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Choosing a computerised accounts package

Picking the right accounting software for your practice can be a difficult decision to make – accountant Rosemary Smith has some advice

By Rosemary Smith

Picking the right accounting software for your practice can be a difficult decision to make – accountant Rosemary Smith has some advice

Choosing the right accountancy package for your practice is not easy. Choose the wrong one and you could end up with your practice manager and staff spending more time pulling their hair out in front of an over-complicated computer package than getting on with the smooth running of your practice. And, if it goes really wrong, you could end up spending a lot of time with your accountant fixing mistakes.

Ask around

Talk to your practice manager to find out their requirements. See if they know other practice managers they can ask about the systems they use and what they like and dislike about them.

Get your colleagues involved too. Sit down with everyone and look at the mechanics of data entry and reports they are already doing.

Talk to your accountant

Accountants will often change their fee scale depending on what system you use.

If this is the case, ask them to explain why – this may tell you more about the systems too. However, the most important consideration is whether you find the system comfortable, regardless of what others recommend. After all, you will be using it every week, whereas your accountant will use it once a year.

After talking to your practice manager, staff and accountant, you should begin to think about what you want the system to be able to do. Consider the following:

• Are you VAT registered?

• Do you have to issue a large number of invoices for services?

• What monthly reports do you want your system to give you?

• Do you have more than one site and would you like to split the costs and income?

• Do you have a large number of bank accounts?

• Do you want an integrated payroll system?

• Is cost an issue?

• Have you used many accounts packages or are you new to them?

Then look through the table and mark the things you feel are important.

Choose a system

If you are already on manual records, most people find Iris the easiest option. Essentially it is a computerised spreadsheet and you can see everything, which is where it differs from the other two.

Iris is designed by doctors for doctors so all the codes are relevant and can be adjusted to meet your requirements. It is easy to reconcile to the bank as it has a facility to download bank statements directly.

Some people are not happy if their system will not show a trial balance and prefer the reporting aspects of QuickBooks and Sage, which have far more reports available. But often people struggle to understand which one they will need – and like a dishwasher often only a couple of programs are ever used.

All the systems can be customised, but the most important thing to remember is to seek help with the set-up and coding.

If this is right you will get the right information out – but if the coding system is wrong it will let you down.

Rosemary Smith is senior manager at accountant Whittingham Riddell

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