Accounting for the Differing Needs of SMB Clients
From the April/May 2011 Issue
One of the hardest things about evaluating software products is determining what features are likely to be the most important for the intended users. Obviously, needs will vary depending on the type of business. Retail shops will need a strong inventory module that tracks product life, assigns value and produces solid reports.
An e-commerce module may also be important to retailers who wish to sell products online. A service-related business will have other needs, such as the ability to set up varying services with related cost. The needs of a coffee shop, law office or small nonprofit will be different, as well.
Note: This review is of locally-installed SMB accounting systems. Click here to view our 2011 review of Web-based / SaaS Accounting Systems for Small Business.
The point is that everyone’s needs are different. So the product that receives the highest rating here may not be the product that is best suited for all small businesses. Business owners, along with the assistance of their most trusted business advisor, are the only ones who can make that decision. What we try to accomplish with our product reviews is to provide a window into the product. What features does it offer? Is the reporting solid and comprehensive? Can you customize reports for your business? Can you access the product from anywhere? Is there adequate training and support available? Is it affordable?
We evaluate areas such as Basic System Functions, covering everything from product installation, ease of use, general system navigation, and the inclusion (if any) of industry-specific features for nonprofit organizations, retail businesses, construction and service-related businesses.
Next, we look at Core Accounting Capabilities, with consideration for general accounting-related features such as GL, AP and AR functionality, the inclusion of Payroll, the availability of an audit trail, and multi-currency/multi-language support.
Within Day-To-Day Operations, we look at features designed to make your clients’ lives a little easier, from shipping integration, inclusion of or integration with CRM products, the ability to email statements or invoices directly to customers, the inclusion of an inventory module, and any e-features that are available. This is where we also note whether or not the product offers remote access. Management Features covers dashboards, reporting capability and security options.
The Integration/Import/Export section notes product flexibility, focusing on the ability to import data from other sources, export data into third-party products such as Microsoft Excel and Word, and if the product is able to integrate with other modules or applications. Also important is the availability of an online accountants transfer tool.
Help & Support is pretty self-explanatory, and often plays a large role when making a final decision about any product.
Finally, we provide an Executive Summary & Pricing section, which includes general pricing guidelines that can make it easier to determine if a product is a good fit for your client and if it’s a good fit for their budget, as well.
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As you will see in the following pages, we have made even greater efforts to simply the presentation of these reviews. We recognize that all time is valuable, and we want to provide you with a snapshot of each product that highlights some of the key factors you’ll want to consider when looking for a product in this genre. We have included notes about the best fit for each product, along with strengths, potential limitations, an executive summary, star ratings and pricing. You will also find links to more in-depth reviews of each product in this section, which you will want to read once you have identified the products that best fit your client’s needs.