What You Need to Know About New Accounting Software
By Mario Cywinski | October 31, 2010
Finding the right accounting software can be hard for any small business owner. With so many options available from various companies, it can be quite intimidating. Accounting software can help small businesses manage money and cash flow effectively, which is of utmost importance to Canadian small business owners.
According to a new survey by Sage Canada, over 50 percent of Simply Accounting users said efficient invoicing and billing is one of the aspects of financial management most critical to their businesses' success. Managing costs and cash flow scored 40 percent and 36 percent, respectively, as being most important.
"While the economic outlook suggests that Canada is on the road to recovery, entrepreneurs continue to seek better control of their operations, as all business decisions can significantly impact their bottom line," says Jamie Sutherland, vice-president and general manager of Sage Simply Accounting. With the HST taking effect in Ontario and British Columbia this past summer, having software that addresses these issues is important. Small business owners are most likely to find out about regulation changes from their accountant (69 percent) or a government website (37 percent). Those who use Simply Accounting rely more on the software to keep up with changes (30 percent) than the average person (17 percent) does.
Small business owners may, however, have their limits. Sixty percent of respondents to an Intuit Inc. survey said they would hire a third party to do invoicing, payroll and tax paperwork. About 48 percent do not want to deal with GST and HST paperwork.
"It's encouraging to see that so many entrepreneurially minded Canadians recognize their limitations, but off-loading processes to a third party may be an unnecessarily risky move," says Barb Anderson, product marketing leader for financial management software with Intuit. "Businesses tend to fail because of poor cash-flow management. But there are tools that simplify and make accounting easy. So, it only makes sense for them to benefit from software that can put that very control back in their own hands."Now Sage and Intuit are putting more power into the hands of small businesses with new offerings for 2011. Below we highlight the changes in Sage's Simply Accounting 2011 and Intuit QuickBooks 2011.
New features to Sage's Simply Accounting 2011
Payment Boss has been integrated into Simply Accounting 2011, so users can authorize payments from anywhere with their 3G-enabled mobile devices and synch information with their Simply Accounting software. Payment Boss costs $9.95 per month.
Tax information and requirements are automatically gathered by the program, and tax tracking and reporting features are simplified, allowing users to know their tax payment status in minutes.
Users now have 11 dashboards, and financial and sales analytic reports to choose from. Also available are new budgeting, forecasting and cost-analysis tools. Inventory management tools are new and help users compare pricing between suppliers.
"In addition to continuously assessing the feedback we receive from Canadian customers, we are fortunate to have a strong and dedicated accounting partner network working with us, helping us understand small business owners' concerns, which in turn enables us to deliver meaningful solutions that meet their everyday needs," says Sutherland.
Intuit Inc.'s QuickBooks 2011 features
QuickBooks 2011 features an HST setup tool, which updates any tax codes. Company Snapshot shows what customers owe money, which bills the user needs to pay, and what needs to be done on a certain day. Another feature shows who owes money on a single screen, also letting you know when the money can be expected in your account. Payroll features allow for calculation and remittance of payroll taxes, creation and printing of paycheques, compliance with government regulations, and ability to e-mail pay stubs.
Merchant Service for QuickBooks now offers service in Canada, allowing businesses to accept credit and debit cards without a point-of-sale system. It updates accounting records in real time as payments are processed. The service is available on a monthly payment plan as an add-on to QuickBooks.
QuickBooks also tracks accounts payable and accounts receivable for the user, who enters the bills, and the program reminds them when they are due. QuickBooks can also track the following: unbilled hours and unpaid bills; payment history for each customer; cash available; payment rates for contractors and employees; inventory; and waste.
Customer Centre allows tracking of a customer's location, phone numbers and order history. This feature is now available with QuickFilter, a search tool.
Simply Accounting Remote Access offers remote access to your accounting software using any Internet connection through GoToMyPC. It allows for processing of payroll, printing of reports, access to files, e-mail and network resources of a home computer.
Online Meetings allows users to set up meetings with others who can see what they are doing on their computer. A 30-day free trial of the service is available with both features.
Known Locally helps drive customers to a company's website by marketing on local sites such as Google Local and Yahoo Local.
Billing Boss' free add-on allows users of the program to create, send and track the status of invoices online.
Sage's Simply Accounting 2011 offers First Step 2011 for $69.99; Pro for $189.99; Premium for $399.99; and Enterprise for $2,499. An accountant version is also available.
Intuit's QuickBooks 2011 runs from $79.99 for its EasyStart edition to $199 (without payroll) for Pro edition or $36.67 per month plus tax for Pro edition with payroll; to $499.99 (without payroll) for Premium edition or $61.67 per month plus tax for Premium edition with payroll; the top end is Enterprise Solutions 10 for large business which starts at $250 per month plus tax.
Online accounting platforms create new options
While not as full featured as more established programs like Simply Accounting and Quickbooks, smaller companies now have free and low-cost online options like Wave Accounting, which is free to all users.
Wave Accounting explains how they can afford to give their software away for free on their website: "In Wave, you'll soon see special savings opportunities for things that matter to your business. Mobile phone services, for instance, or office products, or business banking â€” all at a lower cost than you may be paying now. If you choose to take advantage of any of them, Wave gets paid by the supplier. So you save money and Wave makes money."
How to choose
Each program has differing features and for many it may be a matter of preference. So which one should someone choose? When selecting the software for your accounting needs:
- Do the research. Make sure to look into what features each software has to offer and what you need out of it. A particular program may have more features, but if you will never use them, it may not be for you. Both Simply Accounting (http://www.simplyaccounting.com) and QuickBooks (http://quickbooks.intuit.ca) have a website with a full list of features.
- Ask for an evaluation copy or a demo of the software if it is available. Simply Accounting offers a First Step 2011 Express Version to download free from its website. Depending on the size of your business, you will need to decide what level of a program you will need. This usually goes from Basic to Pro to an Enterprise edition.