Choosing the right accounting software can make or break the effectiveness and profitability of an accounting firm.
Whether you’re a major firm, a mid-tier business or a sole-practitioner, the challenges you face every day (advising clients, producing statutory accounts, tax returns and audits) mean it’s not practical to rely on manual, paper-based processes and spreadsheets.
No matter how much you might believe you can, there is no way all this work can be tracked effectively without some kind of accounting software.
Not to mention that changes to tax and reporting standards are pushing firms into moving towards digital reporting methods.
With that in mind, choosing the right accounting software for accountants in practice is a business-critical decision. In this blog we look at some of the key things you should consider when looking for the right software.
What are your business needs?
There are a number of reasons why you’d choose certain accounting software, but all too often firms can be guilty of going with the latest fad, in the fear they’ll be seen as falling behind, without ensuring the software will actually benefit them.
If the software can make what you currently do easier (enable mobile working, make it easier to collaborate on documents, compile and analyse data etc) or can help you add a key service you want to expand into, then it will be beneficial.
If you rush in headfirst you run a big risk of lumbering yourself with software that doesn’t make your life any easier.
How easy is the software to implement?
If you’re a sole practitioner, you likely aren’t going to choose an enterprise level software. Similarly, if you are a major firm dealing with complex clients, you need to have accounting software that can meet the challenges you face – like accounting for group consolidation or dealing with intangible assets.
You need to consider the ease with which new accounting software can integrate into your current firm, and how manageable it is going to be once it’s up and running.
Once you know what you need, and what you can manage this will eliminate any potential implementation issues down the line.
Can you create the reports you need?
Any firm knows that the only challenge faced on a day-to-day basis is not just dealing with client requests. There is also the challenge of dealing with time, billing and reporting.
Your accounting software should allow teams to easily choose from report templates and report not just on client finances but also:
- Exposure rates
- Recovery and staff efficiency
- Project analysis across-departments
By getting this full spectrum of reports, your firm can plan better and ensure it is resourced enough to handle the most complex client requests with ease.
Does it promote collaboration?
Managing multiple client accounting projects can be difficult depending on the complexity of the accounts, and the size of the team you have working on them. One key thing to consider with accounting software, is whether it allows your teams to work on the same projects, at the same time, from anywhere.
If your teams are being forced to work on reports one at a time, then this is not efficient for your firm and your software isn’t offering the benefits it should.
Choosing software that empowers teams to work together more effectively, from anywhere, as well as dealing with client communications, data transfer and other activities ensures your firm gets full ROI on any software you choose.
Is compliance built in?
The last year has seen changes to a number of IFRS reporting standards which are difficult enough for a single business to keep on top of. For a firm dealing with potentially dozens of clients across a number of sectors reporting under numerous standards – ensuring you are protecting client compliance is critical.
You should ensure that your accounting software has compliance built in so that you can focus on helping clients without the concern of reporting requirement issues.
Can you manage everything in one place?
Being able to create dedicated client portals within your accounting software should come as a basic feature. By having dedicated portals, teams can work much more effectively, with all the information they need stored and shared from a single location.
By using one online engagement file, teams can be more collaborative and retain their ability to work from anywhere.
Creating a client portal also means you can tailor any functionality in that portal specifically to the client. This can significantly streamline the management of files (including Word, Excel and other file types) and means data can be intuitively matched to certain modules.
What support will you get?
While making an investment in accounting software is a major investment in itself, you should also consider how you’ll be using the software long into the future, and whether you will receive any support from your software partner.
With updates and upgrades to software happening at a much greater rate today than they have before, you want to be reassured that if you struggle to adapt to changes you have a support team behind you who can help.
Getting stuck with software that is updated and leaves you unable to use it is definitely a situation you want to avoid.
Ultimately, choosing the right accounting software for accountants in practice is one of the most significant investments you will make in the future of your firm. You need to be sure you choose the right solution and do your research before taking that all important step.
To find out more, download our eBook: How to choose the best accounting software provider