Finding the Right Accounting Software: Tips from FindAccountingSoftware.com.

Red Wing Software Interviews Adam Bluemner of FindAccountingSoftware, a company that helps businesses find the right software for their business. Having spoken with thousands of businesses over the years, Adam provides tips and insight on what to look for when searching for a new accounting system.

What are some things businesses should pay special attention to during their initial software search?

The best place to start any project related to switching or adding new business management software is with careful consideration of your own internal needs. The most sophisticated software in the world won't solve your problems if it's not addressing your specific requirements.

When thinking about your own needs, I'd recommend starting with three fundamental questions:

  1. What's keeping us from operating more efficiently than we might?
  2. What can we do to positively affect customer satisfaction?
  3. What do we need to make better business decisions?

The answers to these questions will naturally vary from company to company. For instance, a company who bills 1,000 customers a month can actually save 80+ man hours a month just by shaving 5 minutes off the per order billing process. On the other hand, a firm that works a handful of large dollar contracts a month might achieve an equal pay back by refining their purchasing, time-tracking, estimating, or job costing processes.

After you've targeted the areas where you can really move the needle on efficiency, customer satisfaction, and improved decision making, seek out vendors who demonstrate an equal focus on each of these different areas.

There's no question we are living in a golden age of software innovation. There are thousands of developers hard at work designing software to help companies conduct business more profitably. Companies in every niche will inevitably compete with other businesses availing themselves of these software tools. In the digital age, attempting to compete with them relying on manual processes or even insufficient software is going to lead to some tough sledding. The best vendors are those who are most invested in helping you not only discover the most relevant solutions for your problems, but also those who take the most initiative in ensuring that the solutions are properly implemented.

How can a business streamline the process of building their short list of vendors?

Pretty much every iPhone user I know would tell me that the iPhone is definitely the best smartphone on the market. On the other hand, basically every Android user I know would say the same thing. For whatever reason, when it comes to discussing investments in technology, there seems to be a bit of a confirmation bias in place on the part of users who've already invested. So, I'm a bit skeptical of relying too much on the opinions of peers when it comes to such an important investment. Accounting and business management systems don't get switched over very often. Even experienced users may only have used 2 or 3 different products. That's a fairly limited perspective--especially given the huge array of options on the market.

On the other end of the spectrum, starting with a Google search is likely to yield an overwhelming amount of choices. There are some great websites that aggregate reviews and discuss a variety of solutions, but doing anything resembling a comprehensive review is a daunting task from a time perspective.

There are a couple of sources of expert opinions that buyers can access. Some technology consultancies will have experience with a broad range of different business management software applications. While it may require an investment to access their expertise, they'll at least be motivated by the same goal you have: to find the most relevant solution for your needs. There are also free software matching services available. The company I work for, Find Accounting Software, has been providing free software matching services based on buyers unique needs since before 2000. It's a process I've personally seen work for many thousands of buyers over the years. There are other similar services as well and I'd expect the number of options along these lines will only continue to expand. Starting with a qualified set of vendors who each have the abilities to meet your fundamental functionalities is a good way to make sure you're not missing out on choices while speeding up the review.

Once you've identified a good base set of options, the best thing you can do is set up some conversations with the vendors. Even a 15-20 minute introductory conversation with a vendor will tell you considerably more than hours of reviewing product literature.

What is the best way to determine whether a new system will really work for them?

At a basic level, there's really no need to make a purchase of software wondering what it will look like and feel like once it's been implemented. There's just too much information readily available for that ever to be the case. While every software project is different--and will require software configuration and possibly even customization--most business processes should represent challenges that your vendors have addressed before.

In order to make sure you make a wise system selection, ask the vendors for as much evidence as possible about how they intend to solve your unique business challenges. This evidence can come in many different forms: product literature, solution demos, references from similar existing customers, and so forth. Finally, when the objectives of your software project come into clear view, make sure you are spending adequate time with your vendor plotting a detailed implementation plan to ensure you reach your goals. Don't underestimate the amount of work involved in a software change. It will likely involve preparing hardware, installing the software, transferring existing data into new formats, configuring permissions, setting preferences, designing reports, and training new users. A complete implementation plan should include the who, what, when, where, and how for each of these steps.

How can a business ensure the project stays within budget?

Staying on budget is obviously a critical goal for any software project. I'm going to part with conventional thinking a bit though and suggest that it's not the single most important goal. After all, a project that stays on budget can still fail to generate a positive return on investment. In my mind, that's a larger failure than a project that exceeds budget, but generates a positive overall return on the investment. To me, the ultimate success of a software project is determined by the net results when all revenues and costs are tallied.

That being said, staying on budget is of course still crucially important. Even if you're generating positive long term savings, a budget overrun in the short term can be very disruptive. There are really two main sides to budgeting for new software: licensing and implementation costs. Licensing costs are essentially predictable. It's implementation costs that have a larger opportunity for variance as a project progresses.

The key to managing implementation costs and staying on budget can be found in the project planning phase. I mentioned earlier that every implementation plan should include the who, what, when, where, and how. It’s important for every buyer to make sure this information is specifically documented as part of the statement of work agreement. It’s really the detailed implementation plan that gives real meaning to the line item prices for each implementation service.

Adam Bluemner

Adam Bluemner is the Managing Editor for FindAccountingSoftware.com, a service providing free, no obligation software selection assistance. Over the last decade Adam has spoken with thousands of companies, helping them achieve business success through intelligent software investment. Adam writes extensively on accounting and business software.


3 Effective Ways to Get More Out Of Your Accounting and Payroll Software

Managing the accounting and payroll system is an important job. Use these three tips to make your job easier, and get better results.

Use the universal help key.

Did you know there is a function key that can help you find the answers you are looking for, right within the accounting system? Most programs, not just accounting programs, offer help that is specific to their program.

This help can be accessed by using the F1 function key. F1 is a shortcut key that brings up a help screen, so you can find the answers you are looking for. Within Red Wing Software accounting programs, the help is specific to the area of the program you are working in. While some people may find this obvious, those who were unaware can gain a lot by starting to use this handy function. Using the F1 key can save you considerable time by providing the answers you need immediately. It can also help you learn new ways of performing tasks that you may not have considered.

Invest in training.

Some of us are really good at learning how to use a new software program. Others of us, not so much. Either way though, attending training for your accounting software is an excellent idea. It will likely make your job easier. Getting training by the company who developed the software, or a close partner, will provide you with tips and tricks you may not have thought of on your own. You simply don′t know what you don′t know, and training will show you what you don′t know. What′s more, you can ask questions during training, to get your specific questions answered. Attending training is a crucial investment for those using the accounting system. It can simplify and improve processes for years to come.

Create your own reports.

Not all businesses are created equal. Well, in fact no two businesses are the same. Don′t get stuck with reports that do not meet the needs of your business, or the needs of those requesting information from you. Whether it′s you, your management team, or others requesting information, use report customization to generate the information that is needed by creating your own reports.

Can the Addition of Inventory Management Software Save You Money?

Several years ago we wrote the blog post: Ten Signs Your Company is Ready for an Inventory Management System. Are you still trying to get by without an inventory management system? Well, here’s further proof that inventory management software can help your business.

In a recent report released by Forrest Burnson at Software Advice, a digital consultancy, there is evidence that theft can be prevented with the use of an inventory management system. Having done a comprehensive study*, here are the key findings they came up with:

  1. Twenty-eight percent of employees whose stores use inventory management software say internal theft is a problem, compared to 37 percent of those whose stores use other methods for managing inventory.
  2. Fifteen percent of employees whose stores use inventory management software admit to stealing from their store, versus 22 percent of employees whose stores use other methods.
  3. Only 37 percent of small “mom and pop” stores are using inventory management software, versus 53 percent of local and regional retail chains and 85 percent of national retail chains surveyed.

  4. I had the opportunity to ask Forrest some questions about this report, and he weighed in on the subject for Red Wing Software customers. Here’s what he had to say.

    • Question:

      Does inventory management software actually deter theft?
    • Answer:

      “While a computer program won't necessarily deter employee theft, it will give you the resources to ensure that your inventory is properly accounted for. When your inventory is properly accounted for on a consistent basis, there's less of a chance that bad behavior will be able to fly under the radar.”

    • Question:

      What kind of business can benefit the most from moving to inventory management?
    • Answer

      “Regardless of what kind of business you have, it's important to protect your assets. From small businesses to larger enterprises, every company can benefit from implementing inventory management software. As you can see in the below graphic from our report, at least 60% of respondents from each type of store see employee theft as a problem to some degree. Using this software is an easy way to give you a better sense of security."
    • Theft a problem Graph
    • Question:

      What is the most significant improvement businesses experience when moving from paper and pencil to inventory management software?
    • Answer:

      "It's important for item-based small business owners to realize that while inventory management software might seem unnecessary or time-consuming to maintain, it will actually save you time—and money—in the long run. It increases your inventory visibility by standardizing your records and it can help you identify where shrinkage is occurring when you perform cycle counts."

    Researcher Bio

    Forrest Burnson - Market Research Associate  Software Advice

    Forrest Burnson is a Market Research Associate at Software Advice, where he covers the construction, inventory management and supply chain markets. He graduated in 2011 from the University of the South with a degree in political science and French studies. In 2013, he graduated from the University of Texas with a master’s degree in journalism. During his second year of graduate school, Forrest was a fellow for News21.

    Prior to joining Software Advice, he was a writer and researcher for Global Water Intelligence. He has also written for a number of other outlets, including the Texas Tribune, the Austin Business Journal, Market News International and the Austin American-Statesman.


    *To find the data in the mentioned report, Software Advice conducted a seven-day online survey of six questions, and gathered 385 responses from random retail employees within the United States. All survey questionnaires undergo an internal peer review process to ensure clarity in wording. If you have comments or would like to obtain access to any of the charts above, please contact forrest@softwareadvice.com.

New CenterPoint Payroll Video

Red Wing Software has just released a new video about its CenterPoint Payroll Software application. Know somebody who needs a better way to process payroll? Please share the video with them! End of year is the perfect time to switch to a new payroll system.