Top Tips on what to look for in a new accounting system

With a plethora of new accounting software, market acquisitions, rebranding, and OEM rebadging, there is more choice than ever in an accounting market that’s full of marketing boasts by all contenders. So how does an accountant begin to investigate new systems? How do you thin out the herd? What should you look for in today’s solutions and why?

Perhaps you have in some way outgrown your current solution or need to move to the cloud as a company digital strategy. Your current pain points can be diverse depending on the entry or mid-range solution you are migrating from – and whilst we can write chapters on such needs, today I’d like to focus on what should you look for in a new future-proofed solution: –

Cloud is the future. It would be prudent to consider cloud solutions or hybrid cloud solutions as a logical technology choice. This ensures your technology futureproofing, provides greater flexibility for your remote workforce, exploits the latest in technology, and is demonstrably more cost-effective to run.

Scalability. Accounting software should be considered as a choice for a decade ahead. When documenting your needs, you should ensure that your considerations are scalable and future-proofed. It would be unfortunate if you moved solutions only to find out that your chosen provider has their own built-in limitations on transactions, data volumes, users, simple functionality, or volume-based penalty pricing. Don’t expect the provider to ask these questions – They are selling what they have today, not talking you out of a sale by asking what you might need in 2 or 5 years’ time.

Multi-jurisdictional requirements might not be currently an issue for you, but will they be in 5 or 10 years? Incorporate Irish & UK vat, or European expansion in your thoughts and selection processes, or indeed further afield. Multiple entities, multi-currency and multi-vat should be available as standard, all in one solution.

Device independence is expected in today’s business world. Bring Your Own Device provides flexibility and empowers your staff. Why tie valuable colleagues to expensive & cumbersome PC workstations and servers – modern businesses will succeed and retain flexible colleagues able to connect from any device on any modern browser. Why choose a new software with inbuilt limitations at the outset – why not consider full device and browser independence.

Data retention can often be overlooked and yet can be very expensive. Retaining an archive licence for your historic solution can be an unpleasant surprise. Why not consider migrating your archive data to your new solution rather than paying for expensive data archive and retention licences. This should be affordable and relatively straightforward with custom migration tools, and you get all your transactional history in one system rather than two, especially important if moving from server-based systems to the cloud.

Automation and Machine Learning takes efficiencies to a new level. Your new software should not just do what you did before in a “new window” … it should challenge your previous processes and introduce automation, triggers, pre-completed template transactions, and machine learning A.I. to help intuitively automate and improve your heretofore lengthy and repetitive processes. Reduce duplication and re-keying of data, streamline & focus your accounts team.

One screen to rule them all. The days of having to open accounts programs multiple times are no more. If you have multiple companies or trading entities, you need the flexibility and efficiency of a single browser data entry screen – extensive savings on time, effort, consolidation, expansion, and easy to maintain data access controls.

Experts delivering real expertise. With an emergence of cloud and hybrid systems at many junior levels, it is important to understand the bona-fides of your new providers. Even the latest in technology should be backed by lengthy experience in your country and your sector. This should be a provable reference point. Having local experts who have proven histories of migrating companies like yours to mid-range solutions, will bring another level of confidence and sector & consultancy expertise to you.

Workflow approvals are the new norm. An essential aid to company confidence and automation in a remote working world. Approval workflows should be capable of being ran across all elements from suppliers, purchases, sales, nominal journals, budgets etc… Instil compliance, accountability, and visibility to succeed in a remote and digital world.

Transparency on pricing. True Cloud software offers a monthly SaaS (Software as a Service) licence. You choose the modules and users you need each month and adjust your licences as your business evolves. No additional upgrade costs, with seamless overnight upgrades being rolled out each month without client downtime or additional costs. You would be surprised what True Cloud pricing can offer, and the savings that you can make.

Configurability is key. Planning for the years ahead to cope with future business changes not yet envisioned…., you need comfort that your new software has configuration options and versatility far ahead of your current or historic needs. Remember you are not looking for a system to re-do what you have been doing for the last decade – you want a system that no matter how you expand or evolve, you have the assurance that your software can deliver on that and so much more. Extensive configurability tailors your solution for you but delivers a simple user experience and workflow.

Inhouse development teams provide an added level of comfort. Is your new software being developed by the people you are engaging with? Have they outsourced development to far-flung regions, is it an OEM product that someone else developed and who controls the development roadmap. Having an input into the future of the software, being able to liaise directly with the software house with receptive development teams, adds a level of confidence and comfort not present when you are once, twice, or thrice removed.

True Cloud Versus Pretend Cloud. If considering cloud solutions, it is advisable to make sure you are adopting the latest in cloud technology and not older web technology. True Cloud runs on any browser on any device with fully integrated apps, and with the latest development technologies. No need for local servers, local program files, or restricted software limitations. Don’t be confused by the use of the word “cloud”.

API links. Even if this is your first cloud solution, you will eventually wish to link to other cloud software across your organisation. Ensuring there is a “API first” approach and a willingness to link to, and work with many 3rd parties is important. A 2-way API approach rather than an insistence on using their tools, “their way or the highway”. The API world is an API open world, it shouldn’t have doors closing on you.

Reporting sunny side up. Just like eggs for breakfast, there are many ways to consume your reports across your organisation. Don’t be limited by what’s on offer. Expect drill down, bespoke dashboards, and queries on all your data inside the system. Enhance that via live links to Excel to compliment this internal reporting. Add in Custom designed report capabilities, external links to PowerBI and other reporting tools. You should not be limited in what and how you wish to report.

Future ambitions. What do you know about your larger peers or competitors in your sector. If you became as large/complicated / diverse, what would you need in a system? What do they do right / well and what would this mean for your system choice?

Parting is painless. Might you again outgrow your new software or be acquired and need to adopt a new system in the years ahead? You don’t want to be held over a barrel to retain your own data after you leave. With iplicit we believe in customers not hostages. We provide all your historic data in easy to interpret files or tables – if you do decide to leave iplicit. No punitive retention fees or expensive data extraction.

Can you speak to a person? It might sound obvious, but do you need a managed project? Do you wish to be able to talk to a human in support rather than a Bot? Technology doesn’t replace speaking with real experts who you can get to know and trust. Technology enhances our efforts to ensure your project is a success but doesn’t replace them.

Alan Connor
Managing Director
iplicit Ireland