Evaluating Features and Functionality

software features and functionalityAs you evaluate accounting software options, you’ll encounter a wide array of features that may or may not benefit your business. Some of those features are designed to meet functionality needs for specific industries, while others should be part of any mainstream software option. Sifting through these features should raise some important questions, such as: Will this feature meet a specific need in your business? Do you need industry-specific features that aren’t available in mainstream software options? Will you require an add-on module for certain functionalities?

Keeping these questions in mind can help you determine whether any given software option meets the requirements of your business. Let’s take a closer look at some of the features available on the market to assess their functionality within your business model.

Core Features

Core features are those that should be part of any mainstream accounting software product. They make up the basic financial management modules that are necessary to run a business. Core features include:

  • Accounts Payable
  • Accounts Receivable
  • General Ledger
  • Budgeting
  • Job Costing
  • Purchasing
  • Order Management
  • Bank Reconciliation
  • Reporting

These features help you automate your core business processes, keep better records, and create reports for stakeholders. The goal is to increase productivity and keep accurate records for business growth and decision-making.

Additional Features

Incorporating additional features and modules into the software can increase functionality and streamline your accounting processes. These features help meet industry-specific needs and offer options that increase the efficiency of your business:

  • Electronic Funds Transfer—EFT gives you an alternative to traditional check-writing. Many businesses rely heavily on EFT, but not all accounting software product include this feature.
  • Credit Card Payments—If you need the ability to accept and track credit card payments online or on your mobile device, you may need to purchase a separate add-on that will meet the needs of your current business processes.
  • Multi-Currency—Even if you don’t currently operate outside your country of origin, you may want to consider a multi-currency feature if you hope to offer international shipping or service in the future. Many software products include this feature, but not all.
  • Fixed Assets—Fixed asset management features are sometimes offered as add-on modules. Make sure they will be compatible with future upgrades of your system and that they deliver the specific functionality you need (split assets, reports, purchase tracking, data transfer, etc.).
  • Progress Billing—This feature is useful for long-term projects or contracts. It allows you to bill over time as you complete stages of the project. Because this feature is used mostly in service and construction industries, it is not universally available in accounting software. Look for this specific functionality or ask about an add-on module.
  • Fund Accounting—Used primarily by government and non-profit organizations, a fund accounting feature provides accountability of funds used for specific purposes. This feature can also help you maintain compliance with industry regulations or special restrictions.

If you have additional feature needs related to your industry, be sure to plan for them in your budget, especially if they aren’t commonly included with the majority of software products. Do your homework to make sure those add-ons will remain compatible and to find out how your software partner handles support. If you need to use a third party provider, make sure that provider is knowledgeable and trained to work with the specific software you purchase.