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What Is Enterprise Accounting and Financials?

By sheer installed applications, entry-level financial apps such as Intuit QuickBookshave the numbers when it comes to accounting software. The scales have tipped even further towards that end of the spectrum with the rash of cloud-based accounting programs such as Freshbooks entering the market. But, while QuickBooks and its ilk are excellent for a wide variety of businesses, they're most often associated with small to midsize businesses (SMBs). That's a key reason they're so popular. Another reason is that they're relatively easy to set up and use. But SMB software generally only gets you so far. Once a business reaches a certain point, especially when it starts doing business internationally, it needs more from its accounting system.

Rather than relegate this review to midsize businesses only, for the purposes of this roundup, we'll use the increasingly more popular segment description "SME software"—small to midsizeenterpriseaccounting. And the metric we'll use to determine if a particular accounting system falls into this strata is its ability to handle complex business functions.

More Than Just Bookkeeping

The reason for using this particular approach is simple: Over the past decade or so, business has changed dramatically. With the internet fostering global sales, inventories in multiple locations and countries, and a bewildering mélange of currencies and taxes, even a company with just a few employees can require the sort of financial system complexity once reserved solely for multibillion dollar multinationals. Those multinationals could afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on IT and financial system acquisition, implementation, and support on an ongoing basis, but most SMEs cannot.

The goal of SME software is to present a good portion of this capability at a price and usability a modest-sized business can afford. In this review roundup, we test 10 SME accounting systems that, for the most part, exist in the cloud, either as managed services or hosted systems. Many of the financial systems we reviewed are actually parts of larger suites, including additional modules covering a wide variety of functionality such as customer relationship management (CRM), business intelligence (BI), project management, data mining, financial reporting, complex budgeting and forecasting, and any number of other areas. For that reason, we had to limit what we looked at and, for now, we stuck with general ledger accounting. Look for us to examine some of these other modules in more detail in an upcoming roundup covering SME enterprise resource planning (ERP) apps.


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