Accounting software can help you to organise and manage your complete accounting process. It should save you time, provide you with management information to make decisions and potentially save you accountancy fees. Finding the right accounting software package however needs careful thought to ensure you get maximum benefit from the software. Other than making sure what you use will be excellent value for money here are some things you may want to consider before making your choice.

Firstly, decide what features you want from an accounting system. Clearly sales and purchase ledgers along with online submission of tax returns and VAT are essential, but do you also need stock to be integrated, multicurrency or payroll?

Next you need to decide when and where you will want to use your accounting software. If you only work from one office on one PC, then it doesn’t really matter if the package is desk top (i.e. only works on one PC) or online and can be accessed via any internet connection. Similarly, how many people will be using the software? Check whether the package will allow multiple users and how security is set between users. You may want to have access to everything, but only allow another user to have access to the stock system for example.

Whenever you keep sensitive company data in any software system, security should be considered. How secure is the login procedure and where is your data physically stored? If the system is desk based you will need to consider how you handle backups, i.e. removing the data to a secure location just in case of fire, flood or other disaster.

Next is to think how you will be trained to use the accounting software. Does the license fee include training and hand holding while you are learning the features, or is this at additional cost? Then what happens a few months down the line when you have a problem? Is the support an additional charge? Does the system allow your accountant to have simultaneous access to your records so they can advise how to handle specific queries? This could be really useful to ensure queries don’t build up until you can next see your accountant!

Looking to the future, we would hope that your business will be growing and may need additional features from any accounting software. You would therefore need to know from your provider what bolt on applications are already available such as shopping cart or job/project costings and what the charges are for any additional modules.

If you are already using a software package or keeping records in Excel, how will these be transferred to the new system? You don’t want to have to rekey any data. When you have drafted a shortlist of potential suppliers, ask other users of the accounting software how they have found it, how easy it is to use and how easy is the provider to do business with.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so the saying goes. You may therefore want to try the software for a while, understand how it works and what the experience is like with the supplier. Take advantage of any free trials or demonstrations suppliers may be offering and assure yourself that the accounting software will actually do everything you need.