How to choose the best accounting software for your Australian small business
Choosing accounting software that’s great value for money is harder than it looks. There’s no one clear leader, tons of different price points (and pricing models), and different functions.
The same goes whether you’re working out a new digital solution for a client, starting your own small business, or upgrading from Excel after years of colour-coded spreadsheets. It’s about finding what delivers the best value in terms of your efficiency and effectiveness as an accountant or bookkeeper.
In this article, we’ll walk you through a few of the most important things to remember when selecting small business accounts software.
What to consider when choosing accounting solutions
As a small business owner (or agent, in the position of accountant or bookkeeper), you’ll want to look for digital tools that are scalable and save you time. That rules out a few software packages which are only really available to big business clients who can spend thousands on initial setup and monthly subscription. Look for software with no joining or setup fee – or at least a fee that won’t crash the cash flow. In terms of the monthly subscription, it can help to think of it at least to start in terms of hours saved. If you can save at least a few hours’ worth of your time, or your client’s time, then you’re off to a good start.
It’s worth checking if your client (or their service provider) has a preference of software. One party may have software they’re already familiar with because it’s what they use to enter data on a daily basis, or because it’s what they use successfully with other similar clients.
Support is important when you’re getting started with a new accounting software system. Even if you’re a relatively tech-savvy operator, there’s a lot of work involved in training every person who will need to use the system to some extent. There’s a bit of admin involved in setting up accounts, security and permissions. You may also have the option of importing historic records from another program, which takes content migration know-how. For this you’ll want to make sure (in advance) that the software of your choice comes with on-demand support on a platform (online, phone, in person etc) that works for you.
Finally, you want to make sure your accounting software of choice ‘talks to’ other programs and tools you’re using or will want to use.
Integrating all your hardware and software
It’s unlikely (if not impossible) for you to get all the software solutions you need for a small business from the same provider. That’s because as applications get more specialised, and hardware gets more advanced, developers have to concentrate their efforts. For example, design and creative programs are separate to banking apps and card processing units – you wouldn’t get all three from the same shop.
What this means for a small business choosing your own digital tools is that it’s up to you to make sure that the hardware and software you use works together whenever it needs to. That means that if one tool gathers information and another tool processes or stores the information, the information should pass between the two without manual intervention. For example:
EFTPOS terminal > point of sale software > bookkeeping software
e-commerce back end > inventory management > accounting software
payment processing app > accounting software > banking app
Software providers will usually happily advertise what other major programs their program works with, usually under a subheading like ‘integrations’ or ‘compatibility’.
Here are a few common integrations you’ll want to check before you make any commitments.
You may be able to automate more processes if your accounting software of choice can talk to the communication platforms you use. For example, some accounting programs can integrate with your email and scan through to identify things like receipts for expenses, so you don’t have to manually enter small items.
Some communication platforms that are used for project management can also export data. So for example, once a task or milestone is complete and the money becomes ‘earned’ (and therefore is accounted for differently), the project management software can ‘tell’ the accounting software to make that change.
Point of sale/e-commerce software
If you’re running a business where transactions are processed though a POS or e-commerce platform, your ideal accounting software should be able to import sales data from your sales software. That way you’re not stuck manually entering transactions, or missing out details captured by the POS software that your accounting software could use for reporting purposes.
All major cloud-based small business accounting software providers in Australia offer some level of e-commerce or POS integration, whether it’s an import option or real-time integration. Just make sure you check that the level of subscription you choose covers that integration, and importantly, the aforementioned support service to put that integration in place if necessary. And make sure that if your e-commerce platform or POS software is listed as a ‘third party integration’, that you have the expert support or the tool that you need to connect the two.
HR and rostering tools
HR software is software that automates, streamlines and centralises any aspect of human resources management. This means everything from onboarding and payroll to leave applications and rostering/scheduling. If you currently use HR software to manage staff, make sure it integrates with your preferred accounting software so you’re not stuck manually entering employee costs as they are incurred and paid.
The top few most-subscribed accounting software packages in Australia are all created by companies that also have HR/payroll software. This allows for automated journal entries, matching of payroll transactions, and more. Generally, both accounting software and its integrated HR software will have security permissions that allow you to maintain existing internal controls over payroll processing.
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