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Since 1985, after receiving my MBA, I have spent most of my waking moments reviewing accounting software and accounting software downloads. In 1991, I decided to start my own accounting software business and moved into providing accounting software consultation, and oversaw a very successful value-added accounting reseller business. Over those years, I have seen people do a great job of selecting accounting software, I've experienced the different types of organizations and their needs, and I have also seen the result when a poor decision on accounting software is made. My advice won't guarantee a successful accounting software purchase, of course, but I assure you it will help. At the very least, you now have a game plan from someone with "inside the industry" experience. For many of the steps associated with the process of selecting accounting software, I suggest using AccountingSoftwareSuccess.com for assistance. We created the web site with these ten steps in mind. Most of the functionality of our site won't be found anywhere else. That, of course, is why we created AccountingSoftwareSuccess.com in the first place. The Ten Steps to making a wise accounting software purchasing decision: 1. Improve your Accounting Software IQ 2. Determine your Accounting Software Needs 3. Create a detailed Accounting Software requirements spreadsheet 4. Determine your Accounting Software budget 5. Pick four or five Accounting Software vendors to review 6. Evaluate the Accounting Software 7. Research each Accounting Software company 8. Set Accounting Software implementation expectations & Price 9. Make your accounting software purchase Decision 10. Getting management approval for your new accounting Software. Buy accounting software!!1. Improve your Accounting Software IQ Before you are able to determine what your needs are for accounting software, you need to know what type of capabilities these applications provide. Allow me to save you a great deal of time with this step. Go to our Accounting Selector Tool and review the questions. These questions are based on a comprehensive list of options and features available for today's accounting applications. Under many of the questions we have included subsets of questions. So make sure to consider the questions carefully when doing your research. We have created a comprehensive list for accounting options and features based on what prospects indicated were most important to fulfill their system needs. Run through the survey and I assure you that you will be far more knowledgeable about the options available. If you want to see a short list of features and options that are available, access our products page and you will see a list of core features we have identified by which users may filter accounting products. Below, we provide additional basic detail on the accounting software options that are available and what system capabilities they typically contain. Common Accounting Software Features and Options General Ledger - The key component to your system. The general ledger is made up of the chart of accounts, which in some systems is defined. Make sure the system you choose supports an account structure robust enough to meet your reporting needs. Payroll - You may consider switching payroll systems to the new system's integrated module. If you don't plan on changing out your payroll application, make sure the vendor you select offers an interface to your existing payroll application. Accounts Receivable -. Do you accrue receivables when revenue is generated? Do you need to send out customer invoices and statements? If so you may want to use a receivables module that facilitates that process.Accounts Payable - Almost all users will require AP. Even if you use a cash method of accounting, the AP function typically stores vendor information and history, allows for 1099 reporting, etc. It also may support the check writing feature of the system.Budget Management - Most, if not all, accounting software applications provide the ability to track basic budget information. More robust systems include a budget creation process that allows for the building, review, and approval of budget data. Some systems also allow for multiple budget versions, such as an original budget and a revised budget. Bank Reconciliation - While a common feature, some systems allow for uploading of banking files containing information on cleared checks and deposits to speed the reconciliation process.Customer Relationship Management - Typically CRM systems track certain demographics of your customer base, and can manage contact activity such as direct mail, e-mail, and telemarketing campaigns. Distribution and E-Commerce - If you are going to be processing B2B activity, this may be a must. And even in consumer based transactions having this capability can speed shipping and receivable processes.Multi-Currency Conversion - If you are operating in areas where the currency is not all the same, this process allows for conversion to a common currency, typically on a real-time conversion basis.Job Cost - Tracking the cost of a particular project may be a function within the chart of accounts or handled by another type of tag or transaction code. Make sure you know how your potential system handles this and that it provides the flexibility and control you need.Material Resource Planning (MRP) - Manage materials, labor and subcontractorsSales Order Entry/POS - For retail operations a register that is tied in to the cash receipts, customer database, and inventory may be advisable.Inventory/Asset Accounting -For both inventory and fixed asset needs. Many systems now support bar code reading and exception reporting for greater efficiency in inventory management.Reporting/Forms - Are you going to expect a report writer with the system, or do you plan on using a third party tool such as Crystal Reports or SQL Reporting Tools. Purchase Orders/Encumbrances - Do you use a formal requisition, ordering, and approval process? Do you want electronic workflow associated with this task? Do you commit funds from budget upon approved ordering? Work Order Management - Simplifies work order assignment and tracking to ease management of business tasks. Specialty Reporting - GASB, Grants, etc. Hosted or Purchase - With an accounting system you will likely be presented with one of two purchase options: hosted, a.k.a. ASP, or outright purchase. Hosted systems host your data on the internet and provide you with remote access to it. You may also recently heard of this referred to as "cloud" computing. The advantages are the lessened need for IT support, upgrades performed automatically, and in case of a local emergency, your data is housed elsewhere. Because the cost is charged on a periodic basis with little up front cost, this sometimes results in easier budget approvals than buying a system outright. The disadvantage of hosted solutions is you're paying perpetually for the system benefits. Over time, usually after a few years, you will pay more for a hosted solution than if you had directly purchased an application and housed it locally.
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