If an organization needs business accounting software, what are the important factors that go into the decision making? And what are the main features and benefits of these platforms?
As with any other major IT investment, certain factors help management select the best business accounting software. Some of them might be more critical to the business, depending on its circumstances and goals. But evaluating each one carefully helps management make the best choice.
Ease of use
Many people in an organization use accounting software, but not everyone may have a technical background. Ease of use is therefore one of the most important factors when choosing accounting software.
Vendors are designing these products to lighten the accounting burden by automating otherwise manual processes. Product functionality should be intuitive for business users, and finance staff should be able to quickly become familiar with features and capabilities. Otherwise, productivity issues could arise during implementation.
Web-based accounting software should have easy-to-use, browser-based controls and the software should be accessible from virtually anywhere, via any device with a browser and access to Internet. For businesses with multiple locations, remote users need to be able to easily manage financial data and records.
Ease of implementation
Accounting software should also be easy to deploy. Otherwise, start-up costs could be much higher than expected, with the potential for costly delays.
A key question to ask is whether and to what extent the vendor offers consulting services as part of the implementation. For businesses with existing accounting packages, installation will require a smooth transition from one financial system to another.
Deployment should be rapid so as not to interfere with day-to-day functions, such as Accounts Payable (AP) and Accounts Receivable (AR), payroll, and other financial processes. You should also ask the vendor how long the implementation will take.
Business accounting platforms must offer broad functionality. In many cases, these come from add-ons that provide uncompromising flexibility. Businesses can add new, more advanced features as they grow or as needed.
Each accounting package handles basic financial processes, such as general ledger, RA, AP, and often payroll. More comprehensive accounting software suites may include add-ons for cash management, currency management, tax management, recurring revenue management, inventory management, and deferred revenue accounting.
Integration with existing systems
Accounting software must interact with other business systems, so integration is an important factor. This is especially true for businesses planning to use advanced features, and even for small businesses that have a growing customer base.
Customer relationship management (CRM) is an example of an application that businesses might want to integrate with their accounting software. By connecting accounting software to a CRM platform, a complete view of customers is accessible from the accounting functions. It also enables better collaboration between the finance and sales departments, making integration and collaboration two key features and benefits of accounting software.
As with other major enterprise software platforms, scalability is a desirable feature. This means being able to easily modify module configurations to increase functionality; add users when additional employees need access to the software; and include more departments, functional areas or entire organizations as the company expands or makes acquisitions.
A key source of scalability today is the cloud, and many vendors offer accounting products such as software as a service (SaaS). More and more organizations are migrating their on-premises accounting processes to the cloud, in part because it offers flexibility and scalability. In some cases, companies use hybrid computing environments that include a mix of on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud.
Accounting data requires the highest degree of security both at rest and when authorized users share it. Otherwise, hackers and other malicious actors will find a way to access it, which will lead to major problems.
To ensure that authorized users only have access to software and data relevant to their role in the organization, the accounting software platform should have strong user-level access controls. Additionally, sensitive financial information must be encrypted when stored and transferred. That way, if it falls into the wrong hands, the intruder won’t be able to read the data.
The level and quality of support provided by a business accounting software vendor is another important area to assess. Problems inevitably arise with any complex software platform, and accounting is too important a function to wait for vendors to fix problems.
Some vendors offer their accounting software through a network of channel partners, such as value-added resellers, and these solution providers can be the first line of support when issues arise.
Make sure any partner you work with is a trusted advisor and can help you with deployment, customization, and support services when needed.
Personalization and specialization of the vertical market
How well does the supplier or channel partner understand the industry? Are the features and benefits of the accounting software specifically tailored to the business? The answers to these questions could determine how well the software and partner can support your business.
Although basic accounting functions are the same regardless of industry, some industries have unique processes and goals. For example, some accounting software vendors offer product versions tailored to industries such as manufacturing, retail, and professional services. These versions offer specialized accounting features and benefits, such as custom reports and a chart of accounts.
Mobile users in the workplace are ubiquitous, especially given the increase in remote working, and some need access to accounting apps. Any business accounting software being evaluated should support multiple mobile platforms and be accessible from a variety of devices.
This includes financial reporting templates and dashboards accessible via mobile devices so users can perform tasks and make informed decisions regardless of location. Mobile functionality can extend to areas such as inventory management. For example, mobile barcode scanning can simplify inventory tracking in a warehouse.
Finally, a business accounting software platform should have strong reporting capabilities for internal use and regulatory filings. This can include pre-built reports and dashboards that can help people in accounting roles interpret results more easily.
Some software products come with templates that allow users to create reports specifically for their company’s industry. Users can autofill company data and view reports. Advanced reporting features allow businesses to customize reports to gain specific insights into their business operations.