Accounting Systems: A Lifeline Or A Boat Anchor


In the early stages of getting to know our clients or prospects, we often hear them say, “We need a new accounting system, this one is terrible.” We get it — these systems can be beasts — but chances are high that they don’t use their current system to its fullest extent.

Below are some questions to help evaluate your current accounting system, including what to look for, and ways to confirm whether they are real problems:

Lack of reporting (or you have many schedules in Excel, instead of from the system).

  • What report writer does the software use? Make sure there is someone in your organization that’s on top of how to use that tool.
  • How often does your management team ask for another tweak to a report or another field to be added or calculated? If it’s more than once a year, you no longer have a one-click report.
  • Do you pull together data from multiple sources? It can be a good internal control to keep systems separate; but then you may need to use a tool like Excel to merge it together again.

Too many manual processes.

  • Who in your organization is familiar with all the add-on products you can buy to complement your software package? Do they sell add-ons that will automate your connection with the bank? Does one of the Accounts Payable (AP) automation tools out there work with your system?
  • Have you looked into an onsite deposit machine? Does your system connect to your bank?
  • Do you know how to use your system? Many systems these days work with grids of data that can be cut and pasted into/from Excel (often the CSV export).

Expensive annual maintenance.

  • What is included in the price? You need to know what value you’re getting for your money. Sometimes the larger packages come with higher fees, but they also come with User Forums, Help Desk Support, Online Help Directories, and Back-up Solutions.
  • Is it worth the effort? If you’re thinking of a new package, scope out the project in full to understand the process. Moving systems is months of work, and the sticker price may not be the whole picture – do your planning.

Integration with other systems.

  • What are the capabilities of your current system? Understand if it can receive uploads or create compatible downloads.
  • Integration is squirrely – understand the specifics of the integration you are getting. Before you sign on the dotted line make sure you, with the help of your IT team, understand what is involved in the integration. It may not be disclosed that the integration is only partial (i.e., it will upload Accounts Receivable items, but not time entries and Expense Reports).

Sometimes it just feels like the right time to move from an on-premises system to a cloud reporting tool, and that’s okay. But don’t rush to say that the systems you have right now are ‘terrible’ until you fully understand the capabilities of your current system and you’ve given your current software provider a chance to re-sell you on your current product.

Having a capable (and fully-used!) accounting system allows your staff to focus on the real value behind the numbers instead of focusing on generating them. We’d love to hear about the successes and failures of implementing your accounting systems:

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