Better Work With Better Tools

Better Work With Better Tools

I am constantly in search of good tools. Maybe it relates to my early days in the construction trades. Good tools make the job easier and the results better. Without sounding like a software sales pitchman, I am constantly impressed with Intuit’s QuickBooks software (QB). It is a mature, versatile software tool backed by millions of dollars of software development and a large user base. After rebates and other sales promotions a copy is generally less than $200. What a deal!

An accountant can do almost anything with this software package. It can be used as client write up software. After a quick set up or better yet a developed standard set up, an accountant can record, manipulate and format client information. Pieces of incoherent information or random unrelated numbers quickly become useable client information. Some people use old standby client write up packages. The problem is that many are meeting their demise by going out of business or being absorbed by a larger company which no longer supports DOS applications. What nerve. Others use a Microsoft Excel template to capture client information. My office has tested the worksheet technique as well; when all is said and done it would have been easier and more efficient to do the work in QB. Its established format and underlying rules don’t require writing formulas and then chasing those ever present formula errors, unless you always wanted to be a programmer. Fact is, QB works.

Another great use is to keep your own books. It is easy to use by all levels of staff and administrators. Of course its flexibility, one of its strengths, can also be a weakness, if not properly managed. Proper guidelines and responsible users are a must.

One use that I am growing to like ever more is the time tracking and billing feature. In the very early days my firm started tracking time on electronic worksheets. That worked for a short time but was not very effective. Quickly we moved to Timeslips, a seasoned and widely distributed time tracking software package. It has an enormous number of reports that can be generated, and almost anything can be tracked. Great, but we found that it was not very user friendly. We began taking more and more accounting staff time to run a reporting system that I wanted to be managed primarily by the administrative staff. Well maybe the problem was the quality of our administrative staff. I tested it on two administrative staff and one newer accountant. All came to the same conclusion. The system was too difficult to use. Not wanting to apply high level help to a task, which in my mind should be able to be handled by my crack administrative staff, I went in search of a better solution. Since we had been using QB for years why hadn’t we tested the time and billing portion of the software? We were always too busy. Well, now the opportunity was squarely in front of us. We set up and tested and retested. Finally 10 months ago we launched live. The results exceeded my expectations. The billing process is now being managed at the administrative level and more efficiently and effectively than before. I was happy once again. In addition the billing software has a feature where billings can be issued electronically. Now I am very happy. A streamlined more effective process that eliminates paper, what a deal!

Another area of use is client applications. Many clients do not have adequate accounting software. QB provides a low cost solution and is quick to set up. With some training and oversight a disciplined person can capture and record large quantities of information. The key is proper software set up and establishment of process.

Many companies lack an adequate cost tracking system. They don’t know how much their product or service actually costs. Not good. That does not mean that they do not have accounting software, they usually have a bunch of it. Many times the modules are proudly displayed on the shelf but never loaded on the computer, other times the software is loaded but never implemented due to complexity or lack of time of qualified staff. Most of this software was written in a different era using a different architecture. Time moves on, and clever programmers have figured out a better way to manage data and information. The providers of the older programs have attempted to convert and upgrade but many did not work well. Others rewrote the software and attempted to move into the present century, but it was usually costly for both the software company and the user.

One can implement an effective cost tracking system in QB that helps management see what things cost very cost effectively compared to the alternatives. Most company managers think they need that more powerful bigger and more expensive software package. Based on my experience, most companies would be better off implementing software that is easily managed, serves the basic needs and is something the staff can actually use versus buying something because their competitors use that software. These decisions are fear based vs. fact based.

I have received and fielded numerous comments that QB will not do this and that. Most statements are not true. QB will not do many things because the user does not know how to apply or use the software. I prefer to identify the client’s most difficult needs up front and then see if the need can be solved directly or if a work around can be developed. Our success rate is good. There are some things that QB will not do, then the client has to evaluate that need and determine its worth. If the $200 software package will not thoroughly address that issue and there is a $25,000 package that will; time for management to think this over again. On one of our projects we are replacing an accounting system that the client claims to have over $100,000 invested, with a nicely set up QB installation. An excellent value. QuickBooks has numerous other uses, but this should be enough to get you interested.

In summary, this accounting software package is a good basic tool that most accounting professionals should become familiar with and use in their practice as well as use to solve client needs. The more familiar you become with QB, the more applications you begin to see. QB has captured an immense share of the accounting software market and has become a common lingo among accountants. It takes time to really learn the software but the investment is worth it. It is not a do-all end-all software package but its uses are quite broad. It will not do all things, but as I say to my clients “it’s a $200 accounting software package, what do you expect for $200?” Most all agree it is worth many times the price if properly used.