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While the growing choice of software for managing accounts might seem mind-boggling, in some ways it is becoming easier to find the right system to fit your needs—now, and, via upgrade paths and webware solutions, in the future. Helen Bradley sifts generic and specific accounting software options.

Of all the productivity software in an organisation chances are the least lauded but most important is your accounting software. Stored in your business accounting software is the financial history of the company, information on its current financial status and the data you need to steer the company successfully into the future. If your accounting software occupies a back office in your organisation, perhaps it’s time to bring it out, dust it off and give it an annual checkup. As part of this investigation, check that it provides all the information needed and your business processes. If it doesn’t do that, it’s time to look at what other options are available.

When faced with the choice of whether to stay with your existing accounting software or make a change, start by listing what isn’t working with the current system or what could be improved, and then determine the features required in a new accounting system. Only when you understand how your own business processes work, the compromises you’re making with your current accounting system and what you want it to do in the future, can you begin to search for a solution to replace it.

Accounting software is not immune to the changes that have been occurring in the way software is delivered. While accounting software was typically purchased off a retailer’s shelf or through a channel partner who installed and configured the program, there are now new options. One of these is accounting software delivered online as a hosted service. These Software as a Service (SaaS) or ‘webware’ accounting programs differ from programs installed on your own computers by being accessible anywhere, generally via a web browser. Data is typically stored by the hosting site that takes care of the backup and encryption tasks. One benefit of using a hosted software solution is that little configuration is required and upgrades are performed automatically, which is good news for a small business which typically doesn’t have a dedicated IT person. Stuart Bidwell of Oxygen Accounting provides his small business clients with an online bookkeeping service using a hosted service called myworkspace. He says it’s easy for the client to get started, as there is no software to install. "Our staff can work from anywhere, and everyone is working on the same information in real-time, removing the dreaded file-swapping required with traditional software." It’s a solution that can respond quickly for a growing business, and adding new users is a simple matter of purchasing another user licence and configuring their account access.

Open Source is a phenomenon that has been getting a lot of press recently. In this model, the source code that creates the application is available free or on a licence basis that allows the code to be added to and reconfigured without compromising someone else’s copyright. Open Source has the advantage that it is often less expensive than other software, and it can be customised by a programmer so you can build onto the base program to add functionality which is not otherwise available. So, for example, a programmer could build a delivery distribution application utilising the orders data in the accounting database. If your business has special requirements which are not met by standard off-the-shelf software, having the ability to add custom features to your accounting software can be extremely attractive. A similar feature is also available in some boxed accounting software in the form of a Software Development Kit (SDK) which is made available to specialist programmers allowing them to develop add-on solutions for the suite.

For many businesses, the ability for accounting software to grow with the business is critical. While not all applications or features may be required right now, you may want to know that there is more functionality available in your software that you can use as the business grows. Some suites provide this by way of add-on modules, allowing the business to start out with a basic set of general ledger and invoice modules and to later add payroll, manufacturing or other functionality as the business grows. Other developers provide an upgrade path through a series of increasingly more feature-rich programs. So you might start out with a basic cashbook or simple accounting suite and upgrade later to a multi-user version. There are two major advantages in upgrading from one program to another in a developer’s line–you can typically take your data with you, and the programs generally share the same interface so users don’t have to learn a new program.

The market for accounting software is an active one. It’s the single program that every business from a mom and pop store through to a large enterprise needs. There are plenty of developers who have customised international accounting software for the Australian market and others who have developed homegrown solutions. The table below lists a range of accounting software applicable to businesses from SOHO to medium-size enterprises. While the list is not exhaustive it gives an indication of the range available now. Before making a move to a new program thoroughly test it with your data and processes to ensure it is a good fit. This is made easier by the fact that most programs have trial versions allowing you to run them in parallel to your existing systems as you evaluate them. In most cases, if you choose to move to the new program the data that has been entered can be ported across to the full version so the effort put into double entering of data is not wasted.

What’s in the box




Delivery mode


QuickBooks 2007/2008 range


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Most options available for purchase outright or by annual subscription.

Ranges from QuickBooks EasyStart (RRP $129) to QuickBooks Enterprise 20 -150 employees (subscription: $4500 first year, $2500 thereafter).

Vista compatible.

Complies with Work Choices and Super Choice.

Free 12-month membership to Advance program, unlimited technical phone support.

Customer payment solution.

Online banking.

Compatible with Bill Express allowing multiple options for invoice payment.

Installs on your computers. Some features are delivered using an interface to the internet.

The range includes products for SOHO and small businesses through to enterprises with 20 to 150 employees (and up to 10 simultaneous users) requiring multi-company and multi-currency functionality.

Myworkspace from ibCom


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$33.00 per user per month including GST. Accounting add-on $27.50 per user per month including GST (excess data usage fees may apply).

Web-based system combining accounting, customer relationship management (CRM), messaging, e-commerce and business management. Accounting option includes general ledger, invoices, expenses, payments and receipts, payroll, BAS tool, bank reconciliation, budgeting and reporting.

Delivered online via WebCentral – can be accessed by any internet device such as PC, Mac, PDA, mobile phone.

Suitable for organisation that needs an application accessible from anywhere and one that incorporates other functionality such as CRM and e-commerce all in the one interface and one database.



Free for up to 10 Transactions per month.

Business $15.00 per month ($7.50 per additional user).

E-commerce $45.00 per month ($15 per additional user).

Multi-user Accounting system suitable for Mac, PC or Linux.

BAS statements, group certificates,

inventory for stock and assembly,

automatic backups done daily and automatic upgrades.

Includes timesheets, invoicing, payroll, contacts, reporting and tracking, document storage, email support, web services.

Online on demand Accounting application accessible via an internet browser.

Small to medium size Business with or without e-commerce needs. Business with users needing access to business data from anywhere.

Also suitable for a business requiring add- on functionality as the developer can build custom solutions if required.



Sold via solution providers.

Fully integrated suite including sales force automation, CRM e-commerce and accounting/ERP. Accounting options include financials, order fulfillment, purchasing, inventory, time and billing, payroll, web presence and employee self- service.

SaaS – web-based delivery.


Scalable solution for a business requiring web access. Suitable for small businesses up to a larger enterprise.

Some add-on vertical market modules will appeal to businesses with specialist needs.



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Ranges from Business Basics (RRP $149.00) to Myob Premiere ($1,495.00).

Features vary according to solution e.g., Just Invoices offers automated invoicing.

MYOB Premiere offers multi-user interface, integrated payroll, inventory, time billing and multi-currency support.

Mac versions include MYOB FirstEdge and AccountEdge Vertical market solutions are available for POS, hospitality, and specialist industries such as building and construction, childcare, legal.

Boxed software or download for installation on your computers.

Some features are accessible over the internet.

Suitable for any business from a sole proprietor to an enterprise with multi-users.

The vertical market options provide out of the box specialist solutions for a range of business types.

Symbol (Surf your money books online)



Free (some licence restrictions apply).

Double entry accounting accessible via a web browser.

Includes debtors, creditors, payroll, timesheets, budgeting and multi-dimensional accounting.

Source code can be downloaded from Sourceforge.net.

Business committed to using Open Source software and which has access to an IT specialist able to configure and support the application.

Acclaim Cashbook Complete


Cashbook Lite $90.00, Cashbook Complete $180.00

Cashbook, GST returns, invoicing and budgets.

Project tracking, quotes, timesheets.

Can handle up to five concurrent users.

Runs on Windows 2000 and XP.

Internet download.

Suitable for a small business where there is no accounting professional and where simplicity, functionality and ease of use are primary requirements.

Cash Flow Manager


$249.00 including GST

Up to $495 with additional invoice and wages modules.

Cashbook program with bank and cash reconciliation, ability to export to Solution 6, Cee Data, MYOB, etc.

Online help and calculator, reports, trial balance, etc.

Three months free support.

Boxed solution which installs on your computers.

Suitable as an entry level accounting package for a small to medium size business with no inventory needs.

SAP Business One


Sold via a dealer network.

Scalable accounting solution with a wizard to automate material requirements planning, management controls and alerts, integrates with Outlook to synchronise calendars, contacts and tasks. Includes CRM, operations and distribution, administration and reporting, and e-commerce modules.

Runs on Windows XP and 2000.

Via dealer network, the application runs on a local Windows-based machine.

Small to mid-size companies requiring a single solution to automate critical business operations.



Priced according to solution chosen. Purchasable through partner network.

Enterprise-wide accounting and business system. Modules available for GL, purchasing, order entry, AP/AR, inventory control, Project and job costing, multi- currency.

Pro series supports Linux and includes customisation tools – and full source code availability.

Choice of web accessible software or a boxed version that installs on your computers.

A hosted solution is also available.

Suitable for small business to large multinationals and government.

Customisation options make it appropriate
to an enterprise needing custom written add-ons.



Attache Fast Track Plan is a monthly subscription service.

Pricing varies by number of modules and can be obtained from an Attache consultant or Attache direct.

The flagship product Business Partner includes accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, advanced stock control, customer orders and pricing, GST reporting and multi-user compatibility. Catapult is Business Partner with a different interface.

An Attache solution can be custom-built by purchasing select modules.

Product supplied by Attache or Attache Partners.

Suitable for small to mid-size businesses. Particularly appropriate for wholesalers, distributors and businesses with demanding inventory requirements.

Money Works


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MoneyWorks Cashbook – $225 inc GST, MoneyWorks, Gold – $895 inc GST ($300 per additional user).

Cross platform solution that runs on Windows 2000, XP or Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later. MoneyWorks Gold 5 incorporates multi- currency support, cash book and general ledger with departments, purchasing and sales orders, AR, AP, contact management, product database, inventory control, job costing and time billing, custom reporting, sales analysis, forms design, multi-user, networking and access control.

Boxed solution.

For any business using Mac computers.

Suitable for any small business through to medium-size business which does not require integrated payroll.

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