Thanks to automation and AI, accounting software is one of the most transformative tools a business can adopt. ClientWhys CEO Lee Reams remarks, “Free from the tedious tasks, accountants will be able to focus their efforts on developing KPI’s, budgeting for growth and assisting in improving cash flow: more CFO like advice without the cost.”
But they’re also simple solutions that exist if you’re not amassing a team of mini-CFOs. It’s really up to you to decide what your business needs from your next system. To guide you through this process, we’ve created an accounting software requirements checklist. Use it to determine which accounting software features you need and which you don’t.
Get our Accounting Software Requirements Template.
Any system you use for your accounting should absolutely include a general ledger (GL). A GL acts as a master record of all your financial operations. When buying a system, you’ll want to make sure your GL is functional in the context of your business. This could include limiting access for some users, creating custom documents or even going as far as customizing the structure of your ledger.
Chart of Accounts
Month and Year-End Closing
Custom Financial Statements
Accounts Payable (AP) is another core accounting feature that should be a top priority for any accounting software buyer. An AP module manages all the funds your company owes to your vendors and other creditors. Many AP modules allow you to manage your vendors all in one place using a Vendor Master File.
You may wish to process payments as cash, check or credit card, so ensure your next system is capable. If you do business internationally, look for a system that can handle multiple currencies. You can also choose a solution with payable reports to understand your purchasing variance and other data.
Vendor Master File
Domestic and Foreign Currency
Accounts Receivable (AR) functionality allows your business to manage all the revenue it’s due. Manage your clients with a master file and prioritize especially important customers. Many systems automate invoicing, dunning and collection processes, as well. Ensure accurate and efficient payment processing by choosing a solution with the AR tools you need most.
Customer Master File
Customer Relationship Management
Recurring Revenue Management
Deferred Revenue Accounting
Some companies have decided that the risks associated with outsourcing payroll are too great, and have turned to payroll software, instead. At the end of the day, your company is responsible for all due tax and social security so you might as well keep payroll in-house where you can maintain full visibility and control. Payroll modules also streamline the management of employee records by tracking PTO and sick, regular, and overtime pay.
Human Resources Management
Country-Specific Payroll Processing
Payroll Check Writing
Project accounting lets users see and manage finances associated with certain projects, including costs, budgets, profitability and reporting. This more specific style of accounting can help facilitate communication and reduce errors as opposed to only having a high-level view of your finances. Project accounting can also reveal which endeavors use more resources than others and help you calculate variances.
Billing and Invoicing
Time and Expense Management
Fixed assets modules include sophisticated tools that ensure no part of your operation go unaccounted for, even if they aren’t quick to return a profit. These tools include barcode and ID tracking, leasing options, managing tax benefits, and equipment maintenance. Fixed assets suites should also provide depreciation calculations and automatically integrate information from your general ledger.
Tax Benefit Management
Automating your billing processes should be a no-brainer. Tasks that take your staff hours or even days may take your billing system minutes. And with less human intervention, you’re guaranteed fewer human errors. You may also want a system that supports multiple payment methods.
Credit Card Processing
Plan your finances with robust budgeting tools. These tools allow you to create budgets and compare them to past versions to see how you’ve progressed when it comes to managing your costs. Forecasting tools use your data to predict your future costs, enabling you to plan even more effectively.
Review Past Budgets
Create New Budgets
Multi-Entity Financial Management
Defining your accounting processes by each of your business entities has major benefits. Firstly, if your company has different units in different countries, you may want to look for a solution that supports multiple currencies throughout your core accounting. Additionally, you’ll need to manage the various taxes and regulations. This is a very important aspect as you’ll likely need to report and audit your activities to the various governing bodies that dictate how you do business.
Financial Management and Reporting
Particularly great for nonprofits and educational institutions, fund accounting helps manage grants, pledges and donors. Some solutions can assist with the creation of funded programs and generate compliance reports. Because these organizations have to report and track their finances unlike other businesses, specialized fund accounting tools are necessary.
Grant and Pledge Tracking
Sponsored Project Management
Taxes are unavoidable, so you might as well choose a system that can do most of the heavy lifting. Tax management tools keep track of tax rates and automatically update your system when rates or laws change. You may also want a system that allows you to report your taxes through the system.
Multiple Tax Rate Management
Regulations and Reporting
Reporting and Analytics
Your accounting team needs the ability to share information in a quick and easy way, likely more than any other department. When looking for an accounting solution, make sure it provides the ability to share the information most relevant to your business. This may also include drill down capability, ensuring nobody sees sensitive business information that shouldn’t.
Cash Flow Statements
Profit and Loss Reports
Get our Accounting Software Requirements Template.
Once you’ve gathered your requirements, it’s time to find several systems that can provide what you’re looking for. However, this is much easier said than done and can be an intimidating process for many. But it doesn’t have to be. We’ve compiled an in-depth comparison report that allows you to see top-ranked solutions by category and how well they fulfill your requirements all in one screen. Use it to find a system that works so well for your business, it’ll feel like it was made just for you.
Which requirements do you think are most important? Are there any features you’ve found to be the most effective for your company? Sound off in the comments below!