managing-finances
“Accounting is the language of business, and good accounting software can save you hundreds of hours.”

There are so many online bookkeeping products available so how do you choose the right program for your business?

What’s important is that you recognise your business’ needs. For example, are you looking for a better billing and invoicing system that can subscribe to web-based tools, or do you need to monitor large inventories and databases with more sophisticated desktop tools?

“Accounting is the language of business, and good accounting software can save you hundreds of hours at the business equivalent of Berlitz,” says PCWorld contributing editor Yardena Arar.

While she argues that there’s no substitute for a real-life accounting whizz who can reel off the intricacies of tax law, Arar is spot on when she outlines what new desktop bookkeeping, payroll and tax packages can do for small businesses who may not yet be able to invest in finance staff – things like generating budget forecasts, isolating your less than profitable goods, and reducing human error.

It’s a good idea to get at least a little bit financially literate before you purchase software and start generating reports and payroll.

“One of the mistakes businesses make when they buy accounting software is in believing that they don't need to know anything at all about financial accounting because the software will just take care of it for you,” says Linda Pinson, author of Keeping the Books. 

Here are three things to consider when choosing a digital bookkeeping solution:

Economical and easy to use

Intuit’s QuickBooks series is available in a number of editions and is probably the most popular accounting program you can purchase, with new software released regularly. 

It’s an easy to navigate program (catering to those without a finance background) which has heaps of features (tax, payroll, invoicing, customer relationship management and customised reports) but uses simple language for those who may be intimidated by technical language and detail. 

The 2014 Premier edition has several new features, such as new email capabilities, multiple banking transaction feeds and an income/invoice tracker. QuickBooks also has a free version which lets you create invoices, print checks, handle payroll and manage up to 20 customer accounts. MYOB Accounting software is another simple to use choice.

Packed with features 

If you are looking for something more advanced than a simple accounting program, consider business management software like Microsoft’s Dynamics. This offers a dashboard with (besides financial management) supply chain management, business intelligence and reporting, point of sale, customer relationship management (CRM), human resources and payroll management, and project management. Other good ones are NetSuite, AccountEdge Pro, Sage 50 Complete and Everest's business management software.

Online

With a growing number of consumers transacting online, it makes sense that business owners are also increasingly confident to manage finances online. Consequently, a number of sophisticated online accounting systems have sprouted. Intuit QuickBooks has an online option, and other good providers are NetBooks and NetSuite.

And finally, make sure you liaise with your IT and accounting staff (if you have them) to ensure accounting programs complement the systems you already use.

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