It is easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed when trying to sort through the numerous accounting software packages and vendors out there. However, when you make the right decision, the additional control over data and ease of use will more than make up for the hard work involved in selecting the right solution. One of the first things you need to decide is whether or not you need a generic or industry-specific accounting package.

Accounting software that is specifically designed for a particular industry will generally offer more custom features. However, the flip side is that these packages are often more expensive due to their highly specialize applications. If you are a large company in a particular industry that requires specific accounting practices, an industry specific application will usually be well worth the higher price tag. On the other hand, if you run a small business and do not foresee yourself growing to the point of making the additional costs worth it, chances are good that you can find everything you need in a generic financial software package.

As mentioned above, it is important to understand the impact that the size of your business has on this important decision. A business that has annual revenues of less than $ 100k will certainly have different needs than a multi-billion dollar entity. While the software for the big businesses will certainly handle small business accounting, it can be overkill and will likely be cost-prohibitive when the costs and benefits are considered.

It is also important to look at how your particular industry impacts your software selection. Many industries have specialized accounting practices that must be followed, and if you’re in one of those industries it makes sense to find software that accounts for all of those things automatically.

Different accounting software solutions come with different components or modules. When selecting software for your company, it is important to know what kinds of modules are out there and also what modules will benefit your company and which ones you will have no use for. Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to quickly eliminate several applications because they either offer too many extras or do not have all the functionality that you need.

If you’ve been using computers for long enough, you undoubtedly know that software can sometimes have problems. Therefore, it is also extremely important to look in to what kind of support is available for the package once you’ve implemented it and what (if anything) the additional support will cost. Cheap software is no good if it constantly messes up and you have to pay to get it back on track. Also important to look at is the training available for your staff that will teach them to properly use the software and hopefully prevent many of these problems.

Your budget is also important to consider. Determine what kinds of benefits you want to get from your software and how those benefits will translate to your overall bottom line. With this knowledge, you should be able to much more accurately determine how much you are willing to spend on new software, but keep in mind that the most expensive software you can afford may not necessarily be the best.

It is also very beneficial to see what other people who are using a particular piece of software have to say about it. Check with trusted industry colleagues for recommendations as well as accouting software reviews of various packages that you are considering. Your accountant or accounting department may also have preferences that are worth considering for the simple fact that they are more likely to properly use a system that they know and like.

Finally, it is important to remember that your software will only be as effective as the people that use it can make it. User-friendliness is one of the most important things to consider, but is often overlooked because people assume they can learn a new system easily. This is not always the case, so if you can find a system that is very user-friendly, your chances of getting the most out of the package will increase.

Working your way through the seven factors mentioned above should dramatically increase your chances of finding the right software for your needs. Remember that every vendor will want to sell you their software, regardless of whether or not it is the right solution for your needs. As such, it is your responsibility to do the grunt work to determine what system you really need. If you run in to problems, consult with an accounting software guide for advice in making the best selection.

Alex Monroe is a freelance author with many areas of specialization. He offers advice for selecting new accounting software for businesses of all sizes at his accounting software guide site.

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