How to select a new small business accounting system

By Shirley Coop,

If you are a new business or an existing business that just needs more than your current application can provide it is important that you spend some time planning what you need today and what you need two years from now. Some software applications allow you to grow and easily migrate upwards to the next software package without having to purchase new software and go through the setup and learning curve all over again.
There are some basic steps you need to follow to get you pointed in the right direction.
Step 1. Identify your needs – perform a complete needs analysis. Talk to every one in your business. Each job position has different information and reporting needs.
Step 2. List the current features you have in your accounting system – literally make a list of what you like
Step 3. List the new require features – Again, talk to everyone and let them make their list and then combine all the lists. Just because something is on the new features list does not mean you have to buy into every thing on the list.
Step 4. Define custom reports you need for your business – collect what you have now that you cannot live without. That way you don’t have to pay a consultant to do this collection of information.
Step 5. Plan for growth – How large is your business today? How large do you want your business to grow? If you currently have 200 customers a small business application like Peachtree or QuickBooks might do. If you have 15,000 customers I would like to a mid market application like MAS 90 or MAS 200.
Step 6. Review each system you are considering – do this one at a time and only one per day. This step can get overwhelming very quickly. You need to understand what you are buying before your purchase. It is risky going into a retail store and expecting a sales clerk to be able to answer questions about software they have never used. You might consider looking for a local consultant that installs and supports the application you are interested in. They should be willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly with you.
Step 7. Review the hardware and network requirements you need for the system you select. Find the white papers that state what the hardware and network requirements are and then do an inventory at your office so you don’t get surprised with software that will not run because you don’t have an operating system designed to support business processes.
The most important idea to keep in mind is to speak with someone who really has experience with the software you are considering using. Using the general ledger portion of a software application is always easy but rarely has anything to do with what really drives the businesses revenue stream. They should be able to answer all your questions and look at what features you need and give you a yes/no answer if the software is capable of meeting your needs. All too often businesses make quick purchase decisions and then months later realize they did not get all the things they needed to help drive efficient business processes. This will be very important in the upcoming months with the current economic conditions. If you are not careful you can then spend more in manual time tracking and maintaining information than you would have spent if you had made a smarter purchase decision.

About the author:

Shirley Coop has business degrees in accounting and computer programming and has been helping small businesses implement bookkeeping systems for 30 years. has offices in six states, and is certified on Intuit, is an ISP for Intuit, is certified on Peachtree, Timeslips, ACT!, MAS 90, does barcoding point of sale, and specializes in inventory and manufacturing management.

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