Good financial planning and accounting practices are key to running a successful business. You know that already. But you also know that these involve tasks that are time-consuming and repetitive, meaning they often aren’t given the focus that they deserve.
Younger companies sometimes struggle to make sure their book-keeping practices keep pace with their growth. Meanwhile bigger companies have flawed processes that nonetheless become the established way of doing things. But it doesn’t have to be like this.
Accounting tools can help businesses get their finances in order, fast. These are some of the ones we either use ourselves or have heard great things about.
Spotting the difference between some accounting tools can be tricky, but it’s going to help you nail down which one is right for you. The specific features you choose to prioritise will depend on where exactly your business is in its growth cycle and what you need from the software.
Here are some questions to ask when choosing an accounting tool.
Is it cloud-first?
Cloud-first tools are usually accessible on any device with an internet connection. They will often have dedicated mobile and desktop apps and you may be able to use some directly through a browser.
The fact that all the information is stored in the cloud means it is easy for business owners to give access to the tool to those in the company that need it, as well as to their accountant. The downside is that as the number of users with access to the tool increases, so too may the cost of the product.
Is it scalable and adaptable?
Scalable and adaptable tools grow with your business, ensuring your company won’t be held back by software that is no longer fit for purpose.
Many of the tools below offer options for organisations at different stages of growth, from micro-businesses with one employee to medium-sized companies. That said, some tools will be more suited to small companies, and others to firms with hundreds of employees.
Does it integrate with your other tools?
No single tool on its own will fulfil all of your business needs. Because of this, it’s important that all your tools can communicate and work together; simplifying your processes.
Some of the accounting tools below, such as Microsoft Dynamics and Netsuite, are part of a larger set of enterprise products and may be best for companies already in their ecosystem.
What’s the user experience like?
Employees are more likely to use tools that provide an excellent user experience and a simple interface. The less time you have to spend getting those who work for you up-to-speed on new tools, the quicker you’ll start to reap the benefits they bring.
Of course, even the best and simplest tools will have a learning curve, especially for the more advanced features.
What is the support and community like?
Choosing tools with efficient support teams can ensure that should anything go wrong, you’ll easily be able to get things up-and-running again. This is essential if you want to stop your tools getting in the way of your growing business. This is also a must for those who lack technical knowledge.
Things to look out for include telephone support, email support, and community forums. Match up the type of support offered with what works best for your team: some people want to hear a human voice when they’re struggling and up against a deadline. Additionally, some of the tools have resources sections that mention common problems and may allow you to find solutions quickly on your own.
Does the pricing work for your business?
Pricing is likely to be a key point of contention for many businesses, especially start-ups that aren’t yet generating a ton of profit. Our list has options that start at a few pounds a month and go to significantly more.
As you’d expect, the more comprehensive solutions cost more. In general, cheaper products will either offer fewer features, not allow as many users, or both. However, the higher fee for advanced products may not always be worth it for companies that aren’t big enough to take advantage of the extra benefits.
Many of the tools below also offer different pricing and products for businesses depending on their development stage. This means companies should be able to simply upgrade their plan as they grow.
Whilst these points are all helpful considerations, finding the best accounting tool for your growing company can still be a challenge. To help you in your decision, we’ve pulled together some of the best.
Xero is a popular accounting tool. It’s cloud-first, with solutions for invoicing, project tracking, inventory, expenses, and more. It’s used by hundreds of thousands of small to medium-sized businesses.
Xero also has a marketplace for finding accountants, as well as an API that allows companies to integrate Xero with the other tools they use. In fact, Xero works with over 600 third-party applications. The product has a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 on Capterra, with a 4-star customer support rating.
Sage provides several business solutions, including an accounting tool called Sage Business Cloud Accounting.
It offers all of the core accounting features, such as tools for invoicing, expenses and cash flow management. Sage supports growing businesses through its different products, beginning with the “Accounting Start” solution which is aimed at micro-businesses and sole traders, and moving up to the regular “Accounting” level for larger companies.
Sage accounting has a 4-star review on Capterra, suggesting customers are generally happy with the service.
Quickbooks is an accounting platform that has been around since 1983, when accounting really did work in a different way. It offers three different plans aimed at businesses of different sizes, with the most expensive plan offering support for up to 25 users.
All plans allow businesses to create invoices, track sales, and track taxes. The more expensive options offer extras including paying bills, generating quotes, and tracking profitability. This all comes together in an easy-to-use dashboard.
The software has a 4.5 star review on Capterra, with users pointing to the community forums and helpful support team as positives.
Microsoft Dynamics GP is an accounting software solution aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. It includes features for banking, managing cash, inventory, payroll and more. It works with other Microsoft products meaning it could be a great option for companies already in the Microsoft ecosystem.
The software has a 4.5 star rating on Capterra, although this relates to the entire Microsoft Dynamics software suite, not just the accounting software.
The software is cloud-based and scalable with the company saying it can empower businesses of all sizes, potentially making it a good choice for growing businesses. It has 16,000 customers so is a well-trusted solution. The platform has a 4-star rating on Capterra with reviews suggesting it is a powerful option for mid-sized companies.
Choosing the right software for your business will save you time, make accounting easier and ultimately, save you money, so it’s worth investing time to find the accounting tool that best suits your business needs.