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How to Advise an Accounting Software Search

Oct 30th 2015
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Believe it or not, you as an accountant have the knowledge and skills to help your clients select the right accounting software for their business – and you need to own it.

Giving a client solid advice on whether it's time to change their accounting system is extremely valuable to the client, and you are in the best position when it comes to any and all financial decisions your clients make.

When a business first opens, accountants often recommend the easiest option to their clients – usually a basic accounting package that is low-priced and fairly easy to use. As businesses grow, they may also outgrow that system. Accountants can and should be able to help their customers determine whether they are ready for a new accounting system and aid them in identifying viable accounting system options.

When helping your clients decide this important task, consider these key indicators that it is time to consider moving to a new system:

  • Transaction entry is slow and the system is locking up or kicking them out.
  • The system constantly needs to be restarted to function properly.
  • Reports in the current system can no longer provide the desired information.
  • There are so many work-arounds in place (with manual processes often replacing automated ones) that they are difficult to keep track of.
  • The support system cannot keep up with your client's needs.
  • The data limits of the current system have been reached, so the client is no longer able to enter more transactions or inventory items.

Once the need for a new system has been established, the accountant should feel empowered to aid clients in finding a system that is right for their client's business. Accountants don't need to know all the details of higher-level accounting packages, just general information about a few packages to know which ones will fit for specific client needs.

You should also know general price points for the packages so you can then help clients narrow down to a short list of software packages you think will work for their needs. Use these general rules about helping your clients find the right accounting system for their business:

  • Pricing for accounting systems varies greatly and is typically dependent on the number of concurrent users, customization capabilities, data needs (especially if the system is externally hosted), support level, and also general system quality.
  • If your client has specific needs and you are unaware of where to find the right system, use a tool like to help narrow down options. You or your client can select the functionality they need, and will be matched with corresponding accounting system providers.
  • The quality of an accounting system's training and support are critical to the success of a new system, so be sure the company you recommend has excellent training and support.
  • Your client should understand their own needs before conducting the search for a new system, and it is best if they write them down on paper.
  • The accounting system vendor should be able to answer any questions about the client's list of needs and demonstrate how the system can fulfill those needs. (Be sure to see the demo to verify first-hand that the system can handle them all.)


Helping your clients select an accounting system is beneficial to them and it can also help you as an accountant receive the information you require from your clients in a timely manner. An accounting software switch is a big move. By helping your clients, you are actually making a big difference in the way their business functions – and in fact even their profitability – for many years to come.

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By Mark Woolley
Nov 2nd 2015 14:24 EST


a lot of what you say here is valid although I would make the following comments :

● aside from entry level systems, as a business grows and becomes more complex, an accountant needs to think strategically on the client's behalf and recommend systems which will help them achieve the next iteration of their business plan

● changing an accounting system by reference to a subset of the market (entery level, mid tier, ERP it doesn't matter) introduces risk on behalf of the client and should be actively avoided. Simply because system A works for a similar client in the same industry doesn't automatically mean that it will work for your client. This can be an expensive mistake to make

● for these reasons sites such as should be avoided. System selection projects are specialised and should not be shortcircuited. The level of detail needed to recommend a solution is far deeper than these sites are able to provide.

Mark Woolley

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By tomcoyes
Nov 18th 2015 18:35 EST

An accounting software is a one-size-fits-all general purpose tool that is suitable in simple cases: businesses that have a simple business process such as retail, wholesale, restaurant, small repair shop, etc… An accounting software is unsuitable for a large number of businesses: those that don’t have a simple business process.
SMBs don’t realize this because their current system is so patched up and clunky that the problem has been blurred and buried ten feet under.
The simple and undeniable fact is that if spreadsheets did not exist, the usefulness of your accounting software (regardless the brand) would drop by at least 50%.
An accounting software is an accountant’s tool not a business tool and as such its function is limited. The best proof that its function is limited is this: In the majority of cases, users spend a significant amount of time and effort extending its functionality to bridge the gap between accounting and their company’s business processes with multiple spreadsheets, databases, 3rd party add-ons, etc…. QuickBooks payroll is no longer adequate? No problem, new spreadsheets are created by the payroll person or an add-on is purchased. The sales process is getting more complex and your MS Dynamics or Sage can no longer handle it or too complicated or costly to reconfigure? No problem, another series of spreadsheets is churned out by the sales department. The result is a system that is patched up and stitched from nearly every side. That’s the sort of result you get when you use a screwdriver to drill a hole; messy and painful. The astonishing part is that people do it naturally without questioning this nonsense. The not so surprising part is when a business commits the sin (they all do) of asking their CPA or a system reseller to suggest a solution, he/she almost invariably recommends another brand of screwdriver.... and life goes on.

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