In today’s competitive environment, you need accounting software that supports you as you manage your business. Providing an electronic shoebox is not enough. Meeting government reporting requirements is not enough. You need more. What we’re talking about is information that may be critical to the management of your business but not essential for your bookkeeper.
Now is as good a time as any to see if your accounting software is helping or hindering your bottom line. Because if it’s not, now is the time to think about changing. Here are ten questions to help you assess your accounting software. If it can’t pass muster, it may be time to make a change.
1. Is your accounting system providing you the information you need to make the critical decisions you are faced with daily? Can you quickly and easily access reliable and relevant information?
Almost every accounting package will provide a Balance Sheet and a Profit & Loss Statement. But what about Cash Flow? If you have a bank loan or external shareholders, the Statement of Cash Flow is generally the document they will place the most emphasis on. It is the best indicator you have a viable ongoing business. Aren’t you interested in knowing that?
Do you have the range of reports that allow all departments in your company to manage their responsibilities? Don’t run the risk of spreadsheet anarchy, where every department creates its own version of the truth from its own data sources. You need a system where you can create one version of the truth from a single data source.
What reports might be important to you? How about knowing what customers are profitable, which products are profitable, which sales people are performing and what inventory items are over or under stocked? These are not “bookkeeping” issues. Such reports provide information critical to the effective management of your business and people throughout your organization require it. For example, identifying and eliminating overstocked items from your inventory could add thousands of dollars back to cash flow.
Take a moment, if you will. Sit down and write what information you need to manage your business. Now compare it to what your accounting system provides you. How does it stack up?
At Cougar Mountain we have spent over 30 years creating an extensive range of reports that are relevant to most business requirements.
2. Did your accounting software work for you, or did you work for it? Is your software adaptable to your business processes or do you have to adapt your business processes to the software?
All businesses have special business requirements. Generally they relate to pricing and invoicing practices. Many companies have multiple levels of pricing that are applied based on volume or customer type. Some have line discounts, others have invoice discounts and some have both. Can you configure your order entry screen to support these practices? They also require specific formats for order entry and point of sales screens that reflect the way they do business and administer discounts. Are your current practices driven by your business needs or by your software’s capabilities?
Can you create price lists, by customer and by customer type? If your software does not allow you to change prices for that special three-week or three hour promotion, you are working around its limitations. Your systems should support your selling efforts, not control them.
It is important to get your software to meet your business needs, but watch out! You want to find a vendor who gives you your best fit through configuration, not customization. Software that is adapted by configuration is done without programming. If you require custom programming, remember that you no longer have software that is easy to upgrade. It will be costly to take advantage of new functionality software vendors introduce in the future because your customization may need to be updated also. When you customize software you are making a long-term commitment to living with your software as it is today or to having a higher cost of maintenance.
At Cougar Mountain, we take great pride in the fact that you can configure many of our screens to capture the information you require. When it comes time to print out the forms such as quotations and invoices, they also can be configured to meet the presentation needs of your business.
3. Does your accounting system have integrity? This is not such a strange question.
There are two key components of software integrity. First is access security, assigning access to the system and its modules. Security experts estimate that as many as 30 percent of employees steal. As the number of employees in your company grows, you’ll want to be able to designate who has access to the various modules of your accounting software. For example, you do not want a cashier or data entry clerk to be able to delete transactions. You may want sales staff to look up customer information, but do you want them to be able to change it? What about the CEO? He (or she) may want to look into the general ledger and print off some reports but is she (or he) safe with a journal entry? Entry level packages may have access security to the system, but not individual business functions.
Another way to judge the integrity of your system is the audit trails. If you can delete a transaction and have no record of it ever existing, you have serious problems. Let’s look at an example that is a common way to steal from an employer using some entry level systems. A customer comes into your business and buys something for cash. When the customer leaves, your employee deletes the invoice and pockets the cash. Without an audit trail, you have no record of the transaction. The customer has the goods, your employee has the money and you have the cost! Unfortunately this is an extremely common story.
Are you confident in the integrity of your accounting software?
4. How flexible is your software at period and year end?
A fundamental principle of accounting for most businesses is that you match recorded income and expenses when the transaction occurs. If you received some goods last month from another vendor but the invoice didn’t arrive until the 15th of this month, when will your accounting system allow you to recognize the transaction? If you reply last month, give your system an A. If not, you might consider a change. The reality of life should not force you to have incorrect accounts. Clearly, you may want to block transactions to prior periods, but that should be your choice.
There is a year end closing process that is essential to keep your accounts in order. But you should be able to continue your business in the New Year while still being able to make those year end adjustments to your General Ledger.
The Cougar Mountain General Ledger is driven by the transaction date. Each transaction is applied to an accounting period based on the date. You can block previous periods from receiving postings and then re-open them if the need arises.
5. Can you easily get data in and out of your system?
Most accounting software packages allow you to export data, but few allow you to bring data back in. Let’s think about when this would be useful. Its 60 days until year end and you want to work in next year’s budget. You have several planning assumptions and you want to try different scenarios and export the current year’s period actual figures out to your spreadsheet. Once you have modified the data the way you want, what’s next? Can your system import that data back in as next year’s budget or must someone spend a half day, or more, entering the budgets by hand?
Another situation is where a supplier gives you their retail catalog on disk. Can you import that information and create inventory items? These scenarios are not uncommon. However, only a few packages, like Cougar Mountain, allow data import.
6. Have you noticed any slowing in performance?
Some entry level software is limited in the number of transactions it can handle. Some vendors have provided the option, and actually recommend turning off the audit trails to improve performance. Do you want to compromise your system integrity for performance? It should not be a choice you have to make! Other factors such as hardware and networks can also affect performance, so check into those before you make a judgment. If you’ve experienced a performance slowdown, don’t compromise.
7. Is your software easy to use?
Have your employees found it easy to learn and intuitive to use? Most people think their system is easy to use, but let’s look at a common task. You are in the middle of taking a telephone order from a customer. They say they cannot remember the model of equipment they have but they bought the same filter from you about a year ago. Can you look up the part and what they paid for it without leaving the order entry screen? Can you see their credit status and history? That ability to drill down into your accounting information is ease of use, and allows you to provide great customer service.
Would you still say your software is easy to use? Is it enhancing your customers’ experiences with you?
8. When you enter data in one module of your system, does it automatically post to General Ledger, Inventory and other integrated modules?
Some software “interfaces” with other modules, but in the end, the user still must make entries in more than one module. This is particularly common with point of sale systems. Even when point of sale systems are from the same vendor, few are really “integrated” with the rest of the accounting function. Often, a person on the sales floor who uses the point of sale system is looking at a “snapshot” of the inventory that was created at the end of the previous day. In the back office, you have a sales person making direct entries into your order entry system that is connected live to your inventory. As each one of them enter sales during the day, neither system is accurate until they sync-up at the close of business. What if some of the inventory sells out during the day? Somebody is going to be making a promise to a customer that cannot be kept.
If “real-time” information is important to you, then you should not tolerate an interfaced system when you need an integrated one.
9. Are you spending too much on outsourcing payroll?
We recently obtained two quotes from major payroll processors on the Internet based on a company of ten employees paid twice a month. Over five years one service would cost $5,700 and the other quote was over $8,000. That monthly fee adds up to real money!
The payroll service providers are perpetuating some myths about payroll. Just think about it. It certainly is not cheaper; we have already shown you that. You still have to get them the information to set up each employee, unless of course they provide you the entry screen to do it. You also have to provide them, or enter for them, the hours employees worked, so you are not saving much time. The liability to pay your taxes on time still rests with you. Finally, they require you to pay them well in advance of the payroll date. In fact, one payroll processor made $365 million in interest last year specifically from holding their clients’ money. Wouldn’t you rather have your money working for you?
10. Are you alone? Since implementing your current software, have you stayed in touch with the vendor or their reseller?
Most software vendors publish a yearly update to their software. They use the releases to fix errors, provide additional functionality and where appropriate, keep you current with any legislative changes such as tax rates. Subscribing to software maintenance is important and the effect of not keeping current may only be realized when you have a problem. That is too late. Continuing that relationship with your software provider is important to the continuity of your business.
Resellers often play an important role in a successful accounting implementation. After all, you only implement your software once every three or four years. They help businesses like yours get the most out of the software each week. Maintaining that relationship will ensure that the software is configured to meet your business needs and that it helps you meet your business objectives. Almost every software vendor provides telephone support. However, many resellers can also provide you support. Often they are local and they know your business. Wouldn’t it be nice to have local support?
In addition to a comprehensive support program, Cougar Mountain has a network of over 200 “Business Partners” to work with you locally. So how does your software stack up? Even if you are satisfied right now, an annual review 30-90 days before your year end is prudent. Making sure that your accounting software is truly an asset is important.
Just as businesses can outgrow their original storefront or office, so too can they outgrow their software. Accounting software must allow your company to meet its targets. If your software isn’t growing with your company, it may be slowing your company’s growth.
At Cougar Mountain, we have been supporting growing businesses for over 30 years. We take great pride in providing extensive functionality at a price you can afford. You will not find similar functionality at similar prices. It would be our pleasure to discuss your business with you and how Cougar Mountain can become an asset for your business.