by Paul Johnson, CPA, CGMA
We continue to see a large number of organizations moving their accounting and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to the cloud, and for good reason! Cloud solutions offer many benefits over on premise (those installed on your computer or server) options. While a discussion of the options is outside the scope of this post, more information can be found on this topic in the G2 blog at http://bit.ly/1AeBnhO.
Another significant trend in accounting software is the ability to integrate with your other business operations solutions. Most of the major players in the accounting and ERP space have flexible APIs allowing the integration of multiple solutions. Everything from your customer relationship management (CRM) to point-of-sale (POS), ecommerce and warehouse management. If you are using a cloud-based accounting solution, there are tools available which allow you to easily integrate these if an integration doesn't currently exist.
There has also been a rise in the options available for mobile accounting solutions. Many of the current cloud-accounting solutions include an app for smartphones or tablets. Even if there isn't an app available for your device, the solution may be optimized for mobile viewing which works well also.
My answer to this will ignore the industry-specific needs some organizations have. Instead I will provide some general points of functionality you should look for in an accounting solution.
Usability - Any solution should be relatively easy to use and intuitive for the user. In most situations you should not have to search through numerous menus to complete an easy task.
Audit Trail - While this may not be a "sexy" piece of functionality, your accountant will appreciate having this available. This is especially true if you require your organization requires an audit or related services.
Basic Integrations - Today's accounting solutions should easily integrate with other software solutions often used in your business. Examples of these would be your email, document processing and spreadsheet solutions.
Reporting - The reporting options should be many, both out of the box and available to customize. Some accounting solutions are less robust in this area out of the box, but there will likely be third-party products available which integrate and provide many additional reporting options.
Cloud vs Premise Solution - Determine the needs of your organization and then choose between these options for the best fit. For additional information around cloud versus premise solutions check out the G2 blog post at http://bit.ly/1AeBnhO.
Partner - While this is not functionality of the software solution, if you are unsure of the solution to choose I recommend you work with a consultant experienced in the assessment and selection of accounting software. This investment can be invaluable in the long-run through the time and money saved by selecting the appropriate solution and implementation partner (if necessary).
There are many solutions available which organizations can leverage to improve their processes and financial reporting. Take the time to evaluate the options available to you to ensure you select an appropriate solution to meet your organizational requirements.
If you have not already done so, check out the G2 Grids on accounting (http://bit.ly/1BtOm2X) and ERP (http://bit.ly/1MqMf4y) software as well to read valuable user reviews of many solutions.