It is a common misconception that all accounting software aimed at small business is the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are different products in the market to meet different business needs that all come at varying prices all with their own pros and cons. It is the purpose if this article to explain the different types of accounting software and to allow you to make an informed decision about what type of accounting software best suits your business.
We will start by focussing on the term SME as we believe this best explains the three types of small business that exist – small, medium and enterprise. Whilst it is right to bracket all of these types of business together they all have very different characteristics and needs. As a result depending on which one of these brackets your business sits in will have different repercussions on your requirements from your accounting software.
1) Small Business – are characterised as an SME business that has just starting out, freelancers or companies that have relatively small revenue lines into the business. Owners of these businesses are very focused on all capital expenditure and ensure that all spends are tangibly linked to driving growth within the business. Objectives at this stage are to achieve sustainable income lines into the business in order to stimulate growth within the business.
2) Medium business – Slightly larger SME business that now have sustainable revenues and have achieved solid growth. It is likely that medium businesses have recruited some employees to facilitate the new level of work that has to be completed. Medium businesses are looking for increased structure from their financial management as well as a way of monitoring costs and expenses as employees in the business grow.
3) Enterprise Business – This is the largest type of SME business. Businesses of this scale have tended to grow in size, stature and operational complexity. Department structures will have now taken place, business administration increased with human resource management becoming more prominent in the business. By having additional scale and complexity in the business there are increased requirements for support with driving process efficiency in both financial and operational management. The larger more complex accounting products cater for these demands at an additional premium.
It is clear when looking at the above 3 types of business how it would be virtually impossible for a software company to make a generic small business accounting software system to cater for all budgets and needs. A small business would require a significantly less complex product than an enterprise small business. This may appear quite an obvious statement to make; however, there are many SME owners that still believe that if they purchase a generic product specialising in small business they will have a great product designed for their business. For this reason I wanted to be clear toward the two main types of accounting software that exists.
1) Bookkeeping Software – Bookkeeping software packages perfect for a business that simply wants to manage their incomings and outgoings in an effective compliant manner. They enable an owner to input key information sources such as sales income, purchase expenses, cash and bank transactions. The accounting software takes these pieces of information and automates the double entry bookkeeping principles by producing simple accounts payable, accounts receivable and general ledger accounts. These basic accounting software features are more than enough for an SME owner to understand their financial position and complete end year reports.
2) Sophisticated accounting software solutions – The enterprise small businesses are likely to want their accounting software to do more than simply work out their balance sheets. Because of the additional business complexity accounting software features such as fixed assets registers, inventory/stock control, job costing and payroll become appealing. All of these features allow an enterprise small business to manage their business more effectively by managing their assets, providing support on how to manage stock control and managing human resources effectively. These additional features enable an enterprise business to not only to manage their financial accounts but also to drive efficiency within the business.
The medium small business sits in between these two types of accounting software. Choosing the right accounting software for a medium business completely depends on the businesses particular requirements of the business at the time of purchase. There are many accounting software products in the market that are aimed at the medium business market and all have pros and cons in terms of features. Some have a greater emphasis on HR related features some have greater financial forecasting and modeling capabilities. The only way to ensure that the right product is purchased is to go through a thorough exercise of mapping products to business requirements.
Whatever the size of your business it is critical that you base any decision to buy accounting software on the particular requirements of your business. Don’t be swayed by brand or recommendations do a thorough requirements tracking exercise and use these requirements to guide whatever you decide to buy.