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If your company needs enterprise accounting software, how do you decide which platform to purchase? What are the key enterprise accounting software features and benefits?
As with any other type of significant IT investment, there are criteria that help in figuring out the best way to go with enterprise accounting software. Some of these might be more critical to your company, depending on its circumstances and goals. But all are important considerations, and evaluating each one carefully helps make the best choice.
Ease of use
Many people in the organization use accounting software, and not all are technically inclined. So, ease of use is one of the most important accounting software features and benefits.
Vendors design these products to lighten the load for the accountants, automating otherwise manual processes. The product functionality should be intuitive for business users, and financial staffers should quickly get up to speed on features and capabilities. Otherwise, there might be productivity issues when the enterprise implements the software.
Web-based accounting software should have easy-to-use, browser-based controls, and the software should be accessible from virtually anywhere, through any device with a browser and internet access. For companies with multiple locations, users in remote offices should be able to easily manage financial data and records.
Ease of implementation
Accounting software should also be easy to deploy. If not, startup costs might be much higher than anticipated, with the potential for costly delays.
Does the vendor offer consulting services as part of the implementation, and to what extent? For companies with existing accounting packages, the installation will require a smooth transition from one finance system to another.
The deployment should be rapid so as not to interfere with daily functions, such as accounts payable and receivable, payroll and other financial processes. Ask the vendor how long the implementation will likely take to make sure this satisfies the company's requirements from a timing standpoint.
Companies expect their enterprise accounting platforms to deliver broad capabilities, and in many cases, these come from expansion modules. This expansion should be as seamless as possible and one of the main accounting software features and benefits.
Every accounting package handles core financial processes, such as general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable and often payroll.
More comprehensive accounting software suites might also include companion modules for cash management, currency management, tax management, recurring revenue management, inventory management and deferred revenue accounting, among others.
The benefit of a modular design is flexibility. Companies can add new and more advanced capabilities as they grow or as needs arise.
Integration with existing systems
Accounting software doesn't operate in a vacuum. It will likely need to interact with other business systems, so integration is important. This is especially true for companies that plan to use advanced functionality and even smaller companies with growing customer bases.
CRM is an example where seamless integration is important. By connecting accounting software with a CRM platform, companies are able to access a complete view of their customers from within accounting functions. This also enables better collaboration between the finance and sales departments, making integration and collaboration two vital accounting software features and benefits.
Scalability and expandability
As with other major business software platforms, easy scalability is desirable. As the company grows, the accounting software should be able to grow with it.
That means easily adding to and changing module configurations to increase functionality, as well as adding users when more people need access to the software, adding departments or functional areas as the business grows and adding entire organizations in the event of acquisitions.
A key source of scalability today is the cloud, and many vendors offer accounting products as SaaS. More organizations are moving their on-premises accounting processes to the cloud, in part, because it offers flexibility and scalability. In some cases, companies employ hybrid IT environments that include a mix of on-premises, private cloud and public cloud infrastructures.
The need for privacy and security with accounting data cannot be overstated. If companies do not protect information, hackers and other bad actors will find a way to get to it, resulting in major problems.
Accounting software needs to have the highest provisions for data security at all times. That means security while the data is at rest and while authorized users share it.
To ensure that only authorized users have access to accounting software and data that is appropriate to their role in the organization the platform should feature strong user-level access controls. In addition, sensitive financial information needs to be encrypted both when it's stored and when it's transferred so, if it does fall into the wrong hands, the intruder will not be able to read the data.
Something else to consider when evaluating enterprise accounting software is the support level and quality the vendor provides. Issues inevitably arise with any complex software platform, and accounting is too important to wait for vendors to address issues.
Some vendors deliver their accounting software through a network of channel partners, such as value-added resellers, and these solution providers might be the first line of support when issues surface.
Make sure the partner you'll be working with is a trusted advisor and can help with deployment, customization and support services when needed.
Customization and vertical market specialization
How well does the vendor or channel partner understand the industry? Are the accounting software features and benefits tailored specifically to the business? The answers could determine how well the software and partner can support the business.
Although basic accounting functions are the same regardless of sector, companies in certain industries have particular processes and goals when it comes to accounting. They might face unique financial challenges.
Some accounting software vendors offer versions tailored for industries such as manufacturing, retail and professional services. These versions offer specialized accounting features and benefits, such as a customized chart of accounts and reports designed for a specific type of business.
Workplace mobile users are ubiquitous, and some need access to accounting applications. Enterprise accounting software should support multiple mobile platforms and be accessible from a variety of devices.
That includes financial report templates and dashboards accessible via mobile devices so users can perform tasks and make informed decisions regardless of location. Mobile functionality can extend to areas such as inventory management. For example, mobile barcode scanning can simplify the process of tracking inventory in a warehouse.
Finally, an enterprise accounting software platform should have strong reporting capabilities for internal use and for regulatory filings. This might include prebuilt reports and dashboards that can help people in accounting roles more easily interpret results.
Some software products come with templates to enable users to create reports specifically for their company's industry. They can automatically fill in company data and view reports. Advanced reporting features are available that enable companies to customize reports so that they can gain specific insight into their business operations.