Surefire Strategies for Purchasing Small Business Accounting Software

purchasing strategyAs your small business becomes more profitable, one of the first areas you’ll need to upgrade is your accounting solution. In the early days, you might be able to get by with a free software program or an off-the-shelf package, but as the financial needs of your business become more challenging you’ll need to take a more strategic approach. The best accounting software solution for your small business is the one that addresses your specific needs at a price you can afford. Here’s what you need to know.

Full Suite or A La Carte?

The first decision you’ll need to make is whether to purchase a full software suite or to supplement your current system with individual modules. Here are several ramifications to consider:

  • Cost—A fully integrated suite will cost more up front, but it has the advantage of streamlining your processes, offering a consistent interface, and making data migration easier. Individual modules may cost less initially, but you may end up spending more down the road on upgrades and maintenance.
  • Future updates and maintenance—With an integrated system, upgrades can be performed all at once for your entire system. If you have several individual modules, you may be working with several different third party providers to perform the upgrades. You may also run into problems if future versions of the software aren’t compatible with your current system.
  • Integration—If you plan to purchase two or three individual modules, be aware that integration may be cumbersome and time consuming. Future upgrades may also be more difficult when you have several modules.

If you are satisfied with your current system and just want to add one or two functions, individual modules may work best. However, if your current system isn’t meeting your needs in terms of usability or functionality, an integrated system is usually the better choice.

Cloud-Based or Onsite?

Cloud-based systems are a good choice for small businesses that don’t have the infrastructure or personnel in place to maintain an onsite system. Web hosting has become much more common and accessible for financial systems in recent years, giving you plenty of options to choose from. They are also usually less expensive. If you already have the resources to maintain your own system, purchasing an onsite solution can give you a greater measure of control over your data. However, maintenance costs can be expensive.

Know Your Needs

Not only will you need to determine the kind of system you want, but you’ll also need to evaluate the many providers and features available to you. As you sift through your options, keep these considerations in mind:

  • Business needs—Do a business needs analysis to determine exactly what functionality you need and what your usability requirements are.  What are your goals, processes, challenges, friction points, successes, risks, and user needs? Talk to your accounting staff and to anyone who will be using the new system.
  • Software features—Look closely at your current processes to determine what features your new system needs to have. Take note of areas that currently cause frustration or take more time than they should and find out how the new system can address those needs.
  • Provider service—Talk to various providers and find out what their customer service is like. How will they handle integration, training, and future upgrades? Is this a company that will offer the support you need?
  • Cost—Get quotes from each provider. Consider maintenance fees, upgrade fees, training costs, add-ons, and other additional fees. Make sure the quote lists each item separately so you know exactly what you are paying for.

The best software solution for any business is the one that meets your needs. Take the time to closely evaluate each provider and system before purchasing. If you have done your homework, you can make your decision with confidence.