If you are not already using accounting software in your business, doing so is one of the smartest steps you can take to save time, improve your cash flow and simplify processes. Perhaps you are using accounting software, but are ready to upgrade or need more functionality.
Here’s how to make the right decision when choosing accounting software.
Most small business accounting software includes these essential modules:
- Accounts Receivable/Invoicing: This module lets you track incoming revenue, create and print invoices, print shipping labels and track shipments.
- Accounts Payable: Track payments due, print checks, pay vendors and create purchase orders.
- Payroll/Employee Management: Track employee hours and create checks. Some programs let you make automatic or electronic payments (this may require subscribing to an additional service).
- Project/Job Management: Track project/job deliverables and budgets.
- Reports: Most accounting software allows you to create a variety of standard and custom reports to track specific financial measures within your company.
- Inventory Management: Enter inventory information and track stock and sales.
Additional modules or extra services providers may offer include:
- Time tracking and billing
- Credit card processing
- Remote access
- Printing postage
- Direct deposit
- Online or remote backup
- Tax services
- Electronic payment services
Questions to Ask
When considering accounting software, there are some key questions you must ask:
- What features do you need? Make a list of your desired features. Which are essential and which are “nice to have”? Work with your IT person, bookkeeper and accountant in developing this list.
- Do you need industry-specific software? There is a wide range of accounting software for industries such as manufacturers, construction and wholesalers.
- Can the product grow with your business? How much will it cost to upgrade or add new modules as your company’s needs change?
- How compatible is the software? The software must be compatible with your existing hardware, existing services such as your payroll service or accountant, and your bank. It should also be compatible with your existing accounting software so you can easily export data from your current system to the new system.
- Do you want desktop or “SAAS” (software as a service)? SAAS software resides online; instead of downloading it, you pay a subscription fee. This can save money, but be sure you understand all the costs.
- What restrictions does the software allow? When dealing with sensitive financial data, you’ll want to give different users different levels of access.
- What type of support is available? Is support provided by email, phone, user forums, online documentation or chat? Is there a fee for support?
- Is a free trial available? This can give you the option to try before you buy and see how well the software works for your business.
The following providers offer popular accounting software for small business:
- Cougar Mountain
- Intuit (QuickBooks)
The sites below let you search software programs by industry, function and more, and compare programs and features.
Even the best accounting software doesn’t replace the need for a bookkeeper or accountant. Ask your current professional for recommendations before you buy.
A SCORE Mentor can help you complete this exercise and determine your next steps. SCORE has over 13,000 successful and experienced executives with small business know-how who want to help you. Find a Mentor at www.score.org/find-mentor