Selecting an accounting system may not the be the most exciting topic for a startup or new venture, but it is undoubtedly an important decision for a company. Accounting software houses, organizes, and displays financial operations information that provides important insights into a business. Selecting a system that does not meet your company’s needs can lead to future headaches or reduced reporting functionality and in turn lead to an inability to make crisp management decisions.
In this post, we break down the most popular accounting programs on the market so that you can make the right decision for your business.
QuickBooks by Intuit
Over the years, QuickBooks has become the most popular accounting software program for small-to-medium businesses. QuickBooks enables its users to easily create invoices, utilize automated bill tracking, accept payments, generate financial reports to keep track of expenses, as well as book more technical accounting entries to deferred revenue. It is perfect for a company that desires a ready-made, all-in-one software solution.
QuickBooks Online (QBO)
QuickBooks Online version comes with three different subscription options that are sold as monthly subscriptions ranging from $20-$70 a month. The software’s best features include invoice customization, online banking transfers, integrated invoicing & payments solutions, and accessibility anywhere with access to internet. For companies with multiple employees who would need access, QuickBooks Online allows multiple users on the same account at no additional charge. All of these factors combine to make QBO the SaaS accounting solution market leader for small-to-medium businesses.
QuickBooks Online does require more learning for those unfamiliar to common accounting practices. It does, however, offer numerous video tutorials to get up to speed. The software also provides an integrated payroll option for companies looking to manage payroll directly through their accounting system. Payroll capabilities come at an additional cost on top of per-employee surcharges, but may not provide as much transparency as other off-the-shelf payroll operations services such as Gusto or JustWorks.
Unlike QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop can be unlocked with a one-time up-front purchase. It is a great option for those who need a program that can manage inventory management or need more customized forms for activities like invoicing.
As this is a desktop application, it has received less resources towards development in recent years and also can be clunky to operate for those who haven’t used the system before. This software may also not make sense for companies with multiple users who need to have remote access since subscriptions are sold per desktop. The program also requires all transactions to be processed manually, unlike its online counterpart and has very limited capabilities for online tracking, payment, and bill managements.
Xero is a fully online application that stores and manages all data through the cloud. Similar to QuickBooks, Xero works best for individuals and smaller businesses with straightforward operations. Xero offers a simple set-up, after which point you can navigate features such as customizable form templates, express payments and real-time reconciliation of transactions. It is also a great tool for collaborators as other Xero users can access published financial reports.
While Xero allows you to generate invoices, it does not allow a breadth of payment options such as ACH, which is often a preferred method used to pay larger invoices. It also lacks deeper functionality for things like partial client payments or those who are looking to the software for handling complex financial workflows. Xero also has a reputation for poor customer support, troubleshooting, and help tutorials, especially via phone.
Sage Intacct excels when it comes to flexibility and wide options for software integration. It’s best for businesses that have outgrown QuickBooks or Xero and need a more robust solution to cover additional reporting functions. One of the biggest draws of Intacct is the deep customization it offers. Users love the financial dashboards to keep track of key metrics as well as its ability to book and manage custom contracts / invoices.
While it is highly customizable, Intacct may not always be a one-stop shop for accounting services, especially for companies that need to manage inventory. Unlike QuickBooks or Xero, Intacct requires implementation from Sage or one of its partners, which can be expensive and a downside for those companies not wanting to work with external parties. Furthermore, unlike its main competitor NetSuite, Intacct does not feature multi-currency payment options.
NetSuite is considered to be an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. It is highly scalable, designed to serve mid-to-large sized growing companies. Beyond accounting, it can handle financial management, inventory management, project management, and payroll — allowing a business to use it as a one-stop-shop option for its full suite of financial operations software.
Like Intacct, NetSuite excels at developing custom dashboards. The dashboards are simple to design and intuitive, and cater towards most functions in a global organization, so it is easy to track key performance indicators.
With all of the access that NetSuite provides, it is no surprise that it comes at a price higher than its competitors. A base license for the software costs $999 per month, with an additional charge of $99 a month for every user. For this reason, and because it contains unnecessary add-ons, it is likely not a package necessary for smaller businesses.
Choosing an accounting system for my business
For those unsure of which software to choose, the best option is to utilize free trials and get a feel for what accounting software will best complement your business. When choosing an accounting suite, it is important to consider not just the state of your business today, but if you believe this software can scale with your business for the medium term.