Is accounting software important? Opening a small business in today’s economic climate can be exciting, complicated and an expensive process. To a lot of people it is simple – just make sure your products sell for more than they cost you, right?
Unfortunately there is a lot more to it than that! And that is why accounting is a key component to any businesses success.
It should play a key role in every decision that is made.
However not everyone has a good understanding of accounting, so it is important to choose accounting software that provides the tools and information you need to manage your financial records, as well as helping you make the most of your cash flow.
With all the accounting software available, it’s hard to know which is best for your business. When evaluating business software, consider the following points:
Ease of Use Look for accounting software that is simple to install, set up, and understand. The best accounting programmes make navigating intuitive, so you never have to guess where you are or what to do next.
Accounting Modules Accounting modules are categories required to successfully maintain your business finances (such as Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable). Does the accounting software have all the basic accounting modules you'll need? All the bells and whistles of the software aren't relevant if the basics aren't covered. Will the accounting software grow with your company? Look for accounting software that lets you grow and customize your system to fit your individual business needs.
Reporting Categories Consider accounting software that offers a wide range of reports. You should be able to print at least one kind of report for every module. Reporting features are often built into each section, but it's better if you can create reports from anywhere in the program. Customizable reports save you time; look for accounting software that will let you set your own criteria. With detailed financial reporting, you can analyse what is and isn't working for your business.
Help Documentation Look for email and phone support; toll-free phone and live support, while online help is a bonus. Online, look for indexed help topics that can be searched easily. You'll want quick access for both technical help and accounting help for your software. Accounting software companies should have qualified people (both technicians and accountants) answering these tough questions.
Some of the best accounting software includes:
Peachtree Complete comes with a wide variety of convenient tools and has everything you need to manage your small business finances smoothly and successfully. It has a lot of features and tools however it is easy to learn and use with each screen having a help icon. Peachtree also has a help menu on the top tool bar with links to user manuals, online support, and demonstrations. It has real time error alerts and over 75 company account charts. It contains all the modules you would need including a fixed assets module (allowing you to manage up to 200 fixed assets).
Australia’s leading accounting software for small business. MYOB's business management solutions are more than just accounting software. Each solution gives you a range of tools that can help you stay compliant, improve your customer service and build a more profitable business. MYOB have a feature called a Card File where you can create detailed profiles for all your clients and contacts. It contains modules such as accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, inventory, banking, time billing, job costing, and a general ledger.
Quickbooks allows you to customize the programme to match your business type whether you have a product or a service. You can import data from Excel, Quicken, and Microsoft Accounting and can accept credit cards directly into the programme. It has simple navigation toolbars that help you find your way around quickly. The main navigation toolbar offers you the easiest route to the tools you will need. Clicking it starts a graphical menu to pop up that shows you exactly what you have to do, and in what order. The programme offers most of the features you need, but you may need time to adjust to its unique section names, such as the Company Section being the closest tool to the General Ledger found in most other programmes. It doesn’t include a fixed assets section.
Cougar Mountain Accounting includes the basic accounting software sections: Inventory, Payroll, Accounts Receivable, and Accounts Payable, plus a few extra: Order Entry, Purchase Order, Point of Sale, and Data Exchange.
There were some tools missing such as those to do time tracking and work with fixed assets. It also didn’t appear to track shipments. A few other missing sections (Payroll, Purchase Orders, Job Costing) are available as extra downloads for a cost. Cougar Mountain Accounting has most of the basic reports necessary to analyse your business progress quickly, but when compared with other accounting software, this software fell short on reports. Cougar Mountain reports lack variety and are not easily customised.
The Cougar Mountain Accounting opening screen isn’t as easy to use as most of the other accounting software packages. All the sections are condensed, so that once you are inside, finding your way to a simple task such as making an invoice, is a challenge.
The only navigation tool Cougar Mountain Software uses are icons along the top navigation and a pull down menu. Once you click on a section, the only way that you can perform a task is to click on that option in the drop down bar. Cougar Mountain Accounting has no left or right-hand side navigation, and nothing but blank space under the icons on the tool bar.
Cougar Mountain Accounting didn't come with all the common accounting sections. You must install these (at extra cost) if you need Job Costing, Payroll, and Purchase Orders (free). Without these, the software is more difficult to use.
Cougar Mountain Accounting is an average small business accounting program, but with improved navigation, this programme would be simpler to understand quickly. Also, requiring customers to purchase extra sections to cover the basics (such as Payroll) is inconvenient and expensive for most small business budgets.
Xero is an online accounting system designed for small businesses and their advisors. You can run your business from anywhere in the world on a PC, Mac or popular mobile devices. The dashboard gives you a real time view of your business at a glance, providing a snapshot of all your transactions. On the Dashboard and throughout Xero you will see orange Tips next to graphs and links that show you quick introductions and summaries. The Help menu gives you access to full online help for any screen you are on. It has the standard functions such as Bank Reconciliations, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and Expense Claims. It also has budget variance, cashbook and annual and management reporting.
It is designed to facilitate better collaboration between you and your advisers. With Xero your accountant can log in and view your accounts, providing valuable real-time advice.
Netsuite is a good business accounting tool, but it isn't downloadable software. To use the programme, you must login to Netsuite's website. One drawback to this design is that Netsuite navigates from screen to screen only as fast as your Internet connection will allow. This can be frustrating if you use a dial-up modem or a lower speed DSL connection.
Netsuite breaks the business accounting process into thirteen different roles, including: Administrator, Controller, Customer Center, eCommerce Site Manager, Employee Center, Marketing Manager, Receivables Clerk, Sales Manager, Sales Rep., Sr. Executive, Support Lead, Support Manager, and Warehouse Manager.
A midsized business would find this type of organization useful with different managers governing each role, however for a small business. You would need to assume each role as needed.
Netsuite is confusing to operate because it is text-based, not graphics-based. Also, the features are broad, not specific. There is also no quick access to sections because they are not broken down by task, but by role. Since features are assigned to roles, you must learn the role for each task you want to do. It may be difficult for product may be difficult for small businesses to adapt to their data input style to.