build your stack? 

The best way that I’ve seen is to actually either talk to your peers who have a stack that works for them, or better yet, actually work with a practice management or core accounting software vendor that will listen to you. One that will actually take your feedback and concerns to heart as an accounting professional, and walk you through building your stack and resolving any integration concerns you’re having.

It’s more simple than you might think

The real bottom line here is that the tech stack doesn’t have to be this arduous, nebulous thing. But with how much technology has permeated the work that you do, it is essential you have one that works best (and easiest) for you and, ultimately, your clients. 

Don’t buy into the hype. Don’t take on more work than you need to. Work with vendors and peers who will listen to you and who have your best interests in mind. The stack is important—having one that works for you as you work and grow is even better. Remember, it’s a process, one that ultimately has to work for your business.