Which accounting software is best?
When setting up your practice, and especially when transitioning to a virtual bookkeeping business, you have choices. In fact, it can feel like too many choices! QuickBooks desktop or Online? Xero? Sage? What about Kashoo, Wave, and FreshBooks? Your clients may be using any of these, or others not even mentioned here.
Do you feel like it is a sea of software impossible to navigate?
Here’s just one of the many inquiries I received recently on this topic (and why I decided it’s time to write a blog post about it)…
I love your webinars, and thanks to you I am ready to take the leap into cloud accounting this year. I am trying to figure out value pricing, Hubdoc, and all the other pieces of the puzzle. The part that is really tripping me up though is choosing the accounting platform. I’ve been trialling Sage One, QBO, and Xero (I’m in Canada).
However coming from desktop software (Sage), I am struggling with them all and am quite concerned about making the right choice…Do you have any advice?
I’m scared to transition only to find I should have gone with another option, as I know I am going to experience a lot of resistance from my clients already and I don’t want to aggravate the situation by making them doubt my decision making skills!
These questions and emotions all wrapped up together is something all of us face when trying to keep up with technology in our profession. They’re especially critical when choosing your core tool – your accounting software. Here’s the three issues I see facing us.
- Using a method to determine which is the “right” app to choose – whether your main software or add-on
- Managing the implementation of change, for ourselves and our clients
- Conquering our confidence issues on the path to reaching our goals and serving our clients
For this post, let’s dig into the first one, the process. Over the years, this is what I do in my own practice for upgrading systems or revising workflow issues where a new app can (or should) improve the situation.
How to Choose the “Right” App in 5 Steps
Step 1 -Identify what specifically is the problem, where things are “broken,” or just not working the way you feel it should. Write it down.
Step 2 – Come up with a list of the must-have functions / features needed to resolve the issue and accomplish the results you need. If not sure, take a guess and start from where you are right now.
In our example of choosing your primary bookkeeping software when you know you want to move to the cloud, come up with questions to make the process easier. Here’s some examples:
- Who are your best clients, and what does the software need to do for them specifically (reports? functions? access?)
- What are the specific functions you need to maintain or improve your efficiency? (bank feeds? reconciliation? multiple users? online invoicing & payments?)
- What integrations are needed, if any? (CRM, bill payment, time tracking, payroll, taxes)
- What kind of customer support does the software company offer? Do they have any programs / advantages / training specifically for accounting professionals?
Step 3 – Research which apps are available that will handle ALL of your must-have needs. Ask colleagues in online forums what they use for the specific needs you have. Search apps.com (if using QuickBooks), or simply “Google it.”
Step 4 – Narrow down your choices to 2-3 close fits and compare differences for features that may be “nice to have” or provide additional support to you as an accounting professional. Choose just one and sign up for a trial or see if you can get the software for free.
HINT: QuickBooks Online Accountant is provided for free to accounting professionals, and it includes a free QuickBooks Online Plus account for your own use. Xero and FreshBooks do this as well. There may be others, so don’t be afraid to reach out to the software company and ask if they have a special program for accountants / bookkeepers. You could also ask for a one-on-one demo where you can barrage them with your questions. (Keep your must-have features list front and center at all times)
Step 4 – Test the app and take any basic training provided by the software company to familiarize yourself with how it works. Then choose just one client who would benefit from switching to the software, if it does everything promised. Run the existing system and the new system in parallel (so choosing a small or simple client to start the process with will make this easier and less painful if it doesn’t work out). If all goes well in your tests, you can roll it out to your client and get his / her feedback.
Step 5 – If Step 4 is successful, begin to roll out the new app gradually across your client base, providing assistance where needed to staff (new documented procedures) and clients (training – usually a billable event or a great opportunity to switch to value pricing and include training in your packages)
Yes, following this process takes a bit of time and research, but in the long run, you’ll save you time and a lot of heartache compared to the trail and error based on slick shiny-app marketing messages from the software companies.
In future posts we can dig deeper into how to roll out your new online workflow when moving your bookkeeping business online with existing clients, as well as how to build your confidence in the process for a more consultative and premium fee practice.
In the meantime, what methods do you use to find the best apps? What do you think is most important to consider, with technology moving so quickly?