Interview with Stephen Smallwood from UK cloud integrator, Bridge3

 Stephen Smallwood, Managing Director of Bridge3 and Thorne Widgery.

Stephen Smallwood, Managing Director of Bridge3 and Thorne Widgery.

We recently partnered with Bridge3 to be SuiteFiles’ exclusive UK distributor, which means that they’ll be providing sales and technical support in that region. But who are Bridge3 and how do they help accountants get the best out of cloud apps? We interviewed Stephen Smallwood from Bridge3 to find out.

Stephen Smallwood is the Managing Director of Bridge3 and its sister company, accountancy practice, Thorne Widgery.

Who are Bridge3?

We are innovators in the marketplace – we try very hard to find solutions that make things simpler for businesses, that makes data work and that makes life better. Life’s too short to put up with costly, inefficient, bad software – that’s why we decided to do something about it.

What does a cloud integrator do and what value do they provide businesses?

As a cloud integrator, we ask questions first to understand the headaches in your business, how these issues are affecting your work, and what you’d like to achieve. We are here to help you save time and pain by guiding you as required, enabling you to continue to serve your clients while implementing the software changes.

We find process and software solutions based on tried and tested experiences, including our own at our accounting practice, Thorne Widgery. Once a solution has been approved, we help put it into place, keeping you informed throughout the process. We then arrange training and support you through the culture change.

Clients also receive on-going support from us, including updates and additional solutions that they might benefit from. We take the learning, tips and tricks from our experience with all of our clients and share best practice. The value we provide is the confidence that we’ve done this all before.

How does Bridge3 help businesses choose the best software for them?

We work with accountancy practices who want to move their business forward by leveraging the benefits of the cloud and of digital transformation. Our role is to look at what a practice does, then to challenge what they do and any incumbent orthodox processes and assumptions they might have. We then offer alternative solutions based on their needs and on past experiences with Thorne Widgery and previous clients. We show them the benefits of our systems and software and how we can make them work better for them.

What benefits do your clients typically get from working with Bridge3?

Through our advice and help in streamlining processes, our customers can realise up to 45% savings in time and administration efficiencies. By making these changes ourselves at Thorne Widgery, we now make more money, are slicker, quicker and have liberated talent and additional efficiency in our business, and able to make more time to give value added business advice to our clients.

The investment also leads to a culture change, which probably has the most impact on the business. It is very important to us to help the client navigate the change management process, to overcome resistance, ill-informed assumptions and potential negativity.

How did Bridge3 get started?

Nearly twenty years ago as Thorne Widgery Chartered Accountants, we started identifying opportunities to make our clients’ lives easier through better processes. We worked with our clients to save time and improve how they managed data so that they could work more agilely and effectively.

This business offering then spun out into an IT service and Bridge3 was born. As technology and knowledge have evolved, so have we. Frustrated with the software provided to businesses, we started providing bespoke software solutions – the advent of APIs has allowed us essentially to build our own software, add-ons and plug-ins that we can create to cater to a specific client need.

Over time we’ve refined Bridge3’s offering specifically to work with Xero products and add-ons. We introduce add-ons to clients and help them to implement them in order to get the best performance for their business.

What do you often see when clients try to implement apps themselves?

We find that clients can be quite frightened implementing apps and making changes by themselves. It’s easy for the software vendor to promote the benefits of their product and why it’s suitable for your business, but it’s another thing to set it up and live with the consequences. The biggest issue we find when speaking to prospective and existing clients is that they either lack the time or confidence. Bridge3 holds your hand through the process – we know the right way to implement the app, the shortcuts and tricks, and we have the time and knowledge to input your data once its installed.

 The Bridge3 team manning the SuiteFiles stand at Accountex London 2018

The Bridge3 team manning the SuiteFiles stand at Accountex London 2018

For a small business, what do you see as the key benefits of operating from the cloud?

The cloud offers many benefits, including the opportunity to be innovative, agile and responsive. You can choose what systems you need and remove significant overheads from your business, such as inefficient systems, downtime for updates and backups, and storage or IT costs.

What are your top tips for businesses looking at introducing cloud apps like Xero or SuiteFiles?

We recommend doing the following:

  1. Audit your business – understand your business needs, strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Make a wish list – what do you hope the new system will do and ask software providers if it can do the key priorities on your list. Have a conversation with the providers, which will indicate whether your wishes are achievable either immediately or can be accommodated. You will also get to see how much the provider understands of your business and whether you would like to deal with them.
  3. Work with a cloud integrator to implement the right software and right the first time!

 


About Bridge3

Bridge3 are experienced cloud integrators helping UK businesses innovate and improve how they manage their data. They specialise in implementing Xero apps and add-ons, and are SuiteFiles’ exclusive UK distributor. Get in touch at www.bridge3.co.uk.