Choosing the right accountancy software package for your company begins with analysing your needs. Only then should you start to research the various solutions on offer. Typically, you will have to buy your software through a reseller, but there are a number of criteria to work through.

First, check out which packages are tailored for your type of business and which are the most commonly used. Most vendors may say their solutions are suited to all businesses, but many have strengths in supplying and servicing different sectors, so it is worth identifying those packages your suppliers, if not main rivals, already use and feel comfortable with.

Microsoft’s Veda Snyman says there is nothing to stop you calling up the vendor and asking for customer references and case studies from businesses like yours.

Criteria

Carrying our research online should be your first port of call and we'd suggest checking out Account Web from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), as it readily lists accredited packages that have been evaluated using a series of common criteria.

Once armed with your research you are ready to find a vendor. For most growing businesses this will mean going to a reseller or value added reseller who will sell, supply and install the package you decide to buy. For any software you are considering you should talk to users and, if the software's still on your shortlist, get a demo.

Make sure the demonstration includes the most common processes your business needs so you can see it in action. If your supplier has arranged for you to visit a site that uses the software don't just to listen to the sales spin, chat to the people at the keyboards. Ask how easy the system is to use, maintain and how easy it is to get a response should a problem or fault arise. 

Avoid simply asking the sales person what the software does. Find out what functions a product can offer that will simplify or improve your current processes. Think about what functions you'd like your system to offer and then find out whether there's software to match.

Finally, while it pays to think about your immediate needs, we'd also suggest thinking about the mid- to long-term. How easy will the chosen package be to upgrade, and is it ready scaleable to grow with your business? After all, you don't want to have to go through the process of changing accountancy software more than once.