Tips & Tricks for Small Business Owners
Bookkeeping Software – Keeping it Simple
Feb. 21st 2013
Every business needs to have some sort of process for bookkeeping. Knowing where to start and what to do is often a challenge. For small companies, it’s best to keep it simple and just go with the basics.
Here is a list of things to consider when selecting bookkeeping software for your small business.
It’s important to clearly define what the software must be able to accomplish. Make a list of every task. This could include things like invoicing, built-in reporting and tax calculations. Keep in mind that it will take more than one sitting to identify all your needs. As you go through your work day, write down the tasks you’re performing. This will help to ensure you aren’t missing any critical items.
This is the first consideration for most of us. Determine your price range before you start shopping around. The amount you’re willing and able to spend will make a big difference in what’s available to you.
If you find that you aren’t getting what you need from software that’s within the limits of your budget, it may be worth looking into higher-cost software. As with everything, there’s always a trade-off. Even though you may decide to purchase a program that doesn’t meet all your needs, the work will still need to be done. Be cognizant of the true costs of doing some things manually. The time and effort you put into functions that your software can’t handle will come at the expense of other important activities such as sales and marketing. It may be worth spending a bit more on software up front if it means saving time and money down the road.
Will the software you’re considering continue to work in the long run? This is a good time to look at your business plan. Take into account your long-term plans. How much volume do you anticipate?
Setting up a bookkeeping system takes time. Once you’ve used a program for a while, all of your other work processes will flow around and through the application. If you end up having to switch to a whole new program once your business has grown, the change could be very time consuming and costly – directly, when making the change-over, and more indirectly, in terms of future glitches and confusions. It’s most definitely worthwhile to invest some up-front time to ensure the software you choose now will still be workable in a few years.
• User Experience
What exactly is “user experience?” It’s the way you feel when you use a product, service or application. Do you find the experience easy and pleasant? Difficult? Frustrating? Is performing a task intuitive or are you constantly needing assistance?
Many bookkeeping software applications are available on a trial basis. This allows you to download the software and take it for a test drive. It’s extremely important to try before you buy. Even if you’ve heard great things from others, keep in mind that you may feel differently.
User experience is an important consideration. If you find that basic tasks are time consuming and frustrating, then you’re having a negative user experience. This is a strong indication that the application you’re considering isn’t a fit.
On the other hand, if you find it’s easy to perform basic bookkeeping tasks then your user experience is positive.
• Technical Support
Is technical support included in your purchase? Often you can get what seems like a great deal on a basic bookkeeping application – but if it doesn’t include technical support, you may be in for expensive trouble later on. Make sure you know what you’re getting.
At a minimum, support should be available during the first year. This is because you and other users may have a lot of questions and issues in the beginning. As you become accustomed to the software, you’re need for support will typically decline.
• Vendor Stability
Where you purchase is almost as important as what you purchase. Consider how long the company has been in business. Look them up on the Better Business Bureau in your area. Ask for references. A reputable company will have no problem in providing references. If you have any doubts, look elsewhere. There are many companies from which to choose.
Remember that you don’t have to purchase from someone local. There are many companies across the country that can also meet your needs.
Consider how the software must be installed. Is a server required, or can you simply use your existing computer? If you need a server, there will be additional costs in maintaining the hardware and any associated operating system.
If your company is very small, you may not need something that requires additional infrastructure.
How will the software be updated? Are updates included in the purchase price? Ideally, you’ll be notified whenever an update is available, and be able to install with a simple click.
Make sure updates and patches can be done easily and without extra expense. If you need to bring someone in to handle regular maintenance, make sure you understand this, and the associated time and costs, before you buy. Any maintenance costs should be factored into your decision.
• On-line applications
Cloud computing provides many options not previously available. Cloud computing simply means the software is on-line and accessed through the Internet. All of the storage, back-ups, maintenance and updates are handled for you. This can be a great option for many companies, large and small. It’s worth spending some time to determine if it’s a fit for you.
Considering all these items will help to ensure you make good choices and find the best bookkeeping software for you. Not only will this ensure success, but you’ll avoid unexpected expenses.