Putting the right accounting software solution in place not only minimizes the amount of time business owners spend on administrative functions, but these programs can help speed up cash flow, reduce costs, improve accuracy and efficiency, and ultimately help small businesses grow.
Selecting the right accounting software involves zeroing in on a program that meets your specific needs today and will scale with your business. In response to questions about which options are the most user friendly for small businesses, Summit Financial Resources has posted a series of reviews of highly rated programs including Freshbooks, Xero, and Wave. Since technology moves at lightening speed, we decided to take a look at what has changed in the world of small business accounting applications as well as what today’s most popular solutions have to offer.
What’s Trending: Ease of Use, Integration, and Mobility
It’s been over 30 years since the first small business accounting applications were introduced for the PC, and there is no shortage of options available for small businesses. The continued demand for financial process modernization is fueling the growth of the global accounting software market, which is forecast to expand at a compound annual growth rate of over 6% through 2021.
Desktop accounting software continues to be available from industry standard bearers like Quickbooks and Sage 50. However, the newest solutions are cloud-based. Accounting services have benefitted from the transition to anywhere, anytime online availability, and most programs have improved dramatically in terms of simplicity and usability in the course of the shift.
Standard accounting software programs generally include timesaving features designed to simplify small business accounting, including automated entries, invoicing, bill payment, expense reports, basic financial reports, and reconciliation. Advanced features like bill reminders, mobile wallets, and bank transfers are becoming increasingly more in demand. Beyond functionality, many small business owners are looking for a user-friendly interface, product integration, and pricing flexibility. To meet this demand, today’s top-rated cloud-based accounting programs and applications all share a number of key features:
- User-friendly interface and navigation. Navigation and data entry have been designed to closely replicate desktop software using lists, buttons, fill-in-the-blank fields, and toolbars. Interactive home pages or dashboards provide a bird’s-eye view of your finances and typically contain links to working screens so you can easily pay a bill, send an invoice, or transfer funds between accounts as needed.
- Integration with complementary add-ons. According to PC magazine, the future of accounting lies in the cloud and integration. If your small business needs more flexibility and/or features in a particular area like invoicing or inventory management, web-based accounting solutions offer hundreds of add-ons that can connect to services like QuickBooks Online and Xero.
- Pay-as-you-go model. Desktop software is expensive and usually requires an upfront commitment. Online subscription programs offer free trials and the ability to pay monthly instead of locking into a long-term contract. Some of the most popular web-based accounting solutions also offer more than one level of service at different price points, so you can scale to match the needs of your growing business.
- Mobility. The emergence of mobile accounting applications is one of the strongest trends in the marketplace. Although they are somewhat limited in terms of tasks that can be performed, developers continue to focus on adding features that can be accessed via smartphones and tablets.
A Variety of Options for Small Businesses
There is a lot of competition in the small business accounting arena. While this is a positive thing for business owners from a flexibility and cost standpoint, the decision-making process is much harder. Start by asking yourself a few basic questions:
- Why do you need accounting software?
- Which features does your business require?
- How much are you willing to pay?
To help simplify the process, here is a short list of programs cited most often as meeting the top criteria for small business owners. You can check out our previous reviews for more information.
FreshBooks was a breath of fresh air when it launched in 2003, replacing established double-entry structures with a user-friendly interface and words and phrases that non-accountants could understand. The newest version provides an improved user experience in order to make the site easier and faster to navigate, to improve collaboration, and to be able to rapidly deliver product enhancements. Current FreshBooks users can stay with Classic or move to the new version, but anyone signing up will automatically be put on the re-launched website.
Many experts rank Quickbooks the best online accounting application for small businesses thanks to its flexible functionality and extensibility. It is easy to use, well designed, and built to serve a wide variety of users. Because it simplifies even the most complex accounting processes, it has become a popular tool among accountants, bookkeepers, and small business owners. The software is capable of generating profit and loss and trade sheets, invoices, and billing, all which are accessible via mobile devices. Popular integrations include Quickbooks Online Payroll and Intuit GoPayment.
This free, easy-to-use business suite is ideal for small businesses that employ less than 10 workers. The app is easy to set up and even easier to operate with a simple dashboard that has everything you need for your financial management processes. The platform offers a full suite of features, including invoicing, accounting, credit card processing, payroll, receipt scanning, lending, and more. In addition, Wave has made significant improvements and added functionality, including upgraded invoicing, better speed, improved navigation, and a new merchant account option, Payments by Wave.
Although it may not have the name recognition of its top competitors, Zoho Books equals and sometimes surpasses other online small business accounting solutions in terms of flexibility and depth in standard bookkeeping areas, such as sales and purchases, time- and project-tracking, and inventory management. Known for being hassle-free, easy to navigate, and a good value, Zoho Books has a myriad of useful features such as profit and loss, cash flow statements, and balance sheets creation. The company also provides excellent security and support via phone, email, and chat. As with most accounting software solutions, you can test-drive Zoho Books via a 30-day free trial.
Xero was an early entrant in the field of cloud-based accounting and has grown rapidly over the last few years in terms of usability, features, and extensibility. The company’s developers work hard to stay ahead of the curve with frequent product updates and an ongoing mission to provide the best user interface possible. Xero excels at orienting new users, offering a comprehensive walk-through of major setup procedures. The software’s simplicity and wealth of features make it a superior solution for many small business accounting needs.
A good accounting software system is a valuable a tool for analyzing the way you do business and for helping you do it even better. Choose a program that meets your needs, and it will do the heavy lifting, allowing you to focus on what you do best: growing your business.
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