How to Select Accounting Software for Small Businesses – NOT!

I ran across Chris Keller’s blog post today. It’s an interesting post on how small businesses should select accounting software. His number one criteria…drum roll, please…is cost. Well, how about that? You should buy accounting software based on cost.

The second item in the list is learning curve. I guess I buy the idea that you shouldn’t buy software that’s too hard to learn to use.

The third item is “input efficiency.” I’m assuming he means how fast you can key the data into the system in comparison to other systems.

I’m not sure how you react to Chris’ ideas, but my first thought was that he really hasn’t done much with software selection. The number one complaint I hear from businesses that want new accounting software is, “It doesn’t do what I need it to do.” Second in the list is, “I can’t get the data I need to grow my business.” I don’t know that I’ve ever had a client say, “I paid too much,” particularly if the software was working. I’ve rarely heard, “It’s too hard to use.” When I have heard that, it’s been on software ranging from QuickBooks (which requires very little training for most users) to SAP (which IS hard to use, but does things the businesses that buy it need for it to do). All in all, you can strike these two items from the list.

Here’s my list (in no particular order) of the things you should evaluate in accounting software:

  • Does it do what I need for it to do?
  • Is there a game plan for continuing to develop the product?
  • Are the last few releases of the product forward-looking? (In other words, are they adding the things that I’m going to need in a few years.)
  • Do others in my same general business (retail, wholesale, service, medical, etc.) use the product?
  • Will it streamline my business processes?
  • Will it save me money?
  • Will it give me information that I can turn into new sales?

Once you narrow down the products and have a short list, then is the time to start asking the cost, training, reporting, etc. questions that Chris is talking about. My $0.02