Best in Class Accounting Software for Each Stage of Your Business
Is Your Accounting Software Up to Snuff?
There is so much to look forward to at the start of a new year, and one of those things is growth – big hairy audacious growth (#JimCollins reference)! But growth can be de-stabilizing if you don’t have the right tools and a solid foundation to build on. For a high-growth company, fabulous accounting software is one of the core building blocks of a well-built foundation. In this article, we’re going to take you through 9 options for accounting software from entry-level to intermediate and enterprise-level software, to ensure you have the right foundation for your fast-growing company.
What is Accounting Software?
Accounting software is more than just a high-tech tool for keeping track of your business’s cash flow and expenses, it records and processes all accounting transactions for your business allowing you a snapshot of your company’s financial health at any given time.
Whether you’re the business owner, the chief financial officer (CFO), or part of the internal or external accounting team, accounting software will help you manage everything from tracking the movement of cash flow in your organization to keeping detailed records of your revenue, expenses, assets, liabilities, and shareholder equity which collectively provides an accounting dashboard of your company’s financial health. In addition, your accounting software will be a big time-saver in generating not only management reports for monthly reporting but also tax reports when it comes time to file your business taxes each year.
What to Look For in Accounting Software?
We can’t avoid discussing accounting software without mentioning the tech buzzword, cloud-based! Most accounting software these days is cloud-based, but some companies still provide a downloadable desktop version (mainly QuickBooks). Though in our opinion, whilst we think desktop software will soon be fully phased out, the desktop version of QuickBooks has powerful features necessary for inventory-based businesses, i.e. Advanced Inventory for Quickbooks Enterprise.
Accounting software typically features the ability to integrate with popular applications like Gusto for payroll, Bill.com for accounts receivable and accounts payable management, Expensify for expense reimbursement management, and connections to major financial institutions like your Chase or U.S. Bank account. Please always review the specific integration and API options for the software of your choice when choosing or transitioning to new software.
Horses for Courses
Different accounting software comes with a vast range of features and skill levels from your basic, entry-level programs to robust, fully customizable, enterprise-level applications, and everything in between. If you’re unfamiliar with “Horses for courses,” a mainly British turn of phrase, it simply means that some horses race better on certain courses than others. And the same goes for accounting software! Depending on the complexity and size of your business, the number of users, your growth forecasts, and your budget, not every accounting software is going to be the exact right fit for your business. Keep in mind the core factors that are important to your business to determine which of our top accounting software picks below will work well for you.
Our Top 9 Accounting Software Picks
We think it is important to show you the breadth of software options on the market from the most basic to the highly complex. Especially since we LOVE both startup companies and major public firms just the same, and we know each business is going to have different feature requirements and budgetary restraints. Let’s begin our software round-up with entry-level software and build up to enterprise-level software from there.
Entry-Level Accounting Software
Entry-level accounting software is less sophisticated but more cost-effective than its intermediate and enterprise-level counterparts. Some of the options and features are even free, which for a company in its infancy or for a founder still sussing out their market idea can be a no brainer.
Top Choice: Wave Accounting
Our top choice in the entry-level group is Wave Accounting. This software is simple to get started with and powerful enough to begin to establish your young company’s accounting foundation, while also being FREE. Wave is a great place for an early-stage entrepreneur to dip their toes into the accounting waters and because it uses the double-entry accounting method once you level up to an accountant and a more sophisticated software platform your accountant will thank you!
Like most accounting software, Wave can connect to your bank accounts and sync your transactions. But you can’t expect some of the more in-depth reporting and forecasting features of a higher-level software and if you need to keep track of inventory you’re better off with something more robust.
If you want to set yourself up for early accounting success, but your business isn’t quite ready for a paid software then Wave may be the right choice for you. Like we mentioned before, their accounting packages are free, and you can choose optional, paid upgrades for payment processing and running payroll.
Wave Accounting Features:
- Bank and credit card connections
- Income and expense tracking
- Instant invoice, payroll, and payment data updates
- Custom invoicing
- Receipt scanning
- Bill and invoice reminders
- Cash and invoicing dashboards
- Exportable accounting reports
- Bulk transaction updates
- Customizable sales taxes
- Journal transactions
- Automatic exchange rate calculations
- Customizable chart of accounts
- Automatic payment transaction reconciliation
- Search transaction descriptions
- Run multiple businesses in one account
BONUS TIME: Additional Entry-Level Picks
If you like to have options, we’d like to suggest you check out FreshBooks (starting at $15/month) or Zoho Books (Starting at $9/month), both of which will help you build an affordable accounting foundation for your young business that will get you through the cash strapped, beans on toast days.
Intermediate-Level Accounting Software
Companies using intermediate-level accounting software are your meat and potatoes, small businesses. These are the more established (but still young at heart) companies, that have at least 4-5 years of business under their belt and a consistent customer base. These companies are also growing quickly, have accountants on staff (salaried or contract-based), and have plans to keep on scaling well into the future so they need accounting software that can not only help them forecast and report on their finances but also be very capable of scaling alongside them. Companies at this level will also likely require more options for customization and system integration and more complex reporting.
Top Choice: QuickBooks
Our top choice at the intermediate level is a company you have very likely heard of and it is QuickBooks! Owned by Intuit, QuickBooks has both a desktop and a cloud-based version of their application each with its own advantages and disadvantages, though we prefer the cloud version ourselves.
With QuickBooks Online (QBO) you can expect a rapidly developing platform constantly adding new features and services to improve their client experience. They offer some 650+ integrations and because they’re hosted online, you can access your QuickBooks from anywhere with an internet connection as well as from their app.
One of the major (current) drawbacks to QBO is its inventory management capabilities. At the moment, the only way to manage your inventory with QBO is through external app integrations, of which none of them are perfect. However, what QBO is lacking in inventory management it more than makes up for in its capability for customizable process automation and invoicing as well as its ease of use. Not to mention, QBO makes it simple to include your internal or external accounting team on the system.
With QuickBooks Enterprise (a QuickBooks Desktop [QBD] product) you get highly advanced inventory management and sales order processing, but these do come at a cost. Though QBD has been around for a very long time (1992) and is a sophisticated platform, it can be slow and difficult to use and has some limitations that QBO does offer. For example, it has limited integrations (200 or so), limited automation and invoicing customization, and can only be used on a Windows operating system. There is also no native way to access QBD remotely (you have to use your own or third-party hosting service providers) but for some this can be viewed as an enhanced security feature over QBO. Finally, depending on the number of annual licenses you purchase, it can be difficult to provide easy access to your accounting team at an affordable rate.
If you’re ready to upgrade your simple accounting practices to an accounting industry standard, we will always highly recommend giving QBO a try. They offer multiple pricing packages based on the number of users and the volume of features you will have access to starting at between $15/month – $25/month depending on if you’re a freelancer or a small business.
QuickBooks Online Features:
- Job costing and estimates
- Manage bills
- Track expenses
- Manage contractors
- Reporting and forecasting
- Track miles
- Tax management and reporting
- Highly custom invoicing
- Remote access and a mobile app
- 650+ integrations
- Custom automation processes
- Collaborate with your accountant
- Online tutorials and ease of use
BONUS TIME: Additional Intermediate-Level Picks
Though QuickBooks has been the go-to accounting platform since 1992 (the year A League of Their Own came out), there are still a couple of other great options to consider at the intermediate level. Namely, Xero, another “all-in-one” platform gives QuickBooks a run for its money, though we think it is lacking in some of the more sophisticated features. Xero starts at $11/month and pricing is based on feature access and transaction volume.
Another good option is Sage Business Cloud Accounting, which is another online accounting software designed for small businesses. Sage offers some really great tools with a heavy focus on cash flow management and its pricing starts at just $10/month making it cheaper than both QBO and Xero. But Sage relies heavily on third-party integrations to expand its functionality and does not scale well for larger companies.
Enterprise-Level Accounting Software
The term “robust” does not begin to cover the volume of features an enterprise-level accounting software includes. Enterprise software is more of an end-to-end solution that takes into account, not only accounting functionality, but also functions to meet the requirements of managing the full business cycle (sales, marketing, operations, finance, compliance, etc.).
When it comes to these platforms, think along the lines of a high level of customization and endless features including compliance management, role-based dashboards, customer relationship management (CRM), human resources management, professional services automation, real-time data access, and integrated planning and budgeting. Essentially this type of software is built to run the entire business.
Top Choice: Netsuite Financial Management
Our top choice for the enterprise level category is Oracle’s NetSuite Financial Management. NetSuite, another cloud-based system, can support businesses at every stage of their growth cycle but its functionality truly shines as the complexity and size of a business increases. Since this is an end-to-end platform, it can support every aspect of a business’s function from HR and customer relationship management to accounting and financial forecasting, making it more of a one-stop-shop software than the accounting software we discussed above.
With the level of features and customization included in NetSuite, a business should be able to increase their operational efficiency while also gaining real-time insight into the financial health of the company giving them the ability to meet the needs of stakeholders from every aspect of their company. Serious software like NetSuite also makes it simple for a company to manage compliance and financial regulations, the requirements of which can quickly become intense once a company reaches enterprise size or goes public.
Pricing for NetSuite depends on a number of factors including your product configuration, add-ons, user count, and the license duration. You can expect a NetSuite base license to start at $999/month with an additional cost per user. The best way to receive customized pricing for your business is to simply reach out to NetSuite.
- Financial management
- Financial planning
- Financial reporting
- Billing management
- Revenue recognition
- Order management
- Production management
- Supply chain management
- Warehouse and fulfillment
- Governance, risk, and compliance
- Real-time financial visibility and business insights
- Global accounting and consolidation
- HR and payroll
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- ERP System
- Integrates with additional NetSuite applications
BONUS TIME: Additional Enterprise-Level Picks
If your company is transitioning to an enterprise-level solution, first of all, congratulations on your growth and success! We know the decision to transition is a big one, so reviewing multiple options, especially at this high of a price point, is important. As far as enterprise-level accounting software goes, you may like to consider SAP Accounting or Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Business Central. Similar to NetSuite, these two products can operate as an end-to-end solution to include features to manage everything from HR and payroll to supply chain management, to CRM and ERP systems. The best way to learn more about pricing for these bonus solutions is to contact their companies directly.
Why is Accounting Software Important?
Your accounting software is important because it is one of the core building blocks of your company’s foundation and a strong foundation allows your company to grow and remain a stable business at the same time. As your company grows, your needs and expectations of your accounting software will evolve as well, so it’s important you identify a solution that works for you now and can grow with you in the future.
This sounds just like how Simple Startup’s services (investment-ready accounting, fractional finance support, and tax management) easily adapt to your company’s needs as it moves from a young company to an established business, to a high growth company and beyond. If you’re struggling with making the transition to new accounting software or need help identifying the best solution for your company, we’d be happy to help. All you have to do is schedule time on our calendar and we’ll help you with the rest.