Richard runs a marketing agency that operates in four states and he is considering getting accounting software to manage his financials. He asks:
“Hi, a colleague has urged me to tap accounting software to track my financials better and more conveniently. I got used to doing everything semi-manual, but now that I operate in four states, the different taxations and other financial terms in different states make financial reporting more tedious. I am definitely automating my accounting, but could you give me some tips on what to look for before I get one? Thanks!” – Richard, OH
Hi, Richard. Buying accounting software is made easy and simple by reading a lot of stuff, and that means checking online accounting software reviews for good features. But be warned to separate an objective review from a product pitch. This page can provide helpful tips on what to look for in accounting software and how to find one that best suits your needs. Or you can get a side-by-side comparison of the best accounting software for small businesses available today. And if your need is specific to payroll, read about payroll accounting software here.
In essence, it is best to ask yourself the following questions before you decide which program to buy:
Accounting software depends on your needs. A small or home business often only needs the standard accounting processes like payables, receivables, payroll, and invoice. On the other hand, a larger business may require inventory, project tracking, and customer relationship management. You wouldn’t want to get a product with extra features that you don’t need, so go over your business needs and decide which processes that you need to automate.
Another major factor to consider when checking online accounting software reviewsis to know which industry your business belongs. Many accounting software products have special features for specific industries, especially for manufacturing, retail, and non-profit. If you’re into retail, a point-of-sale (POS) system is necessary. On the other hand, a manufacturing company will need a more robust inventory system to handle materials, billing, and product movement. Non-profit organizations need separate tax calculations. Think about the standard accounting practices in your industry and look for accounting software products that service that industry.
Price will always be a deal maker or breaker when checking online accounting software reviews. But don’t just look for a cheap or popular product (often, the cheapest is not the best). And if you’re interested to get free software, watch out for potential traps like data capture or switching of features. Go for value-for-money tools. Make sure all the features of the software will help you run the business better. Any excess features only dilute the product’s value because you’re paying for useless tools. Moreover, look for products that allow you to add more modules in the future in case your business grows bigger.
This will not be included in online accounting software reviewsbut you need to factor in your Internet connectivity to ensure the software runs properly, especially if you’re getting cloud or online accounting for small business.
It’s critical that the accounting software product allows you to transfer data to and from other programs. In some cases, your business will outgrow the software product and you’ll need to transfer your data and reports to a more robust system. Imagine the headache of redoing everything just because the current software won’t export a compatible data. When checking for online accounting software reviews look for extension files such as CSV, PDF, TXT, and XLS; these are cross-platform files that work well with other programs.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Even the top vendors may sometimes err in providing after-sales support. You’ll need technical support to help you use the product more efficiently, so look for a professional support service. Watch out for services that require you to pay another set of fees, unless the service has extra support like on-site consultations or a team is specifically assigned to you.
Lastly, ask accountants who you know, what is the best for them? They are likely to give you an experience-based testimonial instead of promises. You can also ask them what they think about the program that you’re planning to buy. Generally, experts are willing to give their two-cents even to strangers for free (we all want to brag, yes?).
These questions will guide you on choosing the right accounting software for your business. Here’s another tip—the more you have an intimate knowledge how your business and industry run, the better the chances that you’ll get a software package that fits your needs. Read this insightful article from the Entrepreneur online magazine on “Accounting Apps for Your Number-Crunching Needs.” It’s written for small business owners who find the number crunching that comes with accounting a daunting prospect.
For further reading, check my post about small business accounting software online. Good luck!
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