With VAT coming into play, it is important to switch to an integrated platform that gives businesses error-free accounting Image Credit: Shutterstock

Highlights

Choosing the right accounting software can be a complex business. We've got 9 tips to help you make the right choice

The buzzword in the UAE appears to be VAT-ready. But is your business ready for it? And what about the one tool that will be crucial for a smooth transition – your accounting software? With VAT coming into play on January 1, it has become imperative to switch to an end-to-end integrated platform that gives businesses error-free accounting, hassle-free tax filing and visibility into their order and fulfilment processes. For example, cloud-based accounting software provider Zoho Books has been among the first to integrate these features and offer a UAE-tailored special edition. If you are in the market looking for the right accounting software for VAT, here is a guide to help you choose the right one:

Mobility

A good cloud-based accounting software travels with you. You can easily access it from wherever you are, using whatever device is handy – whether it is the swanky new iPhone X or a PC.

Mobility across devices is important for a good cloud-based accounting software Image Credit: Supplied

So test the mobile apps along with the desktop version on as many devices as possible. Check if the design scales gracefully and automatically adjusts to various screen sizes, ratios and resolutions, making it a pleasure to use on phones, tablets, laptops or even huge 4K displays.

User interface and navigation

A powerful accounting software packs in all the important features customers might need, and yet keeps the layout clean and the navigation simple. If you end up hunting for functions that you remember seeing somewhere in the software, or are regularly forced to read the documentation, then your time might be better spent looking for an alternative that has an intuitive and intelligent grouping of features. It should even let you turn off modules you will not be using, further simplifying the user interface.

Automation

The less time you spend on your accounting tasks, the more time you will get to manage other parts of your business.

The best software automates and handles the number crunching Image Credit: Supplied

The best software automates time-consuming and tedious tasks, handles number crunching, data analysis, manages inventory stocks and damaged goods, efficiently generates invoices and estimates, sends reminders for outstanding payments and even does financial reconciliation – which earlier meant spending hours poring over spreadsheets to match business transactions with your bank records.

Powerful dashboard

Business owners and CEOs would appreciate an accounting tool that gives them a real-time, bird’s eye-view on the health of their business. This would include insightful graphs that capture cash flow, income and expense, total receivables and payables, bank and credit cards status, ongoing projects and top expenses.

A good accounting tool gives a real-time, bird’s eye-view on the business Image Credit: Supplied

The software allows users to reorder the graphs, remove the less important ones, while also offering dozens of themes or styles. And for a deeper dive, detailed reports and in-depth insights would be just a click away.

Security

With incidents of cyberattacks and data theft rising dramatically in recent years, the accounting software – especially if it is cloud-based – must guarantee that your data is safe and beyond the reach of hackers.

Keeping your data is safe and beyond the reach of hackers is a must Image Credit: Supplied

Ask for these security features at the data centre: 24x7 video surveillance and security guards, biometric and two-factor authentication of those entering the premises, regular screening of the servers for viruses and intrusion attempts, use of a sliced-down operating system that minimises vulnerabilities, 256-bit SSL encryption of data, and geo mirroring for backup, disaster recovery and business continuity.

Change management

The accounting software has to be robust and flexible enough to accommodate an organisation’s changing priorities, processes and people. It should offer a laundry list of tweaks and customisations, so that the organisation can modify it to neatly fit into the new workflow – rather than fiddling with the workflow to make it fit the software. If multiple users are going to access it, the accounting software needs to be able to define roles and access levels – for example, contractors may only need to tap into projects and the time tracker, while your accountant might require deeper access to the data.

Customer support and outreach

Since the accounting software will be a key backbone of your business, it needs to be backed by efficient and reliable customer support – via email, live chat, phone or social media. The better software developers will also keep the conversation going through regularly updated YouTube videos, social media posts and blogs that not only talk about what is happening at the company but also in the industry. For example, Zoho Books has curated an online collection of articles and FAQs about the introduction of VAT in the UAE.

Tapping into the ecosystem

A modern accounting software is like a multi-tentacled beast that reaches out to, and leverages, third-party tools and services, including office suites, cloud storage providers, payment gateways and bank feeds. And extra marks if it also taps into the powerful Zapier software integration platform, which enables access to more than 750 apps. Similarly, such an accounting package will let other apps hook up with it by offering industry-standard APIs (application programming interface) – this in turn expands what users can do with the software.

Shiny new features

Like your business, a good accounting software constantly evolves, fixing bugs, fine-tuning the layout and speeding up the workflow. It not only strives for feature parity with its major competitors but also surges ahead with a unique set of capabilities – while offering all this at a competitive price. Besides, given the global nature of many businesses, the accounting software will support all major languages, currencies or exchange rates. The supporting documentation will stay in sync with the changes – a common source of user frustration are help files offering descriptions of scenarios that no longer exist.

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