Questions a Bookkeeper Should Ask When Choosing an Online Accounting System
Cloud accounting is a different way of working whereby you access your data online rather than hold it directly on your computer. Here are some questions that bookkeepers should ask themselves when they are looking for a new online accounting software package:
How big is your budget?
Although most of the accounting packages are similarly priced, some may include features such as payroll only as an add-on at extra cost. Make sure you check the different monthly subscriptions and what you get for your money.
How much work do you want to do yourself?
Most of the software packages require you to enter a lot of the data yourself. However, some systems do work very closely with accountants and you may feel more comfortable entering the basics and leaving your accountant to do the VAT returns and year-end accounts. You can even find services that provide a complete bookkeeping solution, at a fraction of the cost of employing an internal bookkeeper (but you may find yourself out of a job!).
How easy is it to navigate the software package?
Does the website demonstrate clearly how to access different elements of the system? For example, does it show you clear examples of how to raise an invoice? Do you like the appearance of the screen? Is the user interface clear and user friendly, and does it use language that’s familiar to you?
What do you need the software package to do for you?
Do you need a simple or sophisticated stock control system, for example? Drawing up a list of all the features that you require and then creating a shortlist of potential packages is a useful approach to selecting the right product. When you trial a selection of packages, you can systematically tick off the relevant features as you come across them.
What other applications can be integrated?
Check the ‘add-ons’ page of each online accounting software website to see which third-party apps are available. These vary widely, so check that whatever package you’re reviewing can be integrated with any particular apps you’re interested in. Consider e-commerce apps such as Shopify (create an online store and link with your online accounts package such as Xero), ekmPowershop (create an online store and link with an accounts package such as Kashflow), eBay by OneSaas (link eBay sales to your online accounts package), and A2X Accounting (link Amazon to Xero accounts).
Some accounting systems offer lots of apps that provide e-commerce compatibility and others have none at all. Even if you’re not using apps at the moment, think about the future of your business and factor any potential needs into your decision-making.
How good is the support service?
Is help available round the clock or is it limited to office opening hours? Can you contact someone seven days a week, and is that by phone or only email? Check to see if the website has helpful video tutorials or a chat facility.
You can also test the quality of the support service by contacting it either before or during trialling the software and asking a few select questions. Consider whether the person on the phone or responding to your email understands your problem and is able to address it, in language you can understand.
How easy is it to transfer existing data to the new system?
Some systems aren’t able to transfer or import data from an existing system and only allow you to import customer and supplier records; opening balances are then set up for everything else. Others do allow transfer but at a cost and still others offer this service for free. You need to consider this important feature before making your final decision.