Starting a business can be a challenge. It takes hard work, dedication and a lot of moving parts coming together. To make sure everything runs smoothly most businesses rely on technology. But how can technology help your business thrive?
When we started working with Magnum and his team our goal was clear. Deliver an intuitive client portal that would serve as the foundation for their business. This is how we helped Magnum turn his idea into a full-fledged SaaS accounting business.
Creating a Virtual Accounting Department for Small Businesses
Magnum and his partners Kevin and Rory met in University while studying in Vancouver. Coming from different backgrounds they are an interesting and dynamic team. And even though they are currently living in different parts of the world they didn't shy away from working together.
Their goal was to launch an accounting business in Singapore. Why Singapore? Having lived there before, it was a familiar country and it gave them the opportunity to expand to neighbouring countries. Also, they thought bookkeeping in Singapore was convoluted and expensive.
Through more research, they found that bookkeeping services were only offered by consulting companies. These companies teach businesses how to do their own bookkeeping. Magnum and his team figured they could offer a simpler, more cost effective service. Singapore, like Vancouver, has plenty of small businesses and startups. They hypothesised these would be ideal customers for their new service.
Martin and his team are a cut above the rest.
When Magnum first approached us he shared his vision with us. He wanted to provide an all in one accounting service to Singapore small businesses.
We started with a phone call to assess his plan, and assess the project's feasibility. Following a successful phone call, we decided to meet to discuss the details and how we could bring this vision to reality.
Once we were on the same page, it was time to meet the rest of his team. Using Google Hangouts, we had our first web meeting with his partners. It was a great way to show how we could communicate and work well together regardless of location. Magnum was expecting to be in Singapore for the majority of the development. Because of this, he needed a company he could trust and interact well through the Internet.
During these meetings they shared more of their vision.
Become the first accounting firm in South East Asia to merge online software and bookkeepers into one simple solution.
See Magnum and his partners were looking to become the go-to bookkeeping team for small businesses. To stand out from the competition they wanted to provide a service that is simple and personal. Their goal was to achieve this through a simple and elegant web portal.
The now live portal presents accounting data to clients in a simple manner. It also enables Numpad's accounting team to interact with their clients. But before this, the first step was to create a minimal viable product.
We follow an agile method for a reason. It’s impossible to foresee everything from the start. Only when we closely examine each feature, we can find details we have missed. The development of software is an iterative process through which discovery of new requirements is a normal and expected part.
As a result, the scope of each new project will change during the software process. To develop the best possible product we believe it’s important to stay nimble and adapt. That may mean some things get put on the back burner while others get worked on and improved continuously.
So how does it relate to Magnum’s project? How do we take an idea and turn it into a product? It starts with what problems we’re are solving.
How to create a system that optimizes productivity and maximizes transparency? How can we make it intuitive to use for their clients? Their idea was to create a system that enables their team to manage and serve clients. In a nutshell, they wanted an easy way for clients and bookkeepers to exchange monthly financial information.
We tackled the project in phases.
We started with onboarding and billing. How can we make it as easy as possible for an end user to register while maintaining a high level of security? How can we establish trust and make new clients feel safe to sign up and share their private financial information? How should we welcome new users? How is billing going to work?
Following onboarding, we broke down the client and bookkeeper monthly interactions. Once a client becomes a user and starts using the system, what does that look like? How do they upload new files? When are they ‘done’? How should the system notify them? On the other side, how do bookkeepers manage all their clients? How do they stay on top of their work?
To make it more personable, Magnum had the idea of integrating a support and chat tool. This way their clients could reach out whenever they had a question or concern.
The main goal for onboarding was to make a good first impression and build trust. We did that through a few different methods.
We encrypted the app and forced users to activate their accounts before continuing on. Once they activated their account, a 3 step wizard welcomed them to the platform and walked them through the initial setup. The wizard helps break up the information they need to provide. The wizard keeps the user focused and provides extra information to instil trust.
Billing was another important aspect of the application. We integrated with Stripe to handle all payments and subscription. Using existing and proven platforms can help speed up the development process and improve the quality of the end product. A lot of the code we build is ‘custom’. At the same time, we do leverage on open source tools and existing software whenever possible.
When we starting working with Magnum, one thing that stood out was his vision of a ‘simple and clean’ interface. He wanted for his customers and team to be able to get things done quickly.
We designed both the client and bookkeeper interface to share the same look and feel. Our design was minimalistic following google material design guidelines. Each time a client or a bookkeeper upload a file they receive a notification and visual queue. We wanted to maximize productivity and cut downtime.
The admin dashboard was pretty straightforward to design. One key feature was making sure that everytime a new user registers, that they are not without an assigned bookkeeper for a long period of time. Through notifications and by having simple list of new users and organizations accomplished this. Within the admin panel, Magnum and his team can manage all users, admins, and bookkeepers.
So what was the end result? Magnum and his team have now a stable minimal viable product to begin their business. We’ll continue to watch and maintain their system over the next few months. We have a dozen more features in the future and we’ll be available for Magnum and his team when that time comes.
Integration with Intercom
Understanding the power of this platform without actually using it was a challenge. This led to us making some wrong assumptions about its functionality. For example, we want it to handle all our system’s communication with the user. Unfortunately it’s not really meant for that.
Thankfully, our team made the decision to have the system work without Intercom. This allowed us to have higher control on the system and reduced dependencies. We ended up using the system but it provides more functionality to an already working app.
Stripe is awesome!
Stripe is a payment platform that lets you take payments through the Internet. Even though we’ve worked with Stripe in the past, we had forgotten how developer friendly it is. Definitely a treat to work with such a polished product.
Scope creep and extra work
During this project, a few times we found ourselves working extra or adding extra features. We always want to build the best possible product. So what's the problem? For parts we failed to update Magnum with our new costs.
Because of this, we ended making the scope much larger, extending the timeline and increasing the budget. Magnum was understanding and happy with the product and we came to a good compromise. In the future as we continue to refine our process, we'll make sure we update our clients more often.