Managing Director, Add iT Accountants
Add iT is an accounting company in New Zealand providing outsourced services including finance, accounting, payroll, and advisory to a select group of clients. As the world’s first consultants for Xero accounting software, the firm has a technology-first approach to servicing clients. Add iT positions itself as a one-stop shop for whatever needs its clients may have, from tax preparation to serving in high-level in-house trusted positions.
For Add iT, each client engagement is a deep, lengthy relationship often spanning years if not decades. Each account spawns a steady waterfall of documents and email messages, which all must be filed away and organized because of the highly regulated nature of accounting. But Add iT has other reasons for having an extremely well-organized file management system.
As Add iT’s managing director Annie Conza put it, “If I can’t find something in one minute from among our hundreds of thousands of emails and files, I’m not happy.”
This requirement isn’t just to save time. It also facilitates Add iT’s dedication to nimbly serving its clients with exemplary support and resources. Conza knew a big frustration for both team and clients alike about other law and accounting firms she worked at in the past was that things couldn’t be found right away, forcing clients to be asked for data more than once because it was lost or filed incorrectly. For Conza, “If a client is asked for a document a second time, it’s absolutely unacceptable”.
Add iT needed a way to ensure handoffs between staff were seamless and everyone knows where to find every last document. So the company chose SharePoint as its file management solution. However, the firm needed a workflow and user experience that prioritized speed, accuracy, and simplicity to keep up with the breakneck pace the firm operates to service its clientele.
Conza is completely self-taught when it comes to both technology and accounting. She has leveraged her dedication to process, systems, and efficiency to build up the business with minimal overhead and headcount. To ensure nothing falls between the cracks and everything is discoverable in a heartbeat, Add iT has used SharePoint IDs (the unique numerical identifier issued by Microsoft 365 for every file or folder/directory on SharePoint) as a key aspect of the firm’s overall workflow.
Add iT uses this SharePoint ID all the time, whether it’s a reference to specific files or documents made in Xero, in timesheets, or when internally handing off a job from one person to the next. But relying on SharePoint IDs so much means it’s imperative that every relevant file or email message gets stored in SharePoint every time. That’s where harmon.ie comes in.
While Add iT also relies on naming conventions to keep things organized, the ability to drag and drop files and emails directly into SharePoint from Outlook is essential—even if the correct file name isn’t used, it’s still in the right spot. And, once filed in Sharepoint, the file can be specifically renamed, making it even quicker to access the correct file if needed.
Add iT has thousands of folders in SharePoint, with the typical structure being one folder for each client group, one subfolder for each client/entity in the group, then one subfolder for each fiscal year, and then within each of those a subfolder for Jobs and Legal. Using the harmon.ie pane within Outlook, team members can drill down to the exact location, then just drag the attachment or email message right over from their inbox. And because Add iT made SharePoint ID the first column in its harmon.ie pane, everyone has instant access to that unique identifier that’s used throughout the firm’s processes.
Add iT’s commitment to using SharePoint is so strong they have an in-house rule of “no documents on desktops” to ensure absolutely everything is documented since their clients often need to go back and review records from years or even decades in the past to make decisions.
SharePoint IDs are the “connecting thread” for Add iT. Colleagues can simply say “Can you review document 12345” instead of having to provide additional context to help their coworkers locate the file in question. They can simply search for that SharePoint ID right from the harmon.ie pane in Outlook.
“Once we receive an email and I’ve either responded to it or done something with it I’ll send it to SharePoint using harmon.ie—often renaming it for more accurate reference—and then I’ll go to Xero Practice Management and I’ll document what I’ve done and include a SharePoint reference number,” said Richard Jansen, Add iT’s business manager. “Anyone at any period of time can see exactly where it’s at and they can use that SharePoint ID to find out what we’ve done.”
The firm constantly gets urgent requests to know when and why things were done in the past, whether it’s to understand tax implications or to revisit why certain choices were made. This has made Add iT even more invaluable as a trusted resource for all their clients—including other professionals associated with those same clients—and harmon.ie provides the framework to search, discover, and share these key files and messages in seconds.
For example, when clients are in meetings, decisions can be made far more quickly. “You walk out with a game plan instead of follow-ups,” Jansen said. “People will call because we have this system and we’re the go-to person for these clients. It might take a little extra time to invest in the system and file everything, but the payback is extremely tangible. It can help you get the jump on something and take advantage of opportunities that might slide by and give clients and associates trust in you. It saves you so much time and so much frustration so you can actually enjoy your job more.”
“Another huge benefit is that if a client is transferred from another practice using this system, the whole client file can simply be copied, then loaded onto the new practice's system,” Jansen continued. “And just like that instant access to the complete client history, including all email communications and relevant documentation is available.”
Always on the technological cutting edge, Add iT is on the lookout for ways to make their firm more efficient and maintain an excellent level of customer service as a boutique firm. As a longtime advocate for leveraging technology to make accounting and legal practices more efficient, Conza is just as committed to teaching others in the accounting industry to be more tech-savvy and better manage their client data—and how clients can do better themselves.
As part of this evangelism, Add iT is now touting the real-world benefits of harmon.ie to their clients and their peers in the New Zealand accounting ecosystem in an advisory and consulting capacity. “It’s all about discipline and structure, ”Conza says, and harmon.ie will remain a central pillar of their workflows and IT strategy.