By: Michael Pendred
Before purchasing accounting software, you need to know what you want it to do and how it should work within your business. This might seem obvious, but with so many software packages available, it might be tempting to just grab one off the shelf with all the bells and whistles. Frustrations will abound when the software forces you to change the way you operate. Take time to list the features your business can’t operate without.
You must be able to navigate the system easily. Better yet, the interface should make you want to interact with the software. The system must be clear, concise, and attractive because the ultimate goal is to reduce time and increase efficiency. You don’t want to spend time trying to figure out what the system does or how it does it. You’ll have a pleasant experience if the software interface is attractive and intuitive. Furthermore, you’re less likely to procrastinate when it’s time to update your accounts.
Your accounting system must integrate with your other systems and processes. You can channel information more efficiently, and this helps you save money. For example, you might be able to download bank information directly to your software. This saves time and makes reconciliations a lot easier. A series of software that can’t communicate with each other forces you to do manual work and repeat the same task many times. It also means that you might need to hire more employees to take care of these tasks.
As your business grows, your accounting system needs to have the capacity to grow with it. The system needs to handle tasks at the same speed even if more people are accessing information from it. Accounting software with scalability features expands to suit your business needs. You shouldn’t need to buy another system because your business grew. With a scalable system, many users can use the software without taking turns. That’s because the system expands to accommodate any number of users.
You need to retrieve information that tells you how your company is doing. Furthermore, you shouldn’t feel the need to call your accountant each time you want a balance sheet or income statement. A click of an icon should get you any of the standard financial reports. Also, when it’s time to file your taxes, the software should allow you to print the necessary reports. You also need to present your business information in a format you and your audience understands. Thus, your accounting software should also enable you to create graphs and charts, which are useful for interpreting data.
You need to track your expenses, your income, and your sources of income. This is because you need to know how you’re making money. Analysing your sources of income helps you identify effective sales strategies. It also helps you identify those that aren’t working. The software needs to work as a tool that guides your business. You can see where you’re spending money, where you’re making money, areas that need improvement, and create sales plans to grow your business.
Accounting software isn’t complete without invoicing features that record your sales. Because invoices represent your business, it’s important that the software produces professional-looking invoices. Also, according to TIME magazine, over six billion people have access to cellphones. So, your software must allow you to interact with your customers via their cellphones. This includes sending invoices via text message and email. Other must-have invoicing features include the ability to do the following:
• apply partial payments
• apply one payment to many invoices
• save customer information
• track preferred payment methods
• allow recurring transactions
If you have employees, keeping up with their time and benefits might be a challenge. You need to track employee expenses, bonuses, incentives, benefits, and vacation pay. You might also need to track employees who are salaried and those who are hourly. Accounting software is ideal if it automates the payroll processes, including the ability to process direct deposit payments instead of paper checks.
Accounting software increases efficiency, but buying traditional applications can be expensive. That’s because you need to pay for ongoing technology support and up-front license fees. You also need to perform periodic backups to your data and perform software updates. Cloud solutions such as MYOB Exo are ideal for small businesses because the service helps reduce cost. You don’t need to download, install or maintain the software, or pay for large data storage devices for a large up-front cost. The cloud provider takes care of those tasks. For a small monthly fee, you get the latest software and freedom to use the solution from any location that has Internet access.
Michael Pendred is Managing Director of Horizon Business Systems, a leading provider of Accounting Software Solutions in Perth, WA. Find Michael on Google+.