Things to Consider Before You Buy Accounting Software

What does your company need from small business accounting software?

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Accounting software is a must for any small business in order to keep track of revenues, expenses, customer information, and any other financial data. It is also a great tool for decision making since timely reports and budget analysis tools that come with most accounting software programs give business owners a chance to step back and have an overall understanding of company finances. But in a sea of programs and software brands, how do you choose the right accounting software for your small business?

What to Consider Before You Buy Accounting Software

Since accounting software is vital to your small business, it is important to make sure that you do some research prior to buying any particular type of financial management or accounting software. Taking a close look at your company's needs will allow you to gauge the day to day functionality requirements you need. Below are just some of the things to do and keep in mind before you commit to buying accounting software.

1. Do a Needs Analysis

Before deciding on a particular accounting program, you should conduct a needs analysis to assess the features, functions, and reports that you will need the program to do. Take the time to think about what accounting transactions are significant to your business so that you can choose a program that can handle them efficiently. Any reports that you will need to generate, controls that you need, or integration you want with third party applications should be listed.

This needs analysis will be the basis for which you begin the selection process. 

2. Read Accounting Software Reviews

Reading other customer reviews of the product will give you a better idea of what you are buying. Many consumer websites such as Amazon, have countless reviews that discuss ease of use, reporting, support, operating system compatibility and price.

3. Find What Suits Your Needs

Most small businesses can use small business accounting software such as QuickBooks straight out-of-the-box. Most vendors set up reporting features and templates so you can easily create almost any report that you need. However, you may find that you need industry-specific software, such as a nonprofit accounting software, construction accounting software, or point-of-sale accounting software to meet the unique accounting and reporting needs of your industry.

4. Consider Ease of Use

You or your staff will have to learn to use the accounting software that you purchase. It is likely that you will have staff turnover throughout the years. Therefore, you should consider choosing an accounting software package that not only meets your needs, but is easy to learn given the time and resources you can commit to training employees on how to use the software. If you have few resources to get employees up and running on your program when there is turnover, then choosing a simple, easy-to-use accounting software program such as QuickBooks or Peachtree may be the way to go for your small business. Although there may be better accounting software programs on the market, your small business will not see the benefits of these programs if your staff does not know how to use them properly.

5. Think About Support

You will need to decide on what type of support that you want to have to help you use the product. Most vendors offer a full suite of help options available to you — email, phone, and online support. Some vendors will offer free support if you purchase the program, while most will offer technical support plans that you can purchase in addition to the accounting software program. You should read any forums about other users experience with customer support from the software vendor that you choose because they are not all created equal. Certain accounting software vendors provide adequate support, while others do not.

6. Consider Scalability

How much growth do you expect your business to grow over the short- to -medium term? After you make your projections about your business's growth, you will then want to see how scalable you need your accounting software program needs to be to meet this growth.

Do you need accounting software to run on laptops and desktops or on mobile devices as well? Do you need accounting software that is capable of running on a network? How expensive is it to add additional users to your accounting software? You will want to consider these questions, and if your small business will run on a network, it's a good idea to contact an IT professional to ensure that the accounting software you choose is compatible with your hardware. An IT professional should be able to ensure that you meet the hardware/software specifications, while also make other networking suggestions that will improve your business's operations.

7. Do You Need Document Management?

Some small businesses want to operate in a paperless environment, while others are more comfortable with being a little old fashioned. Whatever process you choose, you should make sure that the software is designed to meet your needs. For example, if you want a paperless office, then you need to check the document management features of your accounting software. Alternatively, you may purchase a 3rd party document management tool, and you can look to see if there are accounting software programs that integrate with your document management system to help streamline the workflow processes of your business.

8. Could You Use Workflow Management?

If you do choose to operate in a paperless office environment, then you will need to choose an accounting software program that either has built-in workflow processes or lets you build them to meet your business processes. Since you will not have physically paper copies floating around your office for review and approval, you will need to have the ability to design the approve processes for simple and complex tasks like time sheet, vendor, or check approval.

9. Consider Data Security Needs

Accounting data security is always important because you will want to make sure your personal information, your employee's personal information, and your customer's information is protected. However, you may operate in an industry, such as the health care, where you have additional compliance requirements such as HIPPA. Penalties for these violations can cripple your business, reaching as much as $500,000 in some cases. Whatever the level of security needed, you will want to make sure that the designs are built into your accounting software program or that you can institute the necessary security features into an IT plan to meet these needs.