Magazine article The CPA Journal

Leading Low-End Accounting Software

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Leading Low-End Accounting Software

Article excerpt

In Brief

Big Options for Small Businesses

The choice of accounting software can be a challenging decision for small and start-up companies. Low-end accounting software packages offer more features than ever before, but the options available can be confusing for the first-time customer. Setting a timeline, sticking to a budget, and soliciting employee input will make the decision process easier. Technical support is crucial, especially when the software is first installed and configured. The right choice will be the program that best serves the company's current needs while remaining capable of expansion.

One of the biggest technology issues facing start-up and smaller companies is choosing the most effective accounting software. Small businesses must remember that the right accounting package is the one that best serves the current needs of the business and that can be most easily adapted to their future needs. And the right solution goes beyond just software; customer support is also important, especially at the outset.

Selecting Accounting Software

The first step in selecting accounting software is forming a committee. The committee should be small but contain representatives from each of the primary areas in the company, and it should have an odd number of members in order to make decisions quickly and efficiently. This committee should be responsible for recommending packages to management or even negotiating with the vendors of choice.

Next, the company must ascertain the problems with the current system. Before deciding that new software is needed, make sure that the most current version of the software is running on the right system. Pinpointing the problems with the current system will help determine what the company should be looking for in a new package. All employees should have an opportunity to explain their problems with the current system and their expectations of the new system. A budget and a timeline are invaluable in keeping the process on track.

Small companies rarely need an independent consultant. If it would like an outside consultant, the company should ensure they have already reviewed each of the packages and their own needs, as consultants often offer the same one or two packages to all clients and may not offer as much independence as perceived.

The most important part of the selection process is becoming aware of the full range of products. There is a wealth of information available on the Internet, in accounting software publications, and directly from software vendors. It will often be less expensive to buy several probable solutions and try them, rather than analyzing whether a potential solution will work.

During the selection process, it is important to document each package, its features, its pros and cons, and whether it fits the company's needs. This information will make it easier to narrow down the choices later on.

Once the analysis is complete, the company should eliminate software packages that clearly will not fulfill their needs. This entails evaluating what each program has to offer against what the company requires from their accounting software. Internet sites such as www.2020software.com, www.accountingsoftwarenews.com, and www.findaccountingsoftware .com contain helpful comparisons of leading software.

Smaller companies should consider using a hosted system, meaning that the software is accessed through an application service provider (ASP) that maintains the software and keeps it current. Hosted solutions for small business include Oracle Small Business Suite, Best Software's ePeachtree, Intuit's QuickBooks for the Web, or Intacct.

Once a particular product has been selected, it is important to find out which companies support this product. If a company cannot support the software itself, the availability of a good installer or value-added reseller (VAR) will be a key part of the purchase decision. …

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