I absolutely second the suggestion to try out a demo.
But before you do that, I`d recommend you make a list of all the things you want to get from implementing this accounting package. Keep it in plain language too.
Here are some examples:
- I want a better look at how my business is performing
- I want to automate tasks which are taking up too much of my time
- I want to better track customer activity, so I can focus my sales efforts
Without a list of specific things you hope to accomplish with this system, you are basically shooting in the dark if you buy something. If you`re lucky, you won`t absolutely hate what you purchase...and will struggle through with it, maybe enough to even actually get the things done that you want.
That`s too much hassle tho. And over time...hassle is the great killer of businesses. I`m a firm believer in avoiding friction whenever possible, especially when you have a decent amount of control over it.
How many times have you read a story detailing a massive IT implementation project in some huge enterprise that was botched due to lack of planning, no clear idea of deliverables or functionality mismatches? Don`t let the same thing happen to you.
No IT system should ever exist for its own sake. Software & hardware should exist in your business because they help make your business a success. That might sound pretty obvious, but I find that most new clients of mine hear that for the first time from me.
FWIW, I`m currently using Office Accounting 2007 (Pro version due to be released very very soon). Don`t let the name change fool you...this is the replacement for Small Business Accounting 2006. You can get a free copy of the Express edition of Office Accounting 2007 at ideawins.com.
For my business, which is service-based, the ability to have my calendar/schedule entries in Outlook flow through to a timesheet & then become invoices with zero-to-no input from me was absolutely critical. Having this means I can focus on the things that only I can do for the business. It also means that I`ve got a system by which I`m rewarded for updating my time in the field (via wireless PDA) as it happens (invoices go out more quickly, which improves my cash flow), rather than waiting for sheets of notes/data entry to stack up.
Most important of all, I`m not having to re-enter any data, just to get an invoice out.
As a happyfun bonus, I`m able to take key customer contact info with me at all times, including additional information that normally would ony exist in the accounting system, on the aforementioned PDA. If I update information in one place, it`s synchronized & updated everywhere automatically.
The integration features between the 2007 features of Office Accounting, Outlook, & Business Contact Manager (included with certain versions of Office) are what make all those things possible.
But there was a good bit of planning I went through to decide what features I absolutely required (no re-keying/multiple points of data entry, calendar->timesheet->invoice workflow) versus which ones were simply icing on the cake (detailed customer data on PDA). And of course, there was an investment of time to set up those processes, train the support staff, etc. All that time & energy investment is really paying off tho...and in an insanely short amount of time.
However. if I had a different type of business, or some other specific kinds of needs (high transaction volumes, a large amount of different inventory items to track) then Office Accounting might not suit my needs.
So don`t skimp on the the time necessary to decide what exactly it is you want. With that clearly in mind, you`ll be able to pick & choose confidently, ensuring a good fit.
Lastly, if you retain the services of an accounting professional (which you should for any business), make sure they will be able to work with the system you choose. That means letting them know what you have decided to use well before there is some major filing deadline they will need your accounting records to finish. However, don`t let your accountant pressure you into making a software decision based on their convenience, either. Remember, you`re making a decision about what`s best for your business, not theirs.
Hope this helps.
Christopher Rue MCSE, MCSAM / Black Warrior Technology, LLC
/ Solutions That Build Your Business