Product review: The future of Connect4
We’re on a mission to make every client meeting count and that journey requires us to continuously evolve and refine our platform.
Growth is only possible through conversations, and that’s why we’ve spent summer ’22 talking.
We’ve been talking to long-term users and new users and accountants who’ve never even heard of us before. This has all been with the goal of setting out a roadmap for where we should take the Connect4 platform next.
We’ve already made some big changes to the client meeting platform, which we’ve been testing with some of our beta users. Now we can properly announce these exciting new developments. This post should fill you in on all the new changes you can expect to see on the Connect4 platform very soon.
This is a bit of a long post. So here’s the key headlines:
- New client dashboard. We’re updating our interface so that it’s organised by client name. You can import your portfolio from Karbon practice management or add clients manually. Internal team meetings are organised into their own area: Team huddles.
- Super-quick meeting creation. Create a new meeting in three clicks. No pod required!
- Expert agendas. We’ve launched an extensive library of expert meeting agenda templates from leading figures in the accounting industry.
Alternatively, you can watch our full presentation:
The rest of this update is split into three categories:
- Clients & Team huddles
- Super-quick meeting creation
- Pod allocation and pricing updates
- 3rd-party video software
- Practice management software
- Productivity software
- Empowering best practice
- Learning pods
- Expert agendas
>> Making Connect4 a lot easier to use
One of the overwhelming problems that we’ve been trying to solve from day one is how can we make client meetings easier. We spoke with an accountant recently who put this issue very succinctly; “meetings are cumbersome!”.
“Meetings [in general] are cumbersome!”
Everything that surrounds meetings is a bit painful. Prep takes time, follow-ups feel fussy and actions are easily lost amongst all the admin. The elephant in the room is that Connect4 hasn’t always made the situation easier. One of our beta testers said “Connect4 sometimes makes you jump through hoops just to do something relatively straightforward”. We love that kind of feedback as it helps us improve.
We realise that some of our difficulties were due to our pod structure. When we started out, we saw a lot of benefits to our unique system of pods. For one, they’re highly flexible — enabling users of all types to mould into something that works for them. But that came at the expense of simplicity.
With that in mind, we’ve now focussed our pod system to be uniquely tailored for use with clients.
Can you still use pods for other purposes? Sure! But their core purpose with clients is now much more straightforward.
Introducing the new client dashboard
When you land on Connect4 for the first time, you’ll soon be presented with a list of clients, rather than a series of pods with random names.
Import your full client portfolio from Karbon, or add a client manually. Those clients then become client pods.
What if you have clients that you don’t want to use Connect4 with? Easy — you can still import your full portfolio, but simply choose to set certain clients as inactive. These won’t contribute to your overall pod allocation but if you want to add them at a later date, you can.
Whilst we regularly pitch ourselves as ‘the client meeting platform’, we know how important running smarter team meetings is for accounting practices too. We’ve broken out team meeting pods into their own separate section that we’re calling Team huddles.
Team huddles are the new space for all of your 1-to-1s, stand-ups and board meetings.
Faster meeting creation
In order to make meetings much quicker to start, we’ve also completely revised the meeting creation process in Connect4.
Clicking the create meeting button now slides out a simple form. Just choose a meeting agenda template and select a client (or team member) and you’re away! You don’t even have to add a date or time (maybe you haven’t decided that yet, or you just want an ad-hoc meeting).
You can also now create as many meetings as you like in the future. So if you want to map out your meetings with client meetings over the course of the quarter or year, you can.
>> Improving how we work alongside other software
Many of our customers love our built-in native video capabilities. It’s quick and easy to access with no log-in or download required.
But we’ve learnt that not everybody likes it so much — especially clients. We’ve know that it’s not always easy to change clients’ behaviour. If they’re used to using Zoom, Microsoft Teams or a phone (or meeting face-to-face!), then that’s just fine. Changing those things isn’t a battle that we think accounting practices need to wage.
We do strongly believe however that meetings of any type, regardless of the system used, benefit from the suite of best practice tools that Connect4 provides. With that in mind, we’ve dedicated a lot of effort into thinking about how we can work better with other tools — specifically video conferencing platforms.
Connect4 is not a video conferencing platform. We have a great video feature but it’s not our key offering. Frankly, the likes of Zoom and Teams will always have features we don’t have — like virtual backgrounds and emoji reaction.
Easy third-party video meeting set-up
We announced earlier in the year that we’d changed the interface for selecting 3rd-party software for a meeting. We did this to make it more obvious that the likes of MS Teams and Zoom were options (they were a little hidden before).
All you need to do now is select the meeting platform and paste in your meeting link. This link is automatically copied to any future meetings in that pod. So you don’t need to keep adding your link every time. There’s more information in this help article about setting up third-party video.
We’ve also adjusted our layout so that you can drag your interface to fit in next to your Zoom/Teams app.
Alternatively you can just make use of the neat minimised video option that a number of the video platforms offer.
Microsoft Teams plugin
We’re excited to announce we’re launching a lightweight app for Microsoft Teams! Very shortly you’ll be able to head over to apps in Teams and install Connect4.
We’ve specifically designed this extension for new users of Connect4 and have purposely kept functionality restricted to meeting agendas for now.
You can access our full library of expert agendas (see below), as well as share your own templates across your Teams organisation. We believe that the Connect4 Teams App will initially provide a great ‘taster’ of the full Connect4 experience.
Practice management software
Something that we’ve learnt is a big priority for our users is how Connect4 works alongside a practice management system. We’ve never intended the platform to work in a silo. And we’ve never intended for Connect4 to replace your practice management system.
What we have heard from our users is that practice management systems are essential, they can provide a lot of ‘noise’. That’s where Connect4 comes in — to provide a clear and focussed view of everything you need to know for a meeting. We then sync back to your practice management system, which is your single source of truth.
Karbon integration upgrades
The Connect4 Karbon integration already allows you to do several things:
- Import clients
- Import team members
- Assign actions to team members
We’re pleased to announce that we’ve extended this further:
- You can now assign actions to a specific work item associated with a client in Karbon.
- The URL of the client pod is now sent into details inside the relevant client in Karbon.
Working alongside other productivity software
At its core, Connect4 is productivity software. As such, it needs to work alongside other productivity tools used by practices.
We’ve written about our integration with Zapier already. This opens up Connect4 so that it can essentially integrate with 5000+ apps.
We’ve also created a Chrome Extension that works with Google Calendar. You can find out more information about this in this article.
3. Empowering best practice
>> Providing the know-how to run smarter client meetings
Connect4 has always been proactive in encouraging what we believe to be the best workflow for running great client meetings. We try to tread a fine line between offering best practice advice and being dogmatic — we appreciate that every firm does things slightly differently.
That’s why the title of this section is empowering best practice. We want to provide the tools and information you need to run smarter meetings but remain flexible in how you do that.
Existing users might have noticed that there is an entirely new section on the sidebar of the app called ’Learning pods’. This is a new area where we’re adding content that helps you get the most out of Connect4.
We’ve been busy gathering meeting agendas from some of the leading players in the accounting world. We’re gradually building what we believe will be the largest library of free client meeting scripts and templates specifically designed for accountants. So far we’ve got a great onboarding template from Karbon, a comprehensive discovery call template from Accountancy Manager and advisory meeting templates from the likes of Fathom, Float and Ignition.
Onwards and upwards!
We’ve covered a fair bit in this post but hopefully it provides a good vision of where we’re taking the client meeting platform, in the near future. Some of the changes we’ve made — especially around how we work with clients — are fairly fundamental shifts in how our platform functions. But we felt that these changes were essential if we wanted to a) be easier to use and b) work better alongside practice management systems. We hope you’re as excited as us about the future!
As always, please send any feedback to [email protected]. We can’t continue to evolve effectively without your input!