Choosing The Right Accounting Software For Your Business
As a small or home-based Canadian business you may have started off with paper-based or a simple spreadsheet system to manage your accounting needs. You now realize you need to formalize your accounting processes, improve your cash flow management, and make better use of your time. Hereís what an automated, software-based accounting solution can do for you in the following key areas:
- Customers - manual invoices are inefficient to create, difficult to track, and often hard to collect from customers. They lack accounting controls and don't portray a professional image. Automated systems can generate professional invoices with a consistent appearance, automatically update your receivables totals and help you project your cash position.
- Vendors and Suppliers - keeping track of paper invoices can be error-prone and costly. You run the risk of making duplicate payments to individual suppliers or missing others completely. Having an automated system in place can prevent duplicate invoices, over-paying vendors, and making late payments.
- Banking - manual bank reconciliations are time-consuming and difficult. Automated systems can pull information directly from most banks and quickly cross-reference every transaction.
- Inventory - keeping track of goods shipped and received can be a chore for any small business. Each receipt of an inventory item must be matched against a purchase order and invoice to ensure proper payment. With the right automated solution, inventory management can be reduced to a few clicks of the mouse. Receipts and invoices are automatically compared to purchase orders. Monthly inventory counts can be streamlined using pre-printed reports and item reorders and substitutions can be easily automated.
- Reporting - generating reports from manual records is not at all easy. It is usually done only in a moment of panic- often right before a trip to visit the bank or a customer. Having an automated system in place means that transactions are immediately posted and reports can be generated at the click of a mouse.
Now you need to choose the right software package. Get it right and tackling your accounting will be quick, easy, and painless- but get it wrong and there could be serious cost and time management implications to your business.
Consider your budget, and read plenty of reviews from independent websites and magazines. Don't just think about the current size and requirements of your business. You need a solution that can grow as your business grows, so look for software that offers a multitude of options to handle not only your business today but the business you will have several years from now.
And look at the language options available- will you need to create invoices in French for instance? Will you need to switch between English and French on-the-fly? Once youíve identified the features you need for your business, check out the different software providers. Don't focus solely on the software package- consider the company, options for local support, and availability of trained resources.
Tip: Be sure to discuss your business needs with a professional accountant before accepting recommendations or choosing a solution.
Choosing a Software Provider
Good providers should offer the following:
- A solid reputation. The provider should be a trusted choice for small Canadian businesses similar to yours.
- A well trained, bilingual and knowledgeable support staff. Support staff should not only understand the software, but also have a good understanding of accounting, Canadian tax regulations and how small businesses operate. Bilingual English/French staff should also be available.
- A diverse line of products. Your provider should offer products that meet the needs of small and growing businesses. You want to be able to access a diverse line of accounting software options as your business changes and grows.
- Regular upgrades. Your provider should be continually improving the software to ensure your business complies with changing legislation and benefits from technology advancements.
- Service Plans. You need to be able to optimize, maintain and support your accounting software investment with a comprehensive service and support plan. A provider should offer a wide range of service, support and product add-ons that allow youóand your accounting systemóto be more efficient and profitable.
- Local expertise. The provider should offer certification and training so that local experts/partners are available in your region to ensure that your software delivers precisely what you need, is upgraded whenever necessary, and is fully integrated with your other business software.
- Online training and documentation. Your provider should offer numerous sources of free information related to setup, installation and proper use of your software. Look for a provider who delivers online training courses, electronic documentation, and a community for users to share ideas and feedback.
Tip: Once you've made a shortlist of potential software providers, ask for a free timed trial-30 days is a good length of time. Ideally, the trial software should be quickly and easily converted to a full functioning product once you decide to purchase it. This eliminates wasted time spent installing, uninstalling, and reinstalling software.
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