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What To Look For When Selecting Accounting Software

What Makes Business & Accounting Software Effective?
For modern software to be effective in your business it must be easy to use, have a degree of flexibility and make use of today's technology to save you time and your organisation money. The Fact Find outlined in a previous article will help you to ask the right questions to ensure the software does what you need. Here are some important points for you to consider when thinking about your business and accounting software package.

1. Easy And Instant Links With Microsoft Excel
First of all, the software should allow you to create your own reports in Excel. Therefore, it should be possible to link the cells in your spreadsheet to the information in the software application. This means that as soon as the information in the software is updated, your spreadsheet is updated saving hours of time and unnecessary mistakes by avoiding rekeying.

2. Presentation
It is important that the software is clear and well presented so that it is easy on the eye and quick and intuitive to get around. This makes it easy to learn and comfortable to use for everyone, especially those who will be using the software for most of the day.

3. Instant Information To Keep You In Control
It must be easy to analyse information without the need to create complex coding structures and the information must be available to see instantly on-screen so that you don't need to run long and time consuming reports. It must also be able to give you an on-screen, top-down hierarchical view of your financial operation providing you with the ability to see your total assets, liabilities, profit/loss at a glance and explore each level below (drill-down) right down to the individual transactions in all ledgers.

4. Accounting Period Flexibility
Make sure it has an "Open Period" design. This does not necessarily mean users can go back and post to previous periods without control. An open-period design allows users to enter transactions for the next month without having to wait for last month to be closed. There must be no limit to retention of history i.e. keeping past years of information so there is no excuse for not comparing year-on-year data. The information must be easily presented on-screen or in Excel i.e. you must be able to display information relating to any period of any year for any code.

5. In-Built Technology
Having fast access to relevant and accurate information is essential in today's dynamic business environment. A system should have a range of applications able to automatically manage the day to day communications with clients and suppliers and be able to collate and distribute real time information for decision makers.

6. Notes and Links For Relevant Information
It should have the ability to add unlimited 'Notes' and to 'Link' external files on individual sales or purchase transactions as well as customers, suppliers and jobs so that you can keep all relevant information together. It must also be possible to flag notes for other users attention allowing them to instantly view the source of the note thereby saving time looking up what was being referred to.

7. Electronic Authorisation
There is a dilemma in many accounts departments...Purchase Invoices come in, they need to be Authorised (for payment or confirmation of expense code) by someone outside of the accounts department. This may mean that the original invoice is sent to the Authoriser (risking loss and delay in processing) or a photocopy is sent. Ideally a system will allow for options such as entering the Purchase Invoice which then automatically sends an e-mail to the Authoriser, informing them that the invoice has been received and requesting Authorisation. If the Authoriser is happy, then they simply click Reply and enter their password. The Authoriser should not necessarily have to be a user within the accounting system.

8. Ability To Integrate
Today every system should have the ability to integrate with other applications. For example, many organisations have software designed for their particular industry such as a membership system or a timesheet system or a Point of Sale terminal. In many cases the Sales Invoice along with other information is produced and collected from this 'front end' software application. It may be possible to save re-keying of some of this information by making use of Import/Export functions.