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Which accounting software is most useful and easiest for SMBs to use?

Answers

Peter Lyons, MBA, CMA
Title: Finance and Technology Enthusiast
Company: Currently Looking
(Finance and Technology Enthusiast, Currently Looking) |

I've had an opportunity to play around with a number of accounting software packages and it really depends on the size and industry your company is in along with any special requirements your firm might have.

If you're an SMB that is more of a small-sized firm with a bookkeeper handling all of your accounting/finance functions, I'd recommend Quickbooks or Peachtree due to the ease of use and functionality. I'd recommend SAP BusinessOne if you are more of a mid-sized firm with significant growth potential and a more sophisticated finance unit such as a CFO/Controller along with a small team of finance/accounting professionals.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Which accounting system package which is "easiest and useful for the SMB" is totally subjective.

It all depends on your accounting and computer skill level, accounting capture and reporting needs, transactional volume and business or industry niche.

Implementation of an accounting system is not for the faint of heart, and changing a system (re-implementing) is very time-consuming (costly) and fraught with disruption to your normal business cycle.

Before you buy an accounting system have this in mind: a) what your current and possibly future reporting needs may be, b) your current business size and where you think you'll grow (transactional basis), c) you industry and any other industry/business changes you may enter and d) your budget.

Good luck.

Wayne Spivak
SBA * Consulting
www.sbaconsulting.com

Ira Cohen
Title: CFO
Company: Ira E. Cohen CPA
(CFO, Ira E. Cohen CPA) |

One criteria should be how popular the product is. There are many more individuals who use QuickBooks then any other software package. This becomes important when trying to find replacements for existing bookkeepers. If you use a package with a small user base it may be difficult to find individuals who have used the product.

Keith Taylor
Title: CFO
Company: Lyris, Inc.
(CFO, Lyris, Inc.) |

Dear Anon:
Beyond the traditional (i.e., Quickbooks and Peachtree), especially for the 'S' group of SMBs, check out these Cloud-based offerings (some of which are free, like QB Online):
•Outright
•WorkingPoint
•Xero
•Bill.com
•FreshBooks
•inDinero

Easy, intuitive interfaces, paperless attach features, integration with credit card downloads (SO important for SMBs), are all identified features you will find from several of these offerings, some of which have been around for a while and so have good user bases...

Keith

Topic Expert
Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

I think it would help if SMB was defined for readers - if it means Small to Medium Businesses (or Small to Midsized Businesses) I can see a huge range that makes the question very hard to answer usefully.

Some bankers I know call small businesses as revenues up to $10M; midsized up to $100MM; other sources may use mid sized as being $250M to $1B.

At some stage in an organization, what is often referred to as an "Accounting package" morphs into more ERP (whether for products or services)in terms of real business needs. The companies that Keith lists above may well fit a certain segment, but what if the SMB was a multinational contract manufacturer with revenues of $150MM?

Wray Rives
Title: CPA CGMA
Company: Rives CPA PLLC
(CPA CGMA, Rives CPA PLLC) |

To Keith's list which are all good choices to look at, I would add

waveaccounting.com

lessaccounting.com

Topic Expert
Paul Benedetto
Title: CFO, Director of Finance, Consultant
Company: Nextwave Software, Rethink Fabrics
(CFO, Director of Finance, Consultant, Nextwave Software, Rethink Fabrics) |

There is a good thread going here, outlining a healthy list of offerings in the SAAS/Cloud sector. I agree with earlier comments on defining size first. To get a clearer picture I would recommend adding a few key points: (1) looking FORWARD what is your growth strategy with revenue and staff for next 3-5 years, (2) how complex are your operations (e.g # divisions, # products or services, international operations / multiple companies,) and (3) how many people need to interact with system information.

The answers to the above will better define a proper system for you. Intacct and Netsuite in my view (use both daily) are top tier offerings and have been around for many years (I have used Intacct since 2002...); the "Home Depot" vs. "Lowes" of cloud-based ERP. If your needs are more complex than what these 2 can do, then the likes of Oracle and SAS should be on your radar. For small businesses that are one unit, small "mom and pop" operations, the more entry level, cash-based accounting focused offerings may make the most sense (e.g. Working point, Wave, QB Online, Peachtree, In Dinero, etc.)

Since this type question comes up so frequently, I have developed a short matrix of systems, which may aide folks in sourcing their next accounting/ERP package. Will try to add separately to Performative.

Scott Law
Title: Director, Financial Systems
Company: In Between
(Director, Financial Systems, In Between) |

Paul,

Your high level comments are spot on for starting the search. I would just add in my experience process design and TRAINING for both process and system are critical factors for any company beyond mom/pop, cash basis transactions. It is trite/cliche, but the "soft" basis of system implementations are constantly ignored or put on back burner in the interest of "getting the system running"
And the problem tend to get worse the more consultants/big name system integrators there are (obvious bias here !)

Ken Gruber
Title: CFO
Company: St. Dominic's Home
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, St. Dominic's Home) |

I am in a mid size not for profit and there are numerous financial packages designed for that segment. So industry as well as size might be a consideration as well. Also since aspect of acquiring a new system is the implementation and training, the vendor/Var has expertise in the industry they could facilitate implementation and appropriately train as well as have other customers who would be willing to share best practices in using the system

Jim Bennett
Title: CFO
Company: Long-Lok Fasteners Corporation
(CFO, Long-Lok Fasteners Corporation) |

If you are bigger than a mom and pop operation, if you have multiple locations, or if you need to integrate ecommerce into your accounting system (rather than having to re-key your web sales data into your accounting software) take a look at NetSuite. Our company ($8 million sales) switched to NetSuite in 2008 and we have almost every facet of our company integrated into the NetSuite platform. We're very happy customers. If you'd like futher details you can private message me or post your follow-ups here.

John Krebsbach
Title: Co-Founder
Company: Relify
(Co-Founder, Relify) |

Jim,

I'm evaluating NetSuite for my rapidly growing company. Would be curious to hear about your transition to NetSuite and experience so far. Could you spare a few min to chat?

-John

Gary Rosenfeld
Title: CFO/Financial Systems Cons.
Company: Self Employed
(CFO/Financial Systems Cons., Self Employed) |

After evaluating several "traditional" systems, I implemented NetSuite about two years ago in $35M professional services firm. Conversion went well and for us, it turned out to be the right choice. However, no system is everything to everyone. Best thing to do would be to ask vendors for references for users in your industry. Also, I agree with the comment about controls (or lack thereof) with NetSuite. There does exist the possibility, via the granting of rights, to allow for transactions to be deleted. However, with proper setup, this can be alleviated.

Topic Expert
Rick Bigelow
Title: C0O
Company: LSSM
(C0O, LSSM) |

Jim - I was going through some old posts and saw your comment. I am working iwth a client that is currently $3m in revenue with the expectation of being $10m in a few years. They are multinational with invoicing going through the US. Does Net Suite accomodate FX issues? How was the transition in terms of training and costs from QB to NS?

Rick

Ben Argov
Title: Owner
Company: Planet One Products, Inc.
(Owner, Planet One Products, Inc.) |

We switched to NetSuite from Quickbooks in May 2009, and realized meaningful increases in productivity. With Quickbooks, our access was limited to a single user and location, and the software required manual input or batch downloads in order to generate updated information. With NetSuite, all of our activities are integrated and available on a real-time basis. Also, because we have sales offices located in various states, we needed the ability to access the system remotely, and NetSuite provides access from anywhere, at anytime. We have multiple websites, and NetSuite allows us to manage inventory and make changes just once; meanwhile, these changes are published in multiple locations across our entire platform. We're squarely in the SMB category.

Steve Marino
Title: Controller
Company: National Support Services, LLC
(Controller, National Support Services, LLC) |

Ask 10 people, get 10 answers. I like Great Plains. I've used NetSuite, and while I really liked its flexibility and ease of use, I was extremely disappointed in the contols built into the system (disbusrsements, GL, etc.). Be VERY careful.

Brad Barton
Title: Controller
Company: Ansett Aircraft Spares & Services
(Controller, Ansett Aircraft Spares & Services) |

Steve
I am currently looking at switching from an old Dos based version of ACCPAC to Dynamics GP (Great Plains). This software seems to fit the bill for most medium size and growing companies. What made you decide to go with it?

Adam Skovron
Title: COO
Company: Pup Pee Solutions USA LLC
(COO, Pup Pee Solutions USA LLC) |

We switched to Netsuite after outgrowing our existing solutions. We were able to replace five packages with one integrated solution and move from software trapped on a specific computer or server to a solution that can be accessed from anywhere you have an internet connection. It is a mature solution, with a very recently upgraded interface, and has the ability to scale with us from a small through to large organization.

We looked at many hosted and in-house solutions and found Netsuite to be a clear market leader.

Mike Poe
Title: CFO
Company: XinRay Systems Inc
(CFO, XinRay Systems Inc) |

Please look carefully before you choose Netsuite. We've had lots of issues with their products, most of which have never been resolved. Their canned reports leave a good bit to be desired, and some of the customizations that we've made don't stick after they have been saved. Netsuite states that you can request product enhancements, but most of our requests have been ignored for over 2 years. We've had service requests that have not been responded to for several weeks, despite paying for a service plan with a "2 to 4 hour response time." Tread carefully. Caveat emptor.

Adam Skovron
Title: COO
Company: Pup Pee Solutions USA LLC
(COO, Pup Pee Solutions USA LLC) |

Mike - sorry to hear that you've had problems with Netsuite. We used their accelerated implementation program and were able to customize all forms and screens to our needs, and those changes were successfully upgraded during the last major release.

We have had one defect relating to EDI integration that is currently being fixed and is in testing for release; I found our account manager (Tim Trainum, top guy) to be a great support in the escalation process - and we did need to make some noise for the issue to be addressed in a timely manner.

If I need any support I tend to log a ticket via the internet and then call the support phone line quoting the reference number the same day. Maybe that will work for your team!

Dabney Wellford
Title: CFO
Company: Wellford Consulting
(CFO, Wellford Consulting) |

The success of the NetSuite solution is largely dependent on the type of Company that you have. If you are heavily into manufacturing, it will not be satisfactory unless you replace their production system with RootStock, which is an overlay into the NetSuite product. NetSuite's Bill of Materials system is poor and lacking needed sophistication.

NetSuite is always into promises, promises and weak in delivery. If you have a complex issue that you need an enhancement for, you will probably never get it resolved.

It has a lot of good tools, and it does have a price that non-finance types may be very uncomfortable with.

Robert Honeyman
Title: CFO
Company: Advanced Predictive Analytics
(CFO, Advanced Predictive Analytics) |

When trying to decide on a platform a couple of years back, we included a look at NetSuite and Intacct. In fact, NetSuite was being pushed fairly heavily because one of the VCs in our company was invested in NetSuite. We found each company to be less forthright over some critical areas than one would expect (or, at least hope for...). Intacct claimed software revenue recognition was built in but at the time, spreadsheets were required to generate monthend rev rec entries. NetSuite claimed international robustness but they failed one of our major tests (I can't recall the issue at the moment).

As big is the reality that a conversion to either of these platforms was going to cost an arm and a leg. Six figures.

I'm now working with several startups. In one company where there are no inventories, we're going with NolaPro stand alone (until we're funded - and then we'll use the hosted version). In another, a company with future foreign subsidiaries, we're going with xero.com hosted. although the cost is more than free (i think it will cost us $65 per month for multi-currency and inventory), it is still inexpensive.

Bottom line: there's a bunch of stuff out there that doesn't cost anywhere near as much as NetSuite and Intacct and yet are getting decent reviews. I sourced my information from www.Wikipedia.org/wiki/comparison_of_accounting_software, looking only for hosted, free software. One of the things I really like about NolaPro is that it's the product of a small, Ohio Linux consulting group. They seem to have developed NolaPro over the years in a quasi-open source approach. The product today is best tasted hosted but for whatever reason, their stand-alone version works under Windows.

NB: The decision to go with NolaPro and Xero is recent so I haven't tested the robustness of each package. If it turns out either company needs more down the road (a good sign for startups), we'll likely turn to Microsoft for GP or Nav, depending on the need to consolidate foreign subs.

Ayaz Ahmed
Title: Consultant
Company: Azure Global International
(Consultant, Azure Global International) |

I think Quick books is very much suitable for SMB because of its user friendliness.

Albert Begin
Title: Accountant
Company: NOW Heating and Air
(Accountant, NOW Heating and Air) |

QuickBooks is, as the name of it's developer indicates, is "intuitive" for someone who has no bookkeeping skills. Unfortunately, one can begin basic bookkeeping without a most elementary understanding of accounting concepts like debits and credits. I've found that as years go by these users often never learn the basics. Column headings in reports such as "increase" and "decrease" rather than Debit and Credit only enable the users to continue in a dumb-downed manner. Rather than investing a few hours in learning rudimentary bookkeeping skills they spend their business career not truly understanding accounting. My vote for a new business would go to Peachtree. If the bookkeeper does not understand it they are not competent as bookkeepers.

Allan Kaplan
Title: CFO
Company: Euclid Systems Corporation
(CFO, Euclid Systems Corporation) |

We are a small SMB - ~ 3m annual sales. Manufacturer of a medical device - individual mfgr to order in most cases. The manufacturing steps are relatively easy (small BOM, few steps), but the tracking requirements are rather detailed, and we require multiple interface steps to systems outside of the ERP - creating files or text strings for other purposes that we would maintain in the ERP as part of the order. We have an existing Oracle self-built system to track the manufacturing, but would like to transition to a more complete ERP.

With this in mind, do any systems stand out as ones I should look at?

Thanks.

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

We are working with Paul to obtain the matrix and post it on Proformative. In the mean time:

https://www.proformative.com/resources/erp-selection-guidemaking-right-decision-your-company

Topic Expert
Brenda Morris
Title: Board of Directors, Audit Committee Chai..
Company: Boot Barn
(Board of Directors, Audit Committee Chair, Boot Barn) |

Paul,
Your matrix sounds wonderful and famous. Did it ever get posted as a resource here on Proformative.com? Would love for that to happen!

Patrick Slattery
Title: Managing Director
Company: Canopach
(Managing Director, Canopach) |

I will keep this short, though, as the thread above suggests, there is plenty of information to share.

First, when considering an accounting application, do evaluate your broader ERP needs as you will not want to stumble into them later and burden yourself with a fragmented, under-performing solution.

Second, industry, and more importantly, business requirements do make a difference -- bear that in mind.

And, as mentioned, size does matter. Once you develop complexity regarding legal entities, locations, currencies, product configurations, vendor hierarchies, customer hierarchies, etc. you will find that many of the entry-level offering fall significantly short of your table-stakes needs.

Though, there is a balance, of requirements and simplicity/focus -- try to avoid too much customization as it will become a burden over time.

SaaS offerings are cost-effective, scalable, reliable solutions. We recently reviewed major offerings -- I would add the SAP ByDesign SaaS offering to the list being considered, especially for manufacturing or professional services businesses.

Mark Woolley
Title: Director
Company: Corporate System Solutions Inc
(Director, Corporate System Solutions Inc) |

I'd like to approach this question from a different angle.

There's more to an accounting system than transaction tracking. The functionality they provide enable profit and growth through the analysis required to make informed business decisions. If you use spreadsheets to analyse accounting data that's an indicator that either the system is mis-configured or your business has outgrown it.

Businesses have defined growth stages and, if the accounting system is not to hold it back, the business must plan in advance for replacement into a solution that provides the functionality needed to exploit the next growth stage. Think of it as a functional envelope that the business expands into.

This applies as much to start ups as multi-nationals.

So the decision's not about going with the flow and choosing whatever's popular, it's about making an informed choice based on your business, what it does, how it does it and where it's going.

There's a wider, long term, picture here that, if it's ignored, means that at a point in the next growth cycle the business will reach a point where the system implemented today will hold the business back and you find yourself back at square one.

A popular choice may be the right answer, but you will need to justify your decision and that justification must be on the basis of your business, not someone else's. Word of mouth recommendations are fine to a point, but take them with a pinch of salt. Every business is different, even in the same industry, so what works for someone else may not work for you.

Understand your business, the processes it uses, where it wants to be over the lifetime of the next system and use that as your starting point.

You'll find that this cuts the selection and implementation project saving time and money since you're looking for that functionality that makes you unique and which only one or two systems offer. It also means that your system fits the business, not the other way around which is as it should be. You'll also find that there is minimal process design/redesign in implementation, which is part proof that you made the right decision.

Pamela McLaughlin
Title: Revenue Controller
Company: FuzeBox, Inc.
(Revenue Controller, FuzeBox, Inc.) |

We are a company that has outgrown our 3rd party subscription model and now have customers who need more custom types of invoices. Has anyone had experience with Softrax billing and financial system?

Jordan Krizman
Title: Marketing Manager
Company: ProfitKeeper
(Marketing Manager , ProfitKeeper) |

That is a loaded question. Most useful is not always the easiest to use. Which is more important to you?

Vivian Frazier
Title: Independent consultant
Company: Vivian Babakanian Frazier, Consultant
LinkedIn Profile
(Independent consultant, Vivian Babakanian Frazier, Consultant) |

Not sure if someone may already have mentioned this as I have not been through the whole string of comments on this topic, however, there is a website called accountingsoftware411.com which helps you evaluate and choose accounting software. Good luck!

Topic Expert
Joan Varrone
Title: CFO
Company: Cloud Cruiser
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, Cloud Cruiser) |

One thing not mentioned above is whether you have a need to integrate with Salesforce.com or another CRM/system. I know that Netsuite does integrate as well as Intacct and perhaps some of the others mentioned above

Quickbooks is available in the cloud (either the Online version or there are vendors who will host a higher level system) and it is the most basic system and has some capabilities to scale. If you have inventory which has several layers in the BOM then QB does not do a very good job but there are add on programs such as Misys and Fishbowl.

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