What Accountancy Software is best for you?

Business Planning and Reporting

Accountancy Software 2015 Review l Lee Manning, Partner, Raffingers Stuart Things have come a long way since the old manual ledgers and red cash books.
With over 30 years of experience Lee Manning, Partner at Raffingers Stuart, has seen many pieces of accountancy software come and go. Here he reviews two of the most popular pieces of software today and the difference they have made to his clients.

Let’s get to it, in your opinion, what is the best accountancy software?
If you asked me this question a few years ago, the answer would be notably Sage 50. Sage 50 has been around for a long time and so everyone is trained on it, as a consequence we, as accountants, feel more confident recommending the software as it is something we know. However, in the last two years Xero has completely changed the way we think (well how I think anyway). It is extremely easy to use, which has resulted in more and more of my clients moving to the software, slowly outnumbering those on Sage 50, in our practice anyway. With Xero my clients can take control, which has actually meant I have become more of a consultant, using my time to advise my clients rather than spending my time processing, which is required with Sage 50.

What has brought about this change?
Advances in technology. Everyone now has a mobile and/or tablet; therefore, with Xero being on the cloud and mobile compliant, it is more flexible and fits in with today’s lifestyle. Information can be analysed on the go and the platform is extremely user friendly. There are also numerous add-ons that can be used alongside Xero and it is constantly evolving. Even today, it was announced that from 5th March 2015 payroll can now be processed through Xero. This feature includes instant RTI reporting to HMRC and is auto enrolment compliant, which is going to be a huge plus for many of my clients. It is great to be able to recommend software that, at the moment at least, seems to be keeping up with today’s business demands.

What would you define as the key benefits for each?
As previously mentioned, with Xero it is the flexibility. There are so many add-ons that can be taken advantage of, such as Receipt Bank (removing the need for manual entry of receipts), CrunchBoards (allowing for visual monitoring of businesses data for tracking and forecasting) and Vend (POS and inventory software allowing for sales, products and customers to be easily viewed) that the software can be tailored to any business.
Also, not forgetting the fact that, Xero uses live bank feeds, which means the data can be trusted and is instantly up-to-date with minimum effort required. My clients love the fact that they can log-in to the system at any time and on any day and have instant access to their figures.
Sage 50 on the other hand is the industry standard. It has been around for a long time and so has a pronounced reputation in the industry; I know it is used by many businesses based on this fact alone. It is also efficient, adaptable and, similarly to Xero, ‘bolt-ons’ can be added to tailor the system to the specific needs of the client.
Sage has the reputation and trust among businesses and remains a great piece of software.

How about the limitations?
Both have very few limitations as with the ‘add-ons’ and ‘bolt-ons’ most obstacles can easily be overcome. Xero has a very user-friendly dashboard, which means no experience is really needed. With the in-depth training videos anyone can pick up the software and get started. However, this does mean that a lot of larger companies with in-house bookkeepers do not see the need for it. Although, I can see this changing over time; already I have a client with a £5m turnover that absolutely loves Xero and moved away from Sage, saving them literally hours in processing time every day. Sage 50 is slightly more complex. To make the most of it I would suggest you need bookkeeping experience, which is why I recommend the software more to larger clients that have the bookkeeping capabilities in-house.

What is the best ‘add-on’ / ‘bolt-on’?
Without a doubt, it has to be CrunchBoards with Xero. As soon as I show this feature to my clients it is wanted immediately. It has the ability to organise data into visual graphs and tables to allow for KPIs to be monitored easily, instant analysis of data and accurate forecasting. It does all of this at the click of button, using the live data from Xero and the businesses bank feeds. This means any director; trustee or manager can see the information they need, without the timely process of collecting and downloading the latest data and inputting it into Excel spreadsheets.

So, which piece of software do you recommend?
There is no one straight answer. As with anything, it all depends on the individual client’s needs and capabilities. Sage 50 has the reputation and is a great system for larger companies. However, more and more I find myself recommending Xero as the capabilities of the system are expanding constantly. All I can say is watch this space.