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Another over-budget ERP

For some of my students, take a look at this news item re cost over-runs in an ERP implementation. The item gives some very typical reasons for cost over-runs in implementation projects.

A netbook of laptop? Which is best for a small business owner?

It goes without say that the vast majority of business owners and entrepreneurs live with some piece of computer hardware not to far away from their person. The choice for a small business is not dictated by cost any more either. In fact, the choice is more about what you need the technology to do for your business. Here, I’ll focus on the choice between a netbook or a laptop.

What’s a netbook? The simple answer is a smaller, lighter version of a laptop. The first netbooks came a few years ago with stripped down operating systems and low disk space. This is no more. I bought a HP netbook a few weeks ago for my daughter and it has a 160GB hard disk, 1 GB of ram, full WiFi connectivity and a full version of Windows XP.  So in my mind, it’s exactly like my laptop- only smaller and lighter. And all for about €250 net of VAT. So if you’re running a small business and you want to get away from a desk, should you buy a laptop or netbook? My answer is to first ask yourself three questions:

1)  What is the computer used for? If it is MS Office, browsing, email and basic accounting/business software go with the netbook. If applications are more intense, like CAD or graphics, a laptop might be better.

2) Who is going to use the computer? If you’re mobile, or your staff are, netbooks are really light and portable. So are laptops, but they can cost a little more.

3) Where is the computer used? I have seen some business people use  a netbook (with mobile broadband) in their car – obviously while stopped! Again, netbooks are so portable and you can think of them as a travelling version of your office PC or laptop.

Some people have said to me, ” hang on, these netbooks don’t have a CD drive, how do I install software?” Download it is the simple answer. So, given the low cost and full connectivity, netbooks are the best option in my view – unless you’re a designer or architect running heavy applications.

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A simple way to bill customers – software you can use for free!

I read this article in Business & Finance (Ireland) recently and thought, whoa, this is too good to be true! A new website called billfaster.com offers small business owners the ability to create good looking invoices for free – yes free! I had a quick look at the software, and it is free to start off with. You can, according to the website, add more features at a charge but the basic invoicing function is free. You can easily (3 clicks they claim) create and invoice and print it or email it to your customer.

To be fair, the 3 click is probably right if you have all your products and customers set-up. The invoices created are quite professional and all is in simple layman’s terms. The whole idea is wonderful for a start-up business in two ways 1) it’s free and 2) it helps you get off to a good start in terms of accounting – a point I keep on making in my books. As the system is web-based, this means your accountant can hop in every so often to see if you doing okay and also you don’t need to worry about things like computers failing or needing backups. A big drawback though is that although invoices can be done, that’s as far as it goes it seems on the free version. You cannot for example get any reports on how much each customer owes you etc.

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How to Choose Business Accounting Software

Elizabeth Wasserman writes an informative piece on inc.com- ” How to Choose Business Accounting Software.” The piece summarises the questions a small business owner/entrepreneur should ask when deciding on a what accounting software to buy.

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Carbon accounting software

According to expert blogger Tracy de Morsella, the market for software to help global firms with carbon accounting has increased 84% in 2009 to a total global value of almost $400m. Carbon accounting means that firms account for (or keep track of) the amounts of CO2 they emit.  Firms are under more pressure to be greener and reduce CO2 emissions. Pressure is not only coming from regulators, but from customers too. On top of this, smaller firms are starting to feel the pressure as suppliers to the larger firms. Predictions are, the market for carbon accounting software will continue to grow and the big players like SAP are already there. Read the full from De Morsella here.

Free software from Quickbooks – a brief review

The most basic version of Quickbooks accounting software, Quickbooks SimpleStart, is available for free download (see www.quickbooks.co.uk). Given that it is free, is it suitable for a small or start-up business? The answer is yes, but there are some things to watch out for.

 The good things first. Well, its free to begin with, no catches except the odd email. It is not a trial version, so no hidden expiry dates or missing functionality. It can do the basic business tasks: track sales and expenses, instantly create sales invoices, pay bills and print cheques. It is ideal for a small business or start-up. As the website says it’s ‘Built for Freelance Designers, Dentists, Flower Shops, Tech Startups, Chippies, Property Managers, Personal Trainers”, to name but a few.

 So where’s the catch? Well, there is one small limitation and that is in the number of customers and suppliers allowed. Both are set at a maximum of 20. If you have more than this, you will have to pay for the full version of SimpleStart, which costs about £80. Despite this limitation, the free version can still be used for a while and you can get used to the software before paying out some money. For the first time entrepreneur who wants to keep on top of accounting from day one, I think it’s worth a try.

Buying accounting software

You have just set up your first business venture. You don’t have enough money to pay an accountant to do all your bookkeeping. You do want to start off on the right foot by keeping good accounting records and decide to do the bookkeeping yourself using some accounting software. But which one do you choose? Here are some simple tips.

 Consider how much you know about accounting. If you know a little, then you may be more comfortable with software that uses lots of jargon. If you know nothing, look for software that is aimed at non-accountants.

  • What are your business needs? The more features you think you need in software, the greater the cost. It’s often best to start with a version of software which needs your needs now and for the next few years. But don’t overkill.
  • What is your budget? The more popular accounting software (e.g. SAGE, TAS and Quickbooks ) have versions ranging in price from about £75 to £500 and even more for larger businesses. The best tip is to get a reliable and reputable piece of software which is within your budget.
  • What help and after sales support is available. Some software vendors offer 30 days support from date of purchase. This can be really useful to help you get set up.

 The advantages of using software over manual accounting records are numerous. A good fit between your business’ needs and the software, will realise greater advantages. If in doubt, ask an accountant for help.

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