When you’re deciding what you really need to manage the books in your small business, it’s important to focus on your core business needs. So, there are some questions you need to ask yourself before you go ahead and make the purchase. Remember – the most expensive option isn’t necessarily the best.
While most accounting software will get the job done organizing your financial information, you don’t want to pay for features you don’t need or buy software your employees will reject.
Weighing up the options
There are lots of options out there, and what you should do is see how it stacks up against other popular choices. The best way to work out what people think of them is to visit review sites that compare all the options and provide customer reviews, such as:
- Accounting Software Review – Reviews and Comparisons
- Capterra – Top Accounting Software Products
- Software Advice – Compare Business Accounting Software
- Business News Daily – Best Accounting Software for Small Business
It’s also a good idea to talk to anyone you know who’s using accounting software. Someone with hands-on experience is going to be in a good position to advise you on the most suitable option for your business. Your accountant would be an ideal person to ask.
What to look for
There are some fundamental features any small business should consider when choosing accounting software. What you don’t want is an application that has a lot of loud bells and whistles but doesn’t do the job you want. You’re also not going to want to spend hours and hours learning how to use it, or find it too complicated – after all, the whole idea is to streamline your financial processes, not make them harder.
So, when you’re shopping around, keep the following in mind:
- Is it country specific?
It’s important to check that the software you’re considering is designed for your country’s tax and regulations. There’s not much point in purchasing something that hasn’t been taught how to reconcile tax in your own country or is unaware of any other key regulations.
- Does it have a payroll option?
This is a vital feature if you employ staff. Not only should the payroll option be clear and easy to use, it should also be versatile enough to use on any device – like your smartphone – so that you can manage your payroll wherever you are.
- Is it mobile-friendly?
Following on from the above point, you should be able to use most or all the features on your smartphone, since most devices can handle a range of applications. Being able to handle your finances wherever you are is important because it means you’re able to be more flexible and use your time efficiently.
- Does it have an inventory system?
This is especially important for retail-based businesses. If you’re selling a range of products, large or small, you should be able to manage them using a built-in inventory system.
- Is it accountant-friendly?
Since you’re going to be handing all your financial data to your accountant for the end-of-year tasks, you’ll want to be sure that they’re going to understand the software and how you’re using it. It’s a good idea to get your accountant’s input before you make your purchase.
- Support and training
Ideally, the software should come with built-in tutorials on how to use it. The software should be designed so that pretty much anyone who knows one end of a computer from the other can get to grips with it, and the training should be clear and easy to follow. You also want to know that there are good support systems in place, in case you have any questions or if something goes wrong.
As mentioned above, don’t be seduced by a whole lot of flashy features you don’t need. All that’ll happen is you’ll wind up paying more for options that are redundant. Most retailers will offer different packages, ones that are specifically tailored to different kinds of business, such as Basic, Regular, and Premium. Look at each option carefully and don’t pay for more than you need.
The best way to experience any software is to get your hands on it, ideally for several weeks. While two accounting applications may have similar features, hands-on usage could reveal that one is easier to use than the other—or even easier on the eyes. So, when you’re weighing up your options, make sure that there are trial versions available for free (there almost always are) so that you can try before you buy.
Remember too, that properly-designed cloud-based accounting software is going to keep your financial records safe. Your data is stored on a highly secure server, so you don’t run the risk of losing it if your computer is stolen or compromised.
- Sign up for all the free trials of the software that interests you.
- Check with your accountant that the options you’re looking at will work with them.
- Talk to any other business owners you know who are using accounting software.
- Ask any staff who are involved in doing the books what their opinions are.