Skip to main content

Review of Small Business Accounting Programs — 2006

About 25 million small businesses exist in the United States, and each was started by entrepreneurs with slightly different goals, strategies and expectations than the others. Some cherish their customer relationships above all; others focus on efficiency, while still others are interested in only the money.

From the June/July 2006 Issue

About 25 million small businesses exist in the United States, and each was
started by entrepreneurs with slightly different goals, strategies and expectations
than the others. Some cherish their customer relationships above all; others
focus on efficiency, while still others are interested in only the money. While
a few entities that focus too narrowly on specific areas may get by on luck
in the short term, long-term successful businesses are those that realize it
takes a carefully balanced blend of customer care, vendor management, employee
and asset management, and fiscal discipline to achieve positive bottom-line

Small business management programs are designed to help them achieve this balance,
but the subject of accounting for these entities can be tricky. While larger
concerns can hire trained bookkeeping and internal accounting teams, smaller
businesses generally can’t justify the expense, leaving the principals
of the entity or their multi-role managers to handle the day-to-day books and
then contracting the monthly services of their accountant for more detailed
and complex functions.

Therefore, one of the keys to the success of a small business management program
is in its ease of use and intuitive operation. Just as many of your clients
may get a lost look when you start speaking about accelerated depreciation or
accrual-based accounting, small business personnel may find themselves in that
same fog if forced to use a program that uses only accounting lingo. People
without an accounting education need a system that doesn’t mandate they
learn accounting, but rather works the way the small business does and feeds
data into the accounting system. Fortunately, most small business software vendors
have figured that out, although they vary in their success.

How a system handles human relationships is also an integral component since
these various groups impact every penny that comes through the business. From
customers and receivables, to vendors and payables — and never forget
employees — making sure money flows from and to the right places at the
right time is crucial. For retail, wholesale and distribution concerns, the
relationship between a small business and its inventory must also be carefully
managed, with the system telling the user what and how much of something is
available or is coming, what things are out of stock and need to be ordered,
and even when to order. For some of these businesses, point-of-sale devices
or barcode scanning may also be necessary.

Everything else that a small business management application does is productivity-enhancing
icing, from integration with programs for analysis and editing (like MS Word
and Excel), to synchronization with Outlook for mail and contact management.
All of the programs in this review cover the basics of accounting: GL, AP and
AR. And all provide at least options for inventory, payroll and other features.
A few of the systems offer time-based billing capability, built-in analysis
tools, forecasting and cash flow projections, while others offer added value
services such as credit card acceptance, full-service payroll, and EFT capabilities
for payables and receivables. A host of niche features can further aid small
businesses, such as multi-currency and multi-language capabilities.

This review of small business accounting systems evaluates programs in the
following areas: Ease-of-Use/Basic Functionality, Modules/Customization/Expandability,
Reporting & Management Functions, Audit Trail,
Integrity & Accountant Control Tools
, Import/Export/Integration,
Help & Support Options, and Relative Value.
The key to helping your client find the right program is to first assess their
business’ real needs, and then have them test drive a couple of programs
that come closest to meeting those needs. 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

A-Systems Corporation —
Visual Bookkeeper
The Visual Bookkeeper Preferred Edition small business
accounting system from A-Systems Corporation provides an integrated, fully
functional alternative to the high-end small business offerings on the
market, offering a competitively priced all-inclusive SMB system.
CheckMark Software — MultiLedger
MultiLedger from CheckMark Software provides a strong, fully featured accounting application for small and mid-sized businesses, offering a complete suite of accounting modules that includes a GL with full-time audit trail, AP, AR, inventory and an optional add-on payroll module.
Database Creations — Business!
Standard Edition
Business! Standard Edition from Database Creations
provides a customizable small business accounting and management system
built on Microsoft Access.
Intuit — QuickBooks Premier
Intuit has recently completed a significant upgrade
to its QuickBooks line of small business software, with increased inventory
management features, a new database structure, improved menus and fewer
built-in marketing efforts for its third-party partners.
Microsoft — Microsoft
Office Small Business Accounting 2006
It’s finally here. Microsoft has made a few
forays into the small business market in the past, but this time they
may have gotten it right — the future will be the judge of that.

MYOB US, Inc. — BusinessEssentials
BusinessEssentials Pro from MYOB is a small business
software suite available in PC and Mac versions that includes the company’s
Premier Accounting program, fully integrated accounting modules for GL,
AP and AR, along with applications for business process and management
NetSuite — NetSuite Small
NetSuite Small Business is a totally web-based,
multilingual accounting system for small and midsize businesses, offering
a scalable business and financial management application with traditional
accounting modules as well as advanced sales, customer management, e-commerce
and back office capabilities. The system is built upon the same platform
as the vendor’s more robust NetSuite product.
Sage Software — Peachtree
Premium Accounting 2007
Sage Software’s Peachtree Premium Accounting
2007, which becomes available at retail in early July 2006, is the continuation
of the former Best Software program, incorporating GL, receivables, payables,
inventory and strong payroll functions, along with an array of small business
productivity features such as contact management, time & billing,
financial analysis and advanced reporting functions.
Sage Software — Simply
Accounting By Sage
Simply Accounting by Sage for Microsoft Office
Users provides an entry-level SMB accounting application that can handle
multiple currencies and is available in English and Spanish in the United
States, as well as in versions for the UK, Canada, French Canadian, South
Africa and Asia. The system was formerly offered by ACCPAC, which was
acquired by Sage, the makers of Peachtree and the MAS lines.

Review of Specialty Tax Preparation
Software 2006 — Executive Summary
Every business has unique workflow processes that
determine the amount of time it takes to complete a sale or perform a service.
Every business has unique inventory or pricing needs. Every business has
unique payroll situations or customer and vendor relationships. Yes, every
business is unique, but the general attributes of a business are usually
pretty consistent with other businesses in their industry and in their particular