Having the right accounting package should reflect the needs of your company. Veda Snyman, product marketing manager at Microsoft Business Solutions, suggests you should look closely at your own business to decide what you need to do and what you want to do going forwards.

“You should ask yourself what are the pain points, what information you need, what information you are lacking in your business,” says Snyman. “The pain points could be manual processes which could be automated or processes such as order taking which could be simplified.”

The trick here is to involve your staff at early stage. Rather than trying to impose a solution on them, ask them what they need and what problems they are currently facing. Whether you are a small or large business you should be looking to get input from heads of department, especially your finance director, sales director and purchasing manager.

This will help you decide the scope of the project, such as whether you simply need a system to supply financial information or whether you want something more sophisticated that can integrate with invoicing, order processing and payroll. It will also clarify if you can simply upgrade or whether you need a completely new system.

Software Appraisal

If you feel daunted by this process it may be worth considering an IT appraisal. This can be carried out by any accountancy firms with specialists trained in accounting assessment. Another option is to call upon an independent IT consultant or a reseller. Either way, it pays to get an external view of your business and its processes from someone who is well-placed to identify the issues and recommend suitable solutions.

Whatever the needs of your business, aim to keep it as simple as possible. Nick Hood, senior partner at insolvency specialists Begbies Traynor, is one of many who advises businesses to err on the side of caution when drawing up your wish list of needs.

Hood believes that most accounts packages will extract information and give you the key figures you need. The thing to think about is the level of sophistication your business actually demands. “You can overdo it. Having too much financial information is worse than not having enough,” he suggests.

So, bear in mind the size and complexity of the reports you want from your software. Fifty pages of data may look impressive, but four or five pages may be sufficient for a regular overview of performance.