As you move your accounting firm more into the cloud and rely more on virtual employees, you’ll need to use virtual communication apps to stay in touch with workers and clients, keep everyone on the same page, and ensure key benchmarks are being met on time.
But with the wealth of virtual communication app options available, how do you know which ones to choose? We spoke with some of the leaders in the cloud accounting industry to get their take, then combined it with our own research and expertise to compile the following list.
Pros: Easy to use, integrates well with other apps, promotes casual conversation
Cons: Can create distraction, slow adoption rates
As we engaged our cloud accounting experts, one virtual communication app was mentioned above all others: Slack. It was highly praised as a “one-fits-all” solution, thanks to its text and voice chat capabilities and the ease with which it integrates other applications. And the ability to group conversations by channel makes organization simple.
“The most important characteristic of any app is that it works all the time, and that’s true of Slack,” Amanda Aguillard, principal, Aguillard Accounting, and co-founder, Bluewire Strategy Group, says. “We love that we can communicate on our desktops, laptops, and mobile devices seamlessly. It also integrates via Zapier to lots of other apps that we use.”
“Every company should be on either Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts Chat, if you ask me. I can’t go back to email,” Blake Oliver, senior product marketing manager, FloQast, and publisher of the newsletter Cloud Accounting Weekly, says.
“Slack makes it easy to communicate with your virtual teams and clients,” Jay Kimelman, founder and CIO, The Digital CPA, says. “You can create channels for specific purposes, keeping them private to only those you assign to that channel. Slack connects virtually to every app we use, making it an essential tool.”
Pros: Cost (essentially free), recordable meetings, screen sharing
Cons: No real-time document sharing features
Ahead of competitors Google Hangouts, Skype for Business, and GoToMeeting, Zoom’s wide array of features and attractive price helped it emerge as our top app for virtual meetings.
“Zoom is the web conferencing and meeting app of choice. It has a light footprint and, more importantly, it’s easy to use,” Kimelman says. “Add in the webinar option and you now have powerful marketing tools, including the ability to stream live to Facebook and YouTube.”
“We use Zoom for pretty much all calls to ‘see’ each other and our clients, and do computer and mobile app screen shares,” Bruce Phillips, founder and CEO, HPC, says.
Pros: Fast onboarding process, easily integrates with email, good privacy control
Cons: Not widely used, can be pricey
In a crowded field including Trello, Asana, and Wrike, we’ve chosen Karbon as the best virtual project management software on the market. Its website claims it can save 10 hours per employee, per week, and while we can’t back up that claim, it does seem to streamline a lot of complex project management tasks.
“HPC runs on Karbon as a project management software. Karbon tracks our staff email and deliverables and much of our client data and projects. We are able to measure and manage processes well using Karbon,” Phillips says.
Pros: Easily integrates with Jira, very helpful support staff and easy-to-use support tickets, secure storage
Cons: Sends too many notification emails
While Hipchat doesn’t do much that Slack can’t, it has one key advantage: easy integration with issue-tracking software Jira. If your practice relies a lot on technology and requires quick resolution of tech problems, Hipchat may be your best bet for virtual communication.
Pros: Innovative “conversation threading” features
Cons: New to market, adoption may be slow
New to the world of virtual communication apps is Twist. It’s based on a principle that might give it an advantage over Slack and Hipchat at some companies: that employee conversations need to be grouped into appropriate threads, and that this process should be largely automated. If you find that many of your messages in other apps are getting lost in the ether, give Twist a try.