2017 Accounting Software
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Canstar Blue reviews and rates accounting software providers, with Xero, Intuit Quickbooks and MYOB compared on value for money, customer service, ease of use, ease of integration, reporting, other functions and overall accounting satisfaction.
Canstar Blue research finalised in July 2017, published in July 2017.
Xero makes it three years at the top for accounting software
In the world of business – especially small business – time is just as important a commodity as money. That’s why having effective and easy to use accounting software is important in saving your business on both fronts. The best accounting software can help your business perform as efficiently as possible. But are you getting the best tools, service and value possible with your current suite?
Running a small business is no mean feat, and if you’re a financial layperson, jumping into the world of invoices, payslips, taxes and financial jargon can prove overwhelming. This is where accounting software can come in and ultimately save a headache or two! But accounting software needs to be easy to use, effective and provide great value for money, so which providers are doing the best job?
At Canstar Blue, we annually review accounting software providers in Australia by surveying hundreds of small business owners and operators. We ask them to rate the software they use based on a variety of important factors, including ease of use, functionality, customer service and value for money. Over the last three years, a common theme has emerged from the research, with Xero rated higher than Intuit Quickbooks and MYOB across most categories, including overall customer satisfaction. While there are a few smaller accounting software providers out there that may be worth considering, only the ‘big three’ received enough survey responses to be directly rated. Other notable results in 2017 included:
- Five stars for MYOB for reporting
- Five stars for Intuit Quickbooks for other functions
If you’re new to accounting software, you may be wondering what it actually does – and what you can do with it – so let’s get a rundown before looking more closely at the big providers.
What does accounting software do?
An account management software platform does more than just create fancy pie charts and graphs – it could transform your business. Amongst other things, accounting software does the following:
- Accept payments and other POS reports
- Provide business performance dashboards
- GST and tax reporting
- Monitor payroll
- Expense claims
- Quotes and purchase orders
Some platforms even allow you to manage all of this in different currencies. If your business spans more than one country, this could be especially useful!
Accounting software basically takes your paper-based accounting and transfers it to a digitised platform, where you can keep everything in one place, and see all your accounting history in only a few clicks. And of course it’s available to use on mobile and tablet, as well as desktop.
A startling 44% of survey respondents claimed they enjoy the paperwork associated with running their business. However, it seems the majority enjoyed the transition to digital accounting, so what value can accounting software provide to a small business, and how much does it cost?
How much does account management software cost?
This depends on what platform you decide to go with, and what packages you purchase, with the more in-depth packages for larger businesses generally attracting much higher prices. However, you might be surprised at how cheap accounting software can be. Often, it will be subscription-based, rather than one large upfront charge. Further, these costs may even be tax deductible as accounting expenses!
- Plans start at around $15 a month for a lot of platforms, but with this you may only get limited features and functionality
- More in-depth plans cost more – with this you usually get more in-depth analysis and features, with the ability to account for 10 or more employees
- The dearest plans with all the accounting bells and whistles cost more than $120 a month
There is evidently a huge spread in pricing for accounting software. If you’re a larger business, you can expect to pay more, while sole traders likely face the cheapest costs. But can you put a price on having your business 100% above board?
How important is accounting software?
In short, accounting software can be hugely important for your small business, if our survey respondents are anything to go by.
- 81% said accounting software is critical to their business
- 87% said the software makes business operations easier
- 62% said their accounting software contributes to their business growth
Interestingly, 54% said their software was recommended to them by their accountant, and this matchup likely promotes autonomy between business owners and their accountants, for easy reporting. 47% also said their professional accounting fees have fallen since purchasing accounting software. So not only is accounting software a convenient aid for running your business, it’s also a potential money-saver.
Accounting software features to consider
If you’re looking at purchasing accounting software, chances are you will want it to be easy to use, our research suggests. It identified the following drivers of customer satisfaction:
- Ease of use: 30%
- Value for money: 21%
- Reporting quality: 18%
- Customer service (i.e. enquiries & problem resolution): 12%
- Ease of integration: 12%
- Other functions (inventory, POS, time tracking, billing, payroll etc): 8%
Ultimately though, the best accounting software will tick all of these boxes.
Accounting software providers
Xero has arguably the most straightforward accounting software plans of the three, with prices starting at just $25 per month, with which you can make five invoices and quotes, enter five bills, make 20 bank transactions and do payroll for one employee. The other plans are $50 and $60 a month, with which you obviously stand to receive more. With the $60 plan, you can choose how many people to do payroll for, with prices adjusted accordingly. After 100 employees, the price is $2 extra per person, and you also get auto-superannuation included. Xero is available across all digital platforms, and free trials are offered if you want to have a play before signing up. Xero rated top marks for overall customer satisfaction and in every other research category in 2017, except for other functions where it was still rated a respectable four stars.
Intuit Quickbooks offers some of the cheapest accounting software plans out there, starting at around $15 a month, up to $25 a month. With Quickbooks you can create customised invoices and reports, and use it on the go with a mobile app. Quickbooks frequently provides discounts on its plans, so it probably doesn’t hurt to shop around. Quickbooks was a solid performer for overall satisfaction, but was a mixed bag in other research categories in 2017. It was rated four stars overall, but notably was rated only three for customer service and ease of integration, yet was rated five stars in terms of other functions.
MYOB tends to have the largest range of plans available, which is great for whittling down the right one for your business, but could also confuse new potential customers. In its small business plans, there are generally four categories – Essentials, AccountRight, and AccountEdge. Plans for Essentials and AccountRight tiers start at $40 and $92 a month respectively, while AccountEdge is a one-off software purchase for Mac users, starting at $549 and costing up to $3,599. ‘On The Go’ is a free app included with Essentials or AccountRight plans, and allows you to make sure everything is above board while on the move. MYOB was a solid performer overall in 2017, rating four stars across most research categories. However, it was notably the recipient of five stars in regards to reporting.
Other accounting software platforms
There were three brands in this year’s ratings, but there are several others that may be worth a look at, including:
- Reckon: Provides a free trial and plans start at just $5 a month, with a free mobile app included
- MoneyWorks: A platform by Cognito, MoneyWorks provides a free 45 day trial with four tiers of plans, starting at a flat fee of $450
No matter which accounting software platform you decide to go with, it pays to do your research – your entire business could end up depending on it. If done right, accounting software can be a powerful tool to maximise returns and easily manage all financial goings-on in your business. It’s not necessarily about which provider delivers the cheapest prices, rather it’s about the plan that’s best for you and how much value you can get from it.
Frequently asked questions
Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 800 Australian small business owners or decision makers (i.e. the main decision maker for the small business) across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group whose business pays for an accounting software account that they have used for work purposes within the past year – in this case, 396 small business owners/decision makers.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.