Guide to Buying SaaS Accounting Software and Top 5 Solutions

guide-to-buying-saas-accounting-software-and-top-5-solutions

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Introduction

Accounting software generally refers to a solution that allows businesses to handle their core accounting processes and provides advanced capabilities for balancing books. In addition to core accounting functionality including AP/AR and general ledger, accounting solutions offer more functionality including asset depreciation, bank reconciliation, advanced invoicing and billing, forecasting and budgeting and analytics.

The benefits and challenges of using a SaaS accounting solution are almost the same as benefits and challenges of using any other SaaS software as covered here. The key benefits of using a specialized SaaS accounting system include:

  • 24/7 online access
  • Paperless data storage and processing
  • Cost effective
  • Quick deployment
  • Better interdepartmental collaboration
  • Easier sharing
  • Reduced paper work
  • Role-based access
  • Easier to add modules
  • Highly scalable
  • Flexibility
  • Real-time business insights

Things to Consider When Buying an Accounting Solution

Accounting systems are more than just bookkeeping solutions and provide businesses with the functionality they need to manage routine financial tasks, gain actionable insights and have clear visibility. With so many options to choose from, it can become difficult to pick the right solution, but there are a few common things and features to look for in any solution including:

Cost

The buying decision is much easier when cost is the only factor you have to consider. Although an important factor, cost should not be the only deciding factor. When comparing different solutions, the total cost should include the cost of the solution itself and other expenses such as installation, upgrades, support and training fees. The cost per user can vary from $10/user/month to over $400/user/month, while many providers also charge extra for added functionality, which is why businesses have to consider all the costs associated with running any solution.

Scope of a Business

In addition to the basic accounting tasks, scope also includes other tasks a software should be able to perform such as payroll, cost accounting and inventory management. Businesses need to take current operations as well as future growth into account and pick a solution that grows with them.

Modules/Functionality

Determining which modules you need becomes easier once you have defined the scope of business. For example, NetSuite offers a variety of modules, including Accounting and Finance, so you can choose the modules you need. Some modules have an additional cost, so it’s important to consider which modules have an additional cost and which ones are covered in the base price.

Training and Knowledge Level of Users

Most SMBs cannot afford to train their employees from scratch to use a new accounting system. That’s why a large number of SMBs go for easy-to-use and intuitive solutions that might not have functionality more complex solutions offer. A powerful solution that nobody can use is of no good, so businesses need to take into account the complexity of the solution and education level of users/employees.

Access and Mobility

Things are easier for single location businesses, but businesses that have large operations or expect rapid growth should invest in a solution that enables field employees to access information from anywhere using their mobile devices.

When it comes to functionality the key features to consider include:

  • General ledger
  • Accounts payable
  • Accounts receivable
  • Fixed asset management
  • Bank reconciliation
  • Billing and invoicing
  • Purchase orders
  • Payroll
  • Business intelligence
  • Reporting

Top 5 Saas Accounting Systems

Not all accounting solutions are created equal and it’s difficult to name one that works perfect for all businesses. Picking the right one depends on different factors, including business size, budget, required features, integration capabilities and user friendliness. Software designed keeping needs of large enterprises might not work well for small businesses and vice versa. The top 5 accounting solutions covered here include SaaS accounting systems for both SMBs and enterprises, but our focus here remains on startups and SMBs.

Oracle NetSuite

We have already covered NetSuite in the best ERP systems, but here our focus is on its finance and accounting capabilities. Although a great option for medium to large or rapidly growing businesses, it’s high price makes it an overkill for startups and small businesses. NetSuite is a mature accounting solution that enables businesses to design, streamline and transform their operations and processes by combining core accounting and finance functions with compliance management.

It reduces costs related to back-office work and increases financial efficiency and business performance. Access to live and real-time financial data allows users to dive deep into details quickly and generate statements, which comply with different regulatory requirements, including GAAP, ASC, 606 and SOX. The solution turns static general ledger to a dynamic asset to meet unique requirements of different businesses.

Optimized, end-to-end account receivables shorten credit-to-cash time and allow businesses to capture new opportunities and enhance their service levels. The account payable system enables business to automate invoice processing and payment. The configurable tax engine allows users to manage local and global tax using one platform and generate reports in real time. Streamlined tax management reduces cost, saves time and minimizes chances of error. The Fixed Asset Management system helps businesses control both depreciating and non-depreciating assets and supports the international market.

Cash management features provide the visibility and reporting capabilities finance teams need to optimize cash, manage liquidity, control accounts and deliver compliance. The payment management system enables businesses to accept payments from different channels, including online, credit/debit cards and through invoice. Pricing information can be obtained as a quote from NetSuite’s sales team.

Key features

  • General ledger (dynamic asset)
  • End-to-end accounts receivable
  • Account payable
  • Tax management
  • Flexible tax engine, supports 50+ countries
  • Cross-border sales
  • Multiple tax schedules
  • SuiteTax API
  • Fixed Assets Management (depreciating and non-depreciating)
  • Cash management
  • Cash requirement forecasting
  • Automated bank reconciliations
  • Payment management
  • Partial payments
  • Recurring payments
  • SuitePayments API
  • Multi-currency and multi-site capable

Acumatica

Acumatica is available as general business, distribution, manufacturing, construction, commerce and field service edition. Instead of per user pricing, Acumatica offers flexible licensing plans and charges businesses based on the computing power they use. Businesses can add more capabilities as they grow and only have to pay for what they really need, and when they need it. This also means that they don’t need to buy additional licenses when adding new users.

The exact features and capabilities depend on the edition, but all the editions provide real-time insights and allow businesses to review customer interactions using almost any device connected to the internet. Acumatica also provides the option of on-premises deployment and allows users to switch to the cloud anytime. Upgrades can be deployed automatically as well as manually, giving users the freedom to define their own upgrade schedule.

The General Business Edition comes with a comprehensive accounting suite and helps streamline operations. It can handle multiple currencies, locations and companies and provides role-based access to authorized persons. Unlimited user pricing means all the users have complete visibility into interactions with the customers such as pre/post sales contacts. Pricing is available through quote request and depends on the edition and required functionality.

Key features

  • Unlimited user pricing
  • Financial management
  • Customer relationship management with built-in standard CRM functionality
  • Real-time reporting
  • Self-service tools
  • Dashboards
  • Real-time trend analysis
  • Project accounting
  • Budgeting
  • Project inventory
  • Time sheets
  • Billing
  • Visual project accounting dashboards
  • Business intelligence
  • Multiple currency, location and company
  • Role-based access
  • Company-wide visibility
  • Project cost tracking

Intuit QuickBooks

QuickBooks is one of the most popular accounting solutions for small and medium businesses because of its user-friendly interface, diverse features and competitive pricing. Being a SMB-focused solution, QuickBooks is designed to keep everything where it should be and syncs information with a variety of popular apps and banks. It allows businesses to manage their books using a single platform and access information while on the go using mobile devices.

From professional-looking invoices to automated reminders, photo of receipts and one-click reporting, QuickBooks has got SMBs covered with a diverse range of features and accounting tools. Businesses can start with a free 30-day trial and pick from three different plans later on. The Simple Start plan costs $7.50/month (one user plus an accountant), while the Essentials (three users and an accountant) and Plus (five users and an accountant) plans cost $11.50 and $15.50/month respectively.

This gives businesses the choice to only pay for the features they actually need instead of paying for a full package and end up not taking full advantage of it. All plans include free Android and iPhone apps, free support, secure cloud storage, accountant access, unlimited invoices and reports and dashboards.

Key features

  • Income and expense tracking
  • Invoices and quotes
  • VAT tracking
  • Connection with banks
  • Insights and reporting
  • Employee management
  • Multi-currency support
  • Recurring transactions
  • Inventory tracking
  • Project and location tracking
  • Budget management

Microsoft Dynamics GP

Dynamics GP is another solution targeted at SMBs and provides them with greater control over operations, financials and inventory. It goes beyond a simple accounting system and allows businesses to get started quickly with the configurable and flexible solution. Its core capabilities include financial and accounting management, operations and inventory management, sales and services, payroll and human resources, BI and reporting.

The solution has a similar look-and-feel as that of other products from Microsoft and seamlessly integrates with MS Excel, Word and Outlook. This minimizes training time as most users are already familiar with Microsoft software, which also reduces disruptions. Smart analytics and reporting tools allow the management to make more informed and timely decisions, while a consistent experience ensures that they can take the work wherever business takes them.

Dynamics GP is more like an ERP solution for SMBs that provides them with control over their main business drivers, including financial, HR, operations and manufacturing. Businesses also get the option to purchase perpetual licenses as well as subscribe to term-based rights. It is available according to user type and functionality packs, including The Starter pack, The Extended Pack, Customization Pack, Extended HR and Payroll. The three user license types include self-service, limited and full.

Key features

  • Campanian apps (allow automating processes without giving full access to the solution)
  • Analytical accounting
  • Budgeting
  • Cash flow management
  • Vendor/customer consolidations
  • Encumbrance management
  • Fixed asset management
  • General ledger
  • Grant management
  • Account receivable
  • Bank reconciliation
  • PowerBI Dashboards
  • Advanced reporting
  • Supply chain management
  • Project management
  • Manufacturing
  • Field service management
  • HR management
  • Business analyzer mobile app
  • Time management mobile app
  • Desktop and web client
  • AIO document viewer
  • Source document trails and document attachments

Xero

Xero is designed keeping the needs of small businesses in mind, so we can expect that it to be missing on some features that larger businesses need. It provides real-time cash flow view and being an online solution, it is accessible from anywhere, using almost any device. This allows users to send invoices, reconcile and create expense claims from anywhere and get paid in less time with online invoicing. All plans include the essential features such invitations, financial performance reporting, Android and iPhone apps, quotes and invoicing, connection with bank accounts, support, data capture, secure SSL encryption and support for integration with over 800 apps.

Xero is available for a variety of industries, including high-tech, retail, non-profits, legal, hospitality, Amazon sellers, startups, creatives, healthcare, manufacturing, tourism, real-estate, franchises, farming and construction.

Xero offers three pricing plans, which include Starter ($10/month), Standard ($30/month) and Premium ($40/month). Only the Premium plan allows users to handle multiple currencies, while the Starter plan only allows users to send 20 invoices/quotes and enter five bills. Businesses can also opt for extras for an additional fee i.e. Projects ($7/user/month) and Expenses ($4/user/month).

Key features

  • Bank transaction categorization
  • Easy-to-understand charts
  • Online invoicing
  • Inventory management and tracking
  • Invoicing
  • Quotes
  • Bank connections and reconciliation
  • Expense management
  • Mobile apps
  • PayPal and Stripe payments
  • Purchase orders
  • Multi-currency
  • Smartlists and contacts
  • Sales tax
  • Business performance dashboard
  • Fixed asset management
  • Advanced search
  • Scheduled payments
  • Expense claims
  • Advisor tools

Conclusion

SaaS accounting systems are primarily targeted at businesses and other organizations that have complex accounting needs and/or large operations. But this does not mean that startups and SMBs should not take advantage of modern technologies. As covered before, there are plenty of solutions designed keeping requirements of SMBs in mind.

QuickBooks is one such solution that is also one of the most popular because of its user-friendliness and competitive pricing. However, large enterprises with complex requirements might have trouble using such solutions when dealing with a large user base, stricter security requirements, multiple locations and currencies and integration with specific systems.

Choosing the right solution depends on a lot of factors, including scope of business, modules needed, portability, access level, knowledge of users, the level of customizability, integration support and cost. An accounting system is more than just bookkeeping, so businesses need to match their requirements with what the vendor has to offer at a specific price point.

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