Get the best accounting software for your business. Compare product reviews, pricing below. Read our buyer’s guide for more help.
Last updated on
March 5th, 2019
Accounting Software Buyer’s Guide
There’s a large quantity of accounting software and financial management products on the market today. Specially designed accounting systems are available for nearly any permutation of organization size, and industry you can think of. From a small-business that may require an off-the-shelf option to a larger enterprise that desires a vast amount of customization, this buyer’s guide will cover everything you should care about when reviewing accounting systems.
This guide will provide you with information on the following topics:
Accounting software at a minimum keeps track of financial transactions. Core functionalities include general ledger (GL), accounts payable (AP), and accounts receivable (AR). Common additional functionalities include payroll, billing, and inventory management.
Many industries have customized functionalities/requirements like fund accounting for nonprofits, job costing for construction firms, or DCAA compliance for government contractors. In larger organizations, the terms “accounting software” and “ERP” are often used interchangeably.
Accounting Software Features
Accounting software has features and functionalities that can be broken down into basic categories, such as common (typically found in all accounting software), industry-specific (only found in certain types of accounting software), and advanced (only used by mid-sized to larger businesses). While many top accounting software features exist to benefit your business, lets focus on some of the essentials.
Tracks revenues and expenses. Includes modules such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, and a general ledger.
Manages customers and prospects to aid marketing, sales, and customer service efforts
What Does Your Business Need?
The recently published Accounting Software Buyer Trends report reviewed more than 3,000 accounting software projects and found the needs and motivations of many buyers. While many types of buyers exist, most can fit into these common categories below.
New buyers and small businesses: 37% of the companies we surveyed are buying accounting software for the first time. Many small businesses were looking for increased functionality over their current methods, which ranged from a manual bookkeeping method (pen and paper) to a popular starter solution such as QuickBooks or Sage 50c (Peachtree).
Existing users desiring functions beyond core accounting: Over 20% of buyers said they need software that handles payroll, inventory, and invoicing.
Large companies: Businesses with 50+ employees are more commonly shopping for ERP software options that will include a full suite of functionalities to go along with their accounting. More than 70% of large businesses surveyed desired software that handles budgeting/business intelligence (BI) and fixed assets. Larger businesses also expressed desires for functionality such as fund accounting and procurement.
Popular Accounting Products
With how many accounting solutions exist on the market, it can be hard to decide which one is right for you. Many small businesses will start with an off-the-shelf product that has a small barrier to entry, such as being affordable and easy to learn. For many, that solution is Quickbooks.
The above video demonstrates the use of Quickbooks for accounting purposes and offers an insight into the layout and functionalities offered in the program.
Upgrading From QuickBooks?
Undoubtedly, QuickBooks is a massively popular product. While QuickBooks can serve many needs, it’s also the most commonly replaced accounting software on the market. Our previously mentioned buyer trends survey found that 33% of upgraders are coming from QuickBooks.
We also conducted a study on over 4,000 previous users for their most popular quickbooks replacement options. The solutions will vary by industry, but these options were found to be the most common choices for companies to review:
Common Pain Points
Integration with other business software. Companies that do not have a complete (all-in-one) software will look to combine more than one software to meet all of their functionality needs. An off-the-shelf software that handles core accounting may lack additional functionality such as payroll, advanced reporting, or more involved inventory. Once the need for these features arrives, many buyers may lack the means necessary to integrate the programs together.
Difficulty finding industry-specific tools. As consumers demand functionality more in-tune with their industry needs, software developers are doing everything they can to make those dreams a reality. While a super-niche industry may not have a software option exclusively developed for them, be on the lookout for specialized vendors. These are companies that pride themselves in implementing specific software solutions into certain environments, and will offer customizations or add-ons for a generic-product that will make it more in line with what the business expects on a day to day basis.
Low levels of customization available. Many companies will try to make due with a lower-cost solution at the expense of advanced functionality. Options such as Sage 50c and Quickbooks are great low priced options for new businesses, but they’ll lack ways to customize the software towards your business. Popular accounting software customizations include tailored reports, role-based dashboards, custom data fields that can be added to invoices and reports, and more.
Accounting Software Trends
The landscape of features and technology offered by software vendors is constantly changing. And as software changes, so do the demand for specific features.
Increased adoption of cloud software. Also known as software-as-a-service (SaaS), cloud adoption rates have picked up over the past decade. In 2015, 76% of the buyers we spoke to indicated a receptiveness have their software hosted externally, off-premise. In 2017, this percentage rose to 84%. With cloud-based software, products are leased, rather than licensed, which becomes more attractive for smaller businesses with limited funds. The software industry has responded by making software more available on a cloud basis.
More tablet & mobile applications. In 2016, mobile web browsing surpassed desktop browsing in user counts. Naturally, usage has translated into business demands. Accounting software developers have responded in kind, especially within fields that require on the site analysis such as construction & field service.
Developer & product acquisitions. As markets mature, often companies will acquire, reposition, and/or consolidate their product lineups. This is especially frequent as of late. Sage’s acquisition of Intacct is a notable example.
More data. More intelligence (BI). Over the past five years (2012-2017), we’ve seen a whopping 42% increase in end users looking to evaluate Business intelligence software. Business intelligence software is used in virtually every industry. Consulting firms need to track employee productivity by project/company. Retailers need to track profitability by SKU. Financial institutions set new account goals for personal bankers.
More integrations and APIs. Integrations, or APIs, allow distinct products to talk with one another. Your payroll system could update your HR team in Slack of any processing errors. Your payment processor might automatically push new receivable entries to your accounting system. Your accounting software could share available funds with BI systems. Expect inter-software communication abilities to increase in most products.
Lease accounting standards update. In an effort to improve financial reporting, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued a new standard on lease accounting. Each asset with a 12+ month lease term needs to be included on balance sheets. This includes equipment, buildings, vehicles, and other assets your company leases. The new standard went into effect for public companies for fiscal years & interim periods beginning after Dec 15, 2018, and for private companies for fiscal years beginning after Dec 15, 2019 and interim periods within fiscal years after Dec 15, 2020.