Accounting software for the future

- By Steven Cohen, Managing Director, Pastel Accounting

The software industry is an interesting place at the moment.

The software market is evolving at a rapid pace and currently presents more options than ever before. Beyond the desktop, cloud computing offers online software applications with propositions that shouldn’t be ignored. Of course there are a host of desktop/web combinations that are available and don’t forget about the integration possibilities of the ‘smart’ phone. And now with Apple’s launch of the game-changing iPad, a whole new platform is coming into play.

With this in mind, I challenge business owners to approach any future software buying decisions strategically.

The customer challenge
What has changed over the past 10 years is that most businesses today are using some form of technology – whether its Excel- based solutions or fully fledged accounting software.

However what we’ve noticed at Pastel is that the majority of our clients are still using technology simply as a record keeping system. This surprises me as one would think that in today’s competitive, knowledge-based economy, owners and managers would use their systems to analyse and understand the business instead of just submitting tax returns and printing customer statements.

I’m not saying that systems will ever ‘drive’ a business; human skill and entrepreneurial spirit will always do that. But if all of its functionality is used, an accounting system can provide valuable information to support the decision-making process and give it users the competitive edge.

So, as the technology options grow, I extend the challenge to business owners; before adopting any new accounting software, it’s essential to know what is necessary for you to run the business more effectively and efficiently. Once the strategy is clear, then assess the available technologies to deliver that vision.

The questions to ask
Some guidelines to consider when choosing new software include assessing the manpower available to operate the system. I say this because time and again, I see business owners buying great technology only to find that their staff don’t have the technical or analytical skills to use the product.

Also remember that while this new technology is exciting, it may not deliver any value to your business. So, if you have a mobile sales force, then smart phone integration is probably really valuable. But if your sales force is office bound, don’t waste your time or money.

Accounting in the cloud (internet) is also a great idea but remember that many systems (and Pastel MyBusiness Online is probably one of the finest out there) aren’t as feature-rich as their desktop equivalents, although this is quickly changing as the internet becomes more pervasive and reliable.

And what about support?
Another critical element to consider is the after sales service and support of your chosen system. Once again, talking from experience; we have seen many examples where clients choose accounting software at a point in time and then quickly fall behind because the consultant who did the implementation never trained or informed them properly about product updates, new features, etc.

Future choices
I have said it before and I will say it again; accounting software can and should be the hub of your business.

With this in mind, I strongly recommend that all future accounting package purchases are made in the same way as other business decisions; strategically and with the success of the business at the core.