At first, it might appear that all accounting software is pretty much the same, offering accounts receivable, accounts payable, general ledger, billing and a variety of other standard components. Yet beyond these attributes lie blocks of other features, functions and services. Some of these features can be considered indispensable. Many others, however, are marginally useful or nothing more than marketing gimmicks. Below are some not to miss out:
1. Reporting and analysis: Information is power in today’s challenging business environment. That’s why any accounting program you evaluate must have robust reporting and analysis capabilities.
2. Automation: For many businesses, support for simple accounting transactions and basic financial management tasks just isn’t enough. Many companies require the full automation of employee expenses, payrolls and time sheets; company and departmental budgets; purchase requisitions and other complex financial activities.
3. Customization: Chances are that no accounting software will exactly match your business’s needs. That’s why you’ll want to look for a product that allows the easy customization of statements, forms, reports, screens, help systems and other program facets.
4. Interoperability: The data entered into your accounting software can be productively used by various business applications in HR, sales, shipping and other key business sectors. Conversely, you may want your accounting program to draw information in from other software products. That’s why you’ll want to check on an accounting program’s ability to interoperate with other software before deciding on whether to purchase it.
5. Scalability: With hard work, and perhaps some luck, your business will be larger and more prosperous in the years ahead. Will your accounting software be able to keep pace? Look for a product that accommodates, or can be easily upgraded to accommodate, a progressively larger number of users and a growing amount of financial data and transactions. Ask vendors about their programs’ limits in these areas.
6. Expandability: Your business may grow in scope as well as size. The accounting program vendor should either offer add-on modules that allow customers to slap extra capabilities to its product, or a migration path to a full ERP environment.
7. Security: Your business depends on its accounting software for its very existence. If data is lost or tampered with you stand to lose time, money, business secrets (such as sales or profit data) and, if the damage is severe enough, your company. Any vendor should be able to tell you about its software’s built-in security features as well as how its product can mesh with your own on-site safeguards (such as anti-malware technology and network firewalls).