Friday, 24 January 2014

Accounting Software — A Quick Buyer's Guide

There was a once upon a time when maintaining your books meant rooms filled with cabinets and boxes of never ending paper. There were piles of ledgers and an untold number of pencils and erasers for manually recording and updating essential financial data.
Thank heavens for the computer and business accounting software. It saves you time and maximises space as you no longer need all that paper and room to store it. It helps you maintain insight that you might not have ever got from paper, like generating next quarter sales forecasts, pinpointing the most and least profitable services with a glance, and seeing where inventory is overstocked. It also significantly reduces calculation errors.
No accounting service should be without a reliable and robust program. Unfortunately, it’s a popular medium and there are a multitude of store bought and online applications that promise the best solution. To find the right business accounting software, there are some basic questions you need to look at and answer regarding your business and its needs.

What are your accounting needs?

There are programs that cover receiving, selling, inventory ordering, employee time keeping, payroll and business taxes. Small businesses may not have the manual resources to manually cover all these and good software will definitely streamline the process. Establish what services you need and look for accounting software that matches it. Try to stay away from software that includes hundreds of features you don’t need or can’t see yourself using in the foreseeable future. While you want to make sure the software you choose is ‘future proof’ and will allow you room to grow, you don’t want to pay for bells and whistles you won’t make use of.

What is your experience with accounting and software?

Some programs are easier to use than others, and some may require some training for you and your staff before you can make the jump into relying on the software to keep your books in check. Make sure your pick makes things simpler not harder. Grab a trial version and let potential users play.

How Will You Utilize the Software?

The cloud is simplifying the way we do business. It could mean not having to stay late to crunch those numbers. Do it on the way home or after you put the kids to bed. But that means software that’s consistent, reliable and can be accessed with no trouble on any device.

What are the local legislation requirements?

Make sure the software you choose complies with any specific legislation and accounting statutes in your country or state. If your company is based in Australia, don’t take for granted that US software will be compliant with US accounting legislation and vice versa. MYOB Exo Accounting Software might comply with different rules than Sage for example.

What are your integration concerns?

You may already have industry specific products. Find out how you would integrate any new solution and how that could affect productivity. You should also look into how easy it is to transfer from your current software if you’ve outgrown it and are looking to change – can you retain all of the old data, will it be easily accessible? You want software that will make the transition as seamless as possible.

Which type of accounting product will match your needs?

Small Business Payroll and Accounting Software.

These can be extremely affordable solutions that don’t ask for much in terms of accounting or computer experience. Of course, the more you know the better use of the accounting tool. Generate reports in graphical or spreadsheet form, take advantage of industry specific software for construction, manufacturing and more, or utilize cash flow calculators and templates for order forms, receipts, etc.

Business Management Software.

These will be full featured accounting programs that help you track point of sale, customer relationship management, inventory control, purchasing, billing and enterprise resource management. You want a solution that can integrate as many business processes as possible.

Web Hosted Accounting

Young entrepreneurs have come to trust the Internet for everything from finding a dentist to locating a good restaurant. They are ready to take advantage of the Internet to develop their businesses. There are a number of online platforms that offer advanced financial tools that will effectively manage your books.

Free Accounting Software

While free versions of accounting software can certainly provide a sound foundation for what best suits your business, totally free versions are only likely to show you how much you need a better program. You may be able to keep records, track invoices and print checks, and manage multiple accounts, but there will likely be more reliable options in paid versions, as well as greater customer support.
Have a conversation with an accountant. They could help with software recommendations and establishing what your needs are. Get input from the people currently working on your books or have involvement in ordering, invoicing, payroll or other databases. With this as your guide, focus on industry specific accounting software that aligns with your business. The more you require of the software, the higher your budget is going to be. Fortunately, the rate of return will be more than worth it.
If you follow the protocols, you’ll get a strong idea of what your product needs are and how they match up with what’s available to you. You’ll have gotten some advice from an experienced voice and tested a number of options. It’s now time to prioritize. You will be ready to select the software that comes closest to your needs with the features that will make financial processes easier that also meet your budgetary specifications.
Remember, there is no best business accounting software. There is only the one that’s best for your business needs.
Michael Pendred is Managing Director of Horizon Business Systems, a leading provider of Accounting Software Solutions in Perth, WA. Find Michael on Google+.

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