Expanding your app-titude

A monthly look at mobile apps that can make the CPA’s job and life better
By Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA

 Expanding your app-titude
Expanding your app-titude: Clarity, QuickBooks and Xero


Clarity is a platform designed to connect advice “seekers” to advice “providers.” Providers (think CPA or attorney or “finance expert”) list their résumés, areas of expertise, and rate (expressed in dollars per minute). Seekers peruse the provider database, which is well-organized and contains more than 20,000 providers. Once a seeker chooses a provider, Clarity schedules and facilitates a call. The seeker enters his or her credit card information and, when the call is over, Clarity collects the agreed-upon amount, deducts its fee (15%), and sends the balance to the provider. Clarity provider A.J. Gross, a Michigan CPA, said he has received “several calls” and, although it has not been a major revenue source, he believes it’s a reasonable part of his larger branding and marketing strategy.

  • Website: Clarity.fm
  • Cost: App is free, and experts don’t pay to be listed. Fees for the advice vary, and the service deducts 15% of experts’ fees.
  • Operating Systems: iOS, Web


After years of talk, “anywhere, anytime, any device” is finally becoming a reality with the rise of solid, native general ledger programs delivered as software as a service (SaaS). Let’s start with some expectation management. First, most current SaaS offerings are not as full-featured as their on-premise-based counterparts. Nonetheless, Intuit has made huge strides with QuickBooks Online (QBO) over the past two years, and the market has responded positively. Case in point: More new customers in 2013 chose QBO than QuickBooks desktop. Second, apps rarely include all the functionality available in the full web-based version. Designers determine what kinds of tasks a user might want to do “on the fly” and optimize those functions in the app. Tasks that are rarely done, or most often done at your desk, are often not included in the mobile app. I encourage you to download and experiment with this app. You’ll find it’s quite comprehensive and can help you answer many “on the fly” questions from clients.


Unlike QBO, Xero was born a SaaS product with no desktop predecessor with which to compare it. The result is little or no “expectation gap.” It’s obvious that Xero’s motto, “beautiful accounting software,” was top of mind in the design phase. The Xero mobile app is simply elegant. There seem to be very few tasks that can’t be completed using it, although it’s important to remember that mobile devices, especially smartphones, remain primarily “consumption” rather than “production” driven. As with QBO, you’ll find that you can answer many, if not most, client questions very quickly using the Xero app. If you have clients using Xero, I encourage you to download it.    

  • Website: Xero.com
  • Cost: App is free, but subscription is required; rates vary.                     
  • Operating Systems: iOS, Android, Web

Greg LaFollette (greg.lafollette@hq.cpa.com) is a strategic adviser with CPA.com , the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA.


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