Here’s the second blog post in our ongoing series, where we take a deep dive into the latest cloud-based software solutions for your business. We’ll be exploring the big players, the up-and-comers and the niche products to help you decide which option is right for your business.
Today, it’s SuiteFiles.
What is it?
SuiteFiles is a comprehensive content management system built on Microsoft Office’s 365 platform. Fully integrating with Xero Practice Manager, it’s a central and secure depository for all client communications, documents and emails. Anyone working with a client can save that content into the relevant client folder for all other approved staff members to access.
Who uses it?
It’s fundamentally a product for accounting firms, but legal firms use it too. Essentially, any service-based business that deals with clients and needs solid record-keeping functionality will find SuiteFiles a powerful addition to their business.
Templates that do all the work for you
Because they interact with Xero Practice Manager client data, you can use a template to quickly build a document, populated with all the relevant fields. For example, you could be sending an email reminding a client that it’s time to prepare the annual tax return. With a few clicks, you can create a letter using client data from Xero Practice Manager and your Word template. It draws down relevant data using conditional formatting. So, for example, perhaps the client doesn’t have a rental property. Then, the paragraph relevant to rental properties isn’t included in the letter.
Using these templates, each client gets a customised letter, and there’s consistency across the business in your client communications. There’s no other tool on the market that can create templates like this at the speed of SuiteFiles. Decades ago, you would’ve had an assistant writing these letters from scratch. Now, you can have them prepared and distributed in a few minutes.
Security in case disaster strikes
It’s much safer to store your client documentation in the cloud than in a server at the back of your office building. If that server dies or is stolen, all your precious, confidential client information is lost and your practice is in a world of pain. SuiteFiles has greatly enhanced backup and recovery capabilities compared with those within Microsoft Office 365. The native backup Microsoft provides lacks the ability to access single files. If you’ve lost a file, you need to restore the entire database just to recover that single file. But with SuiteFiles, you can easily access and restore that single file if your data is lost. Also, the data is located in Australia, which is ideal for most accounting firms dealing with client data.
Why not use a storage system?
Of course, you can always use storage systems like Dropbox, Box or Google Drive. But those tools, while very useful, are fundamentally just document storage solutions. Whereas SuiteFiles is a much more advanced content management system. It empowers users to store information beyond files, in order to better manage client interaction and project work.
Comprehensive content management
These days, most accountants are used to recording every type of client interaction throughout their day. Because SuiteFiles is built on Office 365, it extends the value of that investment for firms. So when an email comes in, you can click and drag it to SuiteFiles and it is automatically added to that client folder. The easier it is for everyone to habitually record client discussions, especially advice and decisions, the better your firm will service clients.
What are the alternatives?
Unfortunately, other content management solutions don’t integrate with Xero Practice Manager, so they’re less efficient. As mentioned, there are always simple storage systems like Box, DropBox or Google Drive. We estimate that around 200 accounting firms around Australia use SuiteFiles and many more are in the process of migrating from legacy solutions such as MYOB, HandiSoft or APS. SuiteFiles is the only cloud solution to provide the functionality that accounting firms will be familiar with.
What should you be aware of?
It’s a great piece of software, but it can’t fix cultural or behavioural attitudes in your firm. If your employees aren’t in the habit of regularly recording time and client interactions, it may be difficult to introduce this new record-as-you-go-along approach. SuiteFiles works best if users make regular updates throughout the working day (no filing everything in a rush on Fridays at 5pm). You need to be confident that your staff will stay on top of internal processes to get the best out of SuiteFiles.
Although documents in SuiteFiles can be accessed directly through documents tabs in Xero Practice Manager, it isn’t the most functional of features. We recommend using SuiteFiles as a standalone application with the integration being XPM feeding client data through to SuiteFiles.
Be clear on your objectives
The most successful implementations of SuiteFiles are underpinned by the clarity of vision, and the problem that is being addressed. By clearly defining your objectives and your success criteria, you’ll be in a better position to make the most of SuiteFiles (or any cloud software solution for that matter). What is your clear business need? SuiteFiles can’t magic away process problems within your practice, so it’s worth getting clear on your expectations at the onset.
Is it expensive? Is it easy to migrate from a legacy system?
SuiteFiles costs A$18 per user per month, so it’s an easily budgeted-for expense that will adjust as the user population expands or contracts. Migrations costs vary according to the legacy system holding the data—but we’ve migrated accounting firms from Windows file systems, through to MYOB and APS SQL-based systems. Typically, firms migrate around 80GB of data, but we’ve undertaken migration ranging from less than 10GB to in excess of 300GB.
It’s important to have a free trial
We like our customers to have a free trial before implementing SuiteFiles across their business which we can arrange on their behalf. A trial ensures that you and your team are comfortable in the SuiteFiles environment and the way it works before making a permanent transition.