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Know Your Software

March 2001 (SmartPros) Technologically savvy accountants are in greater demand than ever before. If you are knowledgeable about the latest offerings in accounting software products, you can help clients with a multitude of tasks, such as automating or upgrading the company's accounting system; turning the company's financial data into concise monthly profit-and-loss statements; managing general ledgers; and developing income projections.

Many businesses rely on their accountants to help achieve their financial goals -- after all, the accountant is usually the person most familiar with the company’s business and finances. Many small businesses use basic accounting programs such as Peachtree and QuickBooks, but larger companies may require more complex and customizable packages such as MAS90 and Great Plains. Often, accountants are called on to run an industry-specific system or to build a customized solution.

Most companies view technology as a valuable tool to help improve revenue and earnings. For instance, when a Virginia company decided to reduce its paper flow, it invested in FileCabinet Solution (FCS), a program that electronically scans and stores documents (such as tax returns) for later retrieval. Installing FCS reduced the need to copy and store voluminous documents in bulky filing cabinets, and the end result for the company was a more efficient and paper-free system of document storage.

Here are some popular accounting software packages now on the market:

  • EPeachtree: a customizable accounting solution package. It combines accounting features with the convenience of the Internet’s around-the-clock availability.
  • Everest Standard Edition: created with small to mid-sized businesses in mind, this software is engineered for every type of industry and operation: e-commerce, retail, wholesale, mail order, distribution, service, etc. It is specifically designed for companies with 1 to 1000 concurrent users on a local or wide area network.
  • Intuit QuickBase: designed for small businesses and corporate workgroups to help improve communications and streamline work flow. It also helps manage projects and keeps the company’s contact list up to date.
  • Some accountants utilize the power of the Web by using integrated business-to-business (B2B) Web stores like Foresight B2B, a product that enables customers to search through inventory, check pricing, order products and arrange for shipping, even as the back-end accounting information is updated automatically.
  • Other accounting firms offer tax organizers to their Web sites. Clients can log on to their accountant’s Web site and input their latest financial information. An example of such a system is NetLedger, an online accounting system that allows accountants to view the system any time.

Never underestimate the importance of having a thorough knowledge of Microsoft Office or an email system, such as Microsoft’s Outlook. In today’s business climate, clients expect to be able to get in touch with their accountants instantaneously.

Accounting firms, especially the large ones, often train new employees in using software packages designed exclusively for their own organizations. KPMG, for example, has developed a number of proprietary software products, including Vector, a program to help auditors structure and document all parts of an audit, and KPMG/1120, a tax program that automatically computes taxable income, among other things.

2001 SmartPros Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

This article updated June 2003.

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