At Stephenson Smart, we know selecting the right accounting software package can be difficult, particularly as there are so many options to choose from.
Price and functionality vary so widely as to make objective comparisons very difficult without spending a number of days on the selection process. The availability of internet (cloud-based) accounting packages has complicated selection.
We have set out below some areas we think you should consider when making your selection.
Determining Your Software Requirements
- At the most basic level, you need to decide whether you just want something to replace the cash-book, to handle receipts and payments,
- or perhaps a more sophisticated ledger-based system to produce quotes, VAT returns, and monthly accounts would be more appropriate.
- You may decide that you need a highly sophisticated system which, as well as doing all of the above, can also handle stock control and job costing and which also integrates with a web site.
- You need to determine what kind of management and user information is required from the system.
Accounting Systems Advice - Online or In-House?
The next key decision is whether you want to run your accounting functions in house, or over the Internet using a web-based provider. There are advantages and disadvantages either way. For example, an online solution will involve a recurring monthly fee for the service whereas an in house solution will involve a one-off purchase price and then annual licence and upgrade fees. Also to consider with an online solution is how secure is the data and can it be retrieved in the event the provider "disappears" or goes into administration/receivership.
Your business may be in a specialist market sector for which there are tailor made systems already available. Talk to Stephenson Smart as we are likely to have experience of your type of business. Talk to your trade association - they may already produce information to help you, and they may hold events and seminars on this issue.
Cost of Accounting Software
Cost should not be a primary constraint, as you tend to get what you pay for. If you are only willing to spend, say £100, the system will be unlikely to meet all of your needs.
Accounting Software Training
Training is vital for the staff that will be using the system on a day-to-day basis. Do not assume that an experienced user would not benefit from training. We may be able to provide training for you or help you find appropriate training.
General Points for Accounting Software
- What is the operating system for your computer network? (There is less of a choice of accounting packages if using a non-Windows platform).
- How many users will require access (now or in the future)?
- What volume of transactions will you be processing and can the software handle this?
- Can the system produce VAT returns and, if you are on a special VAT scheme, can it cope with this?
- Can orders and payments be taken over the Internet and downloaded to the accounting system?
- Will the system let you export data to other packages such as spreadsheets and word-processing packages?
- How does the system cope if you need to amend a transaction?
- Is there a full audit trail (including details of modified transactions)
- Does the system produce the information in an acceptable form to you and us (as your accountant) in order to complete all statutory and regulatory financial year-end and fiscal year-end tasks?
- Does the system enable statutory online filing (VAT returns, EC Sales List returns for example)
- Are there adequate security routines to prevent employees exceeding their level of processing authority (i.e. being able to restrict access on an individual user basis)?
Stephenson Smart Can Help
Stephenson Smart has a wealth of experience of different systems and are here to help you with any of the steps involved in choosing and implementing an accounting package. We may also be able to secure a discount on the price as a result of our connections! Please contact us for further advice or make an appointment to visit one of our offices in King's Lynn, Fakenham, Downham Market, March or Wisbech.