3 questions to ask to choose the right accounting software for your SMB
If you are still not using accounting software to manage your business, it is probably the next step for you. Accounting software is an indispensable tool, but it is important to choose the right one for your type of business in order to reap all possible benefits. The right software will allow you to save time, reduce the risk of error, accelerate your billing process (and by the same token, get paid faster!) and much more.
The management software for SMBs market can be difficult to navigate. There is a huge selection, especially today, and the various solutions available on the market do not always meet business challenges the same way.
To put things into perspective and find the appropriate accounting software for your SMB, the first step is to ask yourself the right questions. To help you, below we present three questions that you should ask yourself before you Google “accounting software” and start shopping.
To get your search for the appropriate software for your business off on the right foot, first ask yourself...
What problem do I want to solve?
Or, which functionalities do I absolutely need?
All businesses need good basic accounting functionalities, such as a general ledger and management of accounts receivable and accounts payable. These basic functionalities are found in the majority of software applications on the market, but it is still best to check with your accountant to make sure that the software you have chosen lets you do what you need to do, with ease.
Here, user-friendliness is key. For example, we still too often meet entrepreneurs who waste a great deal of time maintaining (or worse yet, paying someone an exorbitant amount to maintain) an Excel file that becomes more and more complicated as their business grows. That’s a topic for another day, but if you are in this category, it is important to be aware of the risks involved in managing your business accounting with Excel!
Next, in addition to accounting, you will likely need functionalities for various daily operations, depending on your activity sector. Inventory management, budget monitoring, project management and production of reports and analyses are examples of functionalities to consider when searching for accounting software.
If your business is in an industry that imposes specific standards and requirements, we recommend that you make sure that the software you choose can adapt to these particularities. This will enable you to always remain compliant with these standards (for example, salaries in the construction market, which are strictly governed by standards which change regularly).
Will the software grow at the same time as my business?
It is normal to want to choose a program that meets your current needs and respects your budget when you buy it, but don’t forget to take into consideration the growth of your business.
The software may be suitable for you now, but can it adapt to changes, grow with your business and keep up with your ambitions?
A good way to evaluate a software program’s long-term potential is to get more information on the types of businesses that use the software concerned. It's a good sign if the software is used by a large variety of industries and by companies of various sizes. It will probably be able to support you from the outset and remain with you as your business grows.
If you have questions about a software program’s capacity to grow with you, discuss it with your accountant before making a purchase. Your accountant would probably be very pleased to provide you with neutral and objective advice which will help you choose, especially since your choice will have a subsequent impact on their work!
Do I need an online solution?
Accounting software for SMBs can essentially be broken down into three major types: desktop software, online software and “hybrid” software. Each type has its advantages and, to determine the one that suits you best, consider the way you approach your daily operations.
Even though desktop software is often perceived as being less flexible, in many cases it is still the ideal solution for businesses that operate mostly in their office and which have very little or no operations on the road. Since very few new desktop accounting software programs are released on the market today, the existing ones tend to have been there for a long time. They have proven their worth and their longevity is often a sign of robustness and reliability.
If you don't have the necessary material to support a desktop application or simply want to benefit from greater flexibility, there are online software programs that allow you to access all your functionalities and data, anywhere, anytime. The advantages of these programs are clear, especially in a context where mobility is becoming increasingly prevalent. It is very important to reflect if you are considering a subscription to an online software program: Make sure that the supplier has been in business for a long time (proven reliability) and that the software will meet your long-term needs. The market is brimming with web solutions which are user-friendly and cost almost nothing, but they are often meant for very small businesses, even self-employed workers, and often offer very few options for growing businesses.
The third type of software that you will find on the market is the so-called “hybrid” software. Halfway between desktop software and the web solution, hybrid software is ideal for businesses that want to manage all their accounting and administration operations at the office (for data security reasons, for example), while allowing agents, sales representatives or delivery persons on the road to access all important information.
The truth is that today, very few desktop software programs are purely desktop. The vast majority of modern software applications offer a certain degree of connectivity, even if it's just to make electronic funds transfers or to send invoices via the web. Ultimately, the important thing is to consider the impact that the software will have on your daily operations by ensuring that the software offers a balance between flexibility and durability that you are comfortable with. Don't be afraid to dig deep into the question when speaking to a potential supplier.
What kind of support can I expect to receive?
Are you an autodidact or do you prefer having access to support at all times? Even if you are autodidact, do you really have the time to dig every time you need to find a solution to a problem related to your accounting or to the software itself?
If you have employees who take care of your accounting, do you want to pay them to solve technical problems or would you prefer that they have access to online help if they need it?
These questions are particularly important in a context where many suppliers compete to offer the lowest possible prices: all too often it is the service that is impacted. Regardless of your preferences, we strongly recommend that you learn more about the type of technical support that is offered with the software that you are considering implementing in your business.
A few questions that we don’t always think of asking:
- Is technical support offered in your language and that of your employees? It may seem like a strange consideration, but many developers still offer service in English only.
- What method of communication is used to provide support? Not all developers readily offer telephone or email support. Some prefer chatting, while others rely on a forum for users to help each other.
You will likely find a great deal of information on the web concerning the use of accounting software in general, but for details specific to your software and industry, the support provided by the company that develops your software is generally the best option! Simply make sure that the way this support is provided fully meets your expectations.
Finally, do not shop for a price, shop for a solution.
Free or low-cost accounting solutions may seem like a good idea at first, but consider your long-term needs in order to choose a software program that will support you for a long time. Don’t underestimate the time and effort needed to implement a new software program and you certainly don’t want to have to make this change during a very busy period in your business.
Even worse, you don't want to be stuck with a tool that is too small and incapable of handling your growth!
Obtaining the wrong software can have impacts on the smooth operation of your business. There are several ways to determine if your current accounting software has become too small for your business, but it’s even better to simply obtain the right software from the start by asking the right questions!
Author: This article has been written in collaboration with Acomba. At the service of businesses for 30 years, Acomba is an accounting software implemented in more than 40 000 Quebec-based SME.