Kiwi Firm tastes the sweet benefits of automation

FYI welcomes Sidekick, our 1,000th practice to the platform. In a three-part series, we’ll look at the firm’s early and ongoing efficiency gains, as we follow their progress in three and 12 months’ time.

For over a decade, New Zealand accountancy firm Sidekick has been serving the modern accountancy industry, and today runs eight offices across the South Island.

Pioneers of the cloud-based accounting model, Sidekick was an early adopter of Xero since their days as a small Kiwi software start-up, eventually becoming the world’s first Xero platinum partner. And they’ve since continued to invest in emerging technologies.

The path to FYI

Julie Copland, the Group Operations Manager at Sidekick, is constantly pushing for smarter and more efficient ways of working. But change hasn’t always been without its challenges.

“We’ve had a few software implementations,” says Julie. “Some have been good. Some we’ve been bitten by.”

Initially, Google Workspace and HelloSign were Sidekick’s only consistent systems across the group. So the firm treated a move to a document management system as a project.

“We recognised the significance,” says Julie, “so I conducted thorough research on the current state and available options and created a full business case. Then we narrowed it down to two systems which included FYI. In the second phase, we sought input from two companies who were already using these systems.”

The research didn’t stop there. “Once we realised FYI was the better fit,” Julie continues, “we reached out to other firms using FYI. We held Q&A sessions with directors, accountants, and customer service managers from both our team and theirs to learn how they were using it and what support and development from FYI were like. We gained valuable insights from other accountants, and it was a great learning process.”

Ultimately, it was through FYI's satisfied customers that Sidekick learned the platform’s true value.

Automation equals ROI

“One of the biggest things we were looking for is a system that stacks up in terms of ROI – those quantifiable benefits,” Julie says.

Comparing their current systems with what they would be using afterwards, they realised the key driver for their ROI decision was the automations within FYI.

“We realised the automations would potentially be a game changer for us.”

Julie explained each firm within Sidekick has the freedom to make their own decision regarding the adoption of new systems. “Some of the offices are early adopters and trial it for the rest of the group. If it works, you go across the group and if it doesn’t, nothing is lost. The offices that have decided to adopt FYI have done so based on their own scenarios and are fully committed to the decision.”

Now, using FYI’s Automation Export feature, Sidekick shares their automations so other offices in the group can upload them. “We love the fact that we’ve downloaded a process out of Timaru, uploaded it into Queenstown and within the space of not very long, Queenstown’s amended it to suit their processes.”

Julie’s key target for the first three months was to ensure that they get their five key processes automated within every office. The Sidekick Queenstown office already surpassed that goal, and are currently working on automating an additional five processes. With their eyes firmly fixed on the future, Sidekick is determined to realise the full benefits of FYI’s automations.

Beating challenges, adding value

Before switching to FYI, Sidekick Group faced several challenges related to document management and process standardisation.

According to Julie, one of the biggest issues was the presence of multiple document management systems within the group, which prevented them from standardising and improving processes at a group level. The team wanted to automate daily tasks so that they could focus on delivering more value to clients.

“The team were keen to automate day-to-day tasks so they could redirect their time to more value-add for the client”

Julie mentions consolidating systems was also key. “The fact that we didn’t have to work in Xero Practice Manager much was a big part of it. I think everyone’s got a bit of system fatigue – there’s a system for everything. But FYI was great in that it took away a few systems that we were currently using. We combined about eight different software and systems into two – that helped with ROI”

The biggest challenge for our team is the difference between a folder structure and a database cabinet type structure. But people are already starting to see how it’s such a game-changer. It allows us to automate at a level you really couldn't do with a folder structure.

In addition to improving automation, Julie highlighted the value of FYI in managing bulk updates. FYI’s search capabilities allow users to easily locate documents based on specific criteria and perform updates or other actions on them.

Next level onboarding

Getting started with FYI was easy for Sidekick too.

“One of our offices considered the cost of having assisted onboarding. And within a couple days of feedback from everybody, we realised it was worth the money. So now all of our offices have used assisted onboarding, and it’s been really good.”

“Onboarding has been awesome – the response time on getting back to us with queries is just next level”

The Sidekick team has found great value in FYI’s in-app eLearning program, Learn. Designed to help users get up to speed with FYI quickly and easily, Learn allows individuals to complete courses at their own pace. Julie explains that the program has been both valuable and enjoyable. “The hands-on Learn experience is great, it almost feels like a fun quiz.”

Growing profits, not staff

Over the last three years, Sidekick has experienced year-on-year growth of 15% across the group. With the implementation of FYI, Julie says “the aim is to achieve another 15% or more growth through efficiency gains and without needing to hire more staff.”

As Sidekick prepares to open another five offices, would Julie recommend FYI to other users? “Definitely, 100%,” she says, while also recommending firms create a business case, as Sidekick did.

It's a big decision. Do your research and those Q&As we had with other firms using it. At the end of every conversation with them, we'd go, ‘Would you do it again and would you recommend this to other people?’ And it was a resounding yes for both of those, for FYI. That really, at the end of the day, helped us make the decision.

Still deciding whether FYI is right for your practice, take a live platform tour to see how FYI can be a game-changer in your practice.