Posts

How to choose accounting software

How to choose accounting software

Are you looking for new accounting software?  Do you need help in making that decision?

You could be a start-up or you could be a mature business who realises that your existing accounting software isn’t doing what you need it to do.

Many businesses get recommendations from their accountant.  In some cases, the accountant recommends something that suits the accountant but may not suit the client or else may be a solution that works well for another client but may not be right for a different business.

It would be better to identify what you need and then compare the options before deciding what to buy.  You are likely to have this software for a long time so you don’t want to have regrets.

Over the course of my career in industry, consulting and in accounting practice, I have done a lot of work helping both small and large companies, select and implement accounting and operations software.

If you are a startup or smaller business, you may think that you don’t have a lot of choice – you will just have to buy a cheap solution.  That’s not the case.  Even in the most basic, entry level software, there are differences that could make life easier or more difficult and it’s better to understand what you need and what the various packages offer.

In this article, I will guide you through the approach that I use in helping clients identify the accounting software that is best for them.   I focus on a few key areas.

Integrated or Standalone Accounting Software

The first question relates to any other software that you already have in your business.  If you have software to manage your operations – whether that be manufacturing, distribution, retail or something else – then you should investigate if there is already an accounting package that will easily work with your operations software. For this situation, that will usually be the best solution.

Accounting software is now a mature product and core functionality is common to many packages.  I feel strongly that accounting software should support the business.  For this reason, a key philosophy to adopt is to let the needs of the business determine the type of accounting software needed.

I am going to assume that most readers of this post will be looking for a standalone package.  Finding accounting to suit different operations software will be much pretty much specific to each business

Accounting software functionality

The key area to spend time on is functionality – what I mean by that is getting clear on what you want the software to do.  Every business is different and different owner managers can differ slightly in how they run the business so you need functionality to support what is needed.

Sales

How do you make sales?  Do you have specific items that you sell repeatedly or do you have large one-off unique items?  Do you buy and sell in one currency or do you buy and sell in many currencies and need to manage foreign exchange?  Do you have repeat or recurring invoices where it would be good to automate the repeating elements.

Creating Sales Quotes

Do you create quotes for customers which you hope will be converted to sales invoices later on?  If you need that and the system can support it, just how easy is it to do.

Purchases Invoices

The requirements here can be similar but opposite to sales invoices.  Can you have recurring invoices?  Do you manage specific parts and will you be buying by part number?  Will you have to use your suppliers part numbers or you own in-house part numbers.

Purchase Orders

Do you want to create purchases orders and match these to supplier invoices as they are received?

Completing Bank Reconciliations

Most systems support bank reconciliations now.  How well is that done?  Can you import the bank statements into the accounting software to automate the reconciliation?  What sort of reports are available?

Tracking Stock items

Do you want to track stock items ie the system keeps track of stock and each sale will reduce stock while purchases will increase stock?  Will you want reports showing items on hand and the value for those items.

VAT Compliance

How well does the accounting system handle VAT?  Can it handle both allowable ways of handling VAT – the cash basis or the invoice basis?  What about invoices that come in late – ie June invoice that comes in after the June VAT return has been submitted? Are they treated properly?

Is there good reporting and a good trail to support a VAT audit if required?

Tracking margins on sales

Does your business have fixed cost prices for each item sold which would allow you to calculate margin either by invoice or by line item within invoice.

Supporting Budgeting

Do you want to set budgets and then compare actuals to budgets.

Importing and Exporting Data

Do you want to import data from other systems. For example, import your bank statements or import a listing of sales invoices for other software.  Maybe you have time tracking software for service personnel and you want to link that to your accounts.

Do you want to be able to export data – maybe for analysis in excel?

Locking Accounting Transactions

When you have finalised your accounts you don’t want late transactions to get added into closed accounting periods.  Will you be able to lock transactions once you have finalised the accounts for a specific accounting period.?

Accounting for Jobs or Departments

Do you want to gather income and/or costs by jobs or by departments?  For example, a building conractor might want to be able to see the revenue and costs for each individual job.   On the other hand, a larger business may want to report on costs by department – maybe sales, manufacturing, distribution, admin etc.

Creating/Restoring Backups

Things can, and do, go wrong so do you want to make makeups and be able to restore those backups.  How easy is that?  Where will be backups be stored?

Remote Access

Will you want to give anyone remote access – an employee at another site or maybe your external accountant?  How easy is to do this?

Financial Reporting

What sort of reports do you want?  The basic reporting includes Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet and Lists of customer balances and supplier balances.

Do you want to have flexibility on reporting periods?   Do you want to be able to compare actual with budget or actual with equivalent period last year?  Do you want to give department managers figures only for their own department?

Drill down in reports

A very useful feature that many, but not all, accounting software has is the ability to drill down when working with reports.

For example, if I am reviewing a Profit and Loss, I might think the travel amount looks high.  With drill down, I can click on the travel number and it will open up a new window which will show me the makeup of the number.  I may be able to drill down on a number in that window and eventually drill all the way down to the lowest level transactions that make up the total number

I find that a very useful feature and would be reluctant to work with software that doesn’t does it well.

Correcting Transaction Errors

If you do find something wrong, how easy is it to correct?

Some systems will not let you edit a transaction, instead forcing you to enter a reversing transaction and then a new transactions.  I find this very cumbersome and it clutters up the database.

How easy is it to distribute accounting reports from the system.

Can you email them?  Can you export them to excel or csv formats?  Can you push them out to pdf or MS word?

Audit Trails

If somebody does something wrong, can you easily find out what happened and can you identify the user responsible so that you can train in how to do it right?

Does the system provide an audit trail that can be queried by date, by user or by account type?

How does the system handle Accounting Periods

How does the system deal with the end of an accounting period?

Most modern systems are date driven but some older systems are period (month) driven.  The problem with the older systems is that you may be still finalising last year but cannot move on properly to the new year until last year is fully closed off.  It just makes reporting for the first few months more difficult until the last period is closed off.

 

There is a lot of features listed above.  They may not all be relevant to you.  What you need to do iis to look at your own business and understand what functionality your business needs and then you need to match that to what the software delivers.

User Experience

How easy will it be for users to work with the system?  If its awkward or cumbersome, users will find it harder to work with and this can lead to inefficiencies.

What do the screens look like?  How easy is it to navigate around the system?  The only way to know this is to play around with the system.   Talk to other people who are using the system, if you can.

Does it look like you would need to be an accountant to use it or is it easy to use, with little or no jargon.  Will you be able to run your favourite reports or will you always have to rely on accounts staff?

Quality and Form of Support available

What happens if you have a query or something goes wrong?  Is support readily available?  Is this support by telephone or by email? How much does it cost?  How responsive are they – will you be long waiting?

Cost of Ownership

When buying any software, you should always consider how long you will have it and what it will cost over that time-period.

Typically, you would want to have it for at least 5 years. What will the total cost of ownership be?

This will be made up of the upfront cost.  Then add in support cost over the full life of the software.   Will you have to invest in additional modifications or customisations?  Will you have to invest in additional hardware?  Will there be obligatory updates that you will have to buy?

Add up all of these costs to determine the total cost of ownership for the lifetime of the software.

Technology Platform

Do you want software that runs on desktop or on the cloud?

The cloud comes will a lot of advantages but may have disadvantages.  If you have slow broadband it may not suit.  Some book-keepers find data entry on a cloud much slower.  Against that, some cloud solutions have data import facilities that overcome the data entry issues.

Also, it’s good to pay attention to the underlying software used to write the product.  There are still software packages out there using older database technology.  They can be harder to work with and can hit size limits – sooner than you expect.

I came across a client a couple of years ago who had database size problem because they sold a lot of small value items.  It was the number of transactions that counted and not the value so they quickly ran into database size problems.

Single or Multi User Accounting Software?

Will you be a single user site or a multi-user site?  If there are multiusers, does that put any restrictions on other users.  For example, I am working with a client and regularly, the software will prevent a user doing something – running reports or procedures – because another user is going something else in the system.

Who should be involved in the software selection decision?

The people who will be working with the software on a day to day basis should be involved.  If you have some staff with more experience with other software you may give more weight to their opinion.  Your external accountant may be familiar with many different types of software and may be able to help.

The amount of effort you put into the software evaluation should match the amount of money you will be spending and the consequences of getting the decision wrong.

Evaluation Matrix for software selection

At the end of the day, you will have done your research and there may be a lot of factors to consider.  You may feel confused but you want to make a decision.

What I find helpful in these situations is to create an evaluation matrix and use that to guide the decision.  Have a read of another of my blog posts about creating a decision matrix.

What I find is that the evaluation matrix will help you to organise your thoughts and to identify your priorities.  It will not make the decision for you but it should trigger a discussion about just how important some elements are and it’s important to have that discussion.

At the end of the day, you are going to be living with the software you select for a number of years.  Unless your business is very straightforward, the chances are that some software will work much better for you than other software.  It’s well worth investing time up front to get it right.

I would love to help you identify the best solution for your business.  We hope you found this blog post helpful and wish you all the best in your journey to find the best accounting software for your business.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me on 086 2323525 or by email at jim (at) accountsplus (dot) ie.

Putting your accounting knowledge into practice: an engineering perspective

What should a business owner do to make sure he or she has the best possible information at his/her fingertips?

We’ve already discussed how to identify the key transactions of the business and also how to record the information that’s important to your business and pull it into insightful reports. Now let’s look at how you put this all into action.

Making your finances work for you

So, with your understanding of the financial basics, how do you start putting this knowledge into action and making your finances work for you?

  • Firstly, you must have systems that are appropriate for the business and decide who’ll be responsible for the recording of information. The methodology for this and the level of detail you get into will depend on the size of the business.
  • Secondly, you must list the types of reports you need and what types of information and analysis will help you prepare these reports easily. This involves adapting your accounting system to capture the information needed and making sure it’s easy to pull the reports from the system, no matter how simple or complex.
  • Finally, you need to have a routine to help you check the information. You’ve no doubt heard the hackneyed phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out’ – it’s a truism that’s as applicable for accounts as anything else. When someone gives you financial information, you need to know how reliable this information is.

So how do we sanity check your reports? And what should you be looking for when carrying out these reviews?

Using your reports in the right way

In my experience, when business owners get their financial reports, most of them jump straight to the profit and loss report. However, I’ve learned that it’s more important to start with the balance sheet.

To explain why, I will ask you to remember the ‘Wile E Coyote and The Road Runner’ cartoon that used to be on television many years ago…

The road runner was always speeding along a road, with milestones at the side. If he first passed the 5km mark and later passed the 15km mark, he knew (and we knew) that he’d travelled 10km in total. However, what if the 15km had been mistakenly put in the wrong place, say at 14km? The roadrunner would think he’d travelled 10km when he’d actually only travelled 9km!

By relying unquestioningly on the miletones, our road runner is misinformed and doesn’t understand his performance correctly.

Accounts are similar. The balance sheets provides the milestones and the profit and loss is a measure of the progress or profitability. If you get the balance sheet wrong then the profit and loss will also be wrong.

I recommend that businesses start by looking at the balance sheet and ask if the figures for the various assets and liabilities look reasonable and reliable.  If they’re reasonable then the profit and loss is also likely to be reliable.

Checking your balance sheet

So, how do we check the balance sheet?

We check the bank accounts by comparing them to the records that the bank has – the bank statements – and being sure that we understand any differences. The only difference we should have are timing differences; e.g. we pay a cheque but it’s not cleared at the bank yet. Accountants call this checking process bank reconciliation, but what you’re doing is simply proving your records are correct by comparing them to another source.

We should also look at customer balances. I find that most business owners are very much on top of who owes them money. If I give them a list of customer balances with something wrong then they’ll quickly tell me. So check your customer balances, look for anything that looks dubious and correct when you find something that needs correcting. Remember, if a customer balance is wrong then your sales figure could also be wrong.

Lets move on to the supplier balances. Again, most business owners are very aware of who they owe money to, so they will quickly spot anything that’s wrong and we can fix that. Again, if supplier balances are wrong, then your purchased costs could also be wrong.

Your inventory or stock number is a key figure in your accounts.  If your inventory is overstated, this has the effect of making it look as if you got stock for free so you profit will be overstated.  If your inventory is understated, then it looks as if you lost stock somewhere so your profits will be understated.   It is very important to get your inventory or stock number right.

Finally, we can quickly look at the other assets and liabilities that might be in the balance sheet and check if they look ok. For example, if there’s machinery or equipment listed in your assets, do the balances look ok? If there are tax liabilities, do those amounts seem right?

Once you are happy that your balance sheet is reliable, then you can rely on the related profit and loss account.

Getting your head around shareholder funds

There’s one section of the balance sheet that sometimes confuses clients. This is the section called shareholder funds or sometimes called owners equity/capital. In essence, this section represents the value of the business to the owner.

To understand shareholders funds, you need to ask the question, ‘If the business makes money, who does that money belong to?’ The answer is that it belongs to the owners.

So the difference between what the business has (the assets) and what it owes (the liabilities) represents an amount owing to the owners. We think of it as a liability to the owners and we call it shareholder funds (or owners equity) for companies or owners capital for non-company businesses.

Shareholders funds are reduced by moneys taken out of the business as dividends or drawings.  So the difference between any two balance sheets represents the profits made by the business in the period, less any profits taken out in the same period – in other words, the profits kept by the business.

Check your reports regularly

Your reports are a real goldmine of information. So I recommend to my clients that they get into a routine of regularly – at least monthly – reviewing and checking their reports. By regularly looking at your reporting, you learn as much as possible about the business and can quickly identify where action may need to be taken.

If you are familiar with the ‘Lean thinking’ approach to business, you may have heard about the three voices in any business that give feedback, helping you to manage and improve.

  1. The first voice is the voice of the customer, giving feedback on the quality of the service your business is supplying to them.
  2. The second voice is the voice of the people working in the business. They see up close what’s actually happening and are often an untapped source of information regarding how well the business is operating.
  3. The final voice is the voice of the process. We access the voice of the process by identifying the key measurements that let us know how the process is doing.

Your accounts should be looked at as a voice of the process. When your accounts are designed and implemented well, they provide extremely valuable information about the performance of the business.

So, rather than thinking of accounts as a compliance-type chore, think instead of the rich information that’s hidden within your accounts – and consider how best to access this.

Getting in control of your business performance

When you understand your accounting basics, the value of good reporting and the insights provided by your business numbers, you’re in real control of your enterprise.

And when you add the benefit of working with an experienced, process-driven accountant, you’ll soon start to the postive changes and improvements in your sales, cash flow and the profitability of your business.

If you’d like to know more about working with AccountsPLUS, and applying our ‘engineer’s perspective’ to the machinery of your accounts, please do get in contact. We’d love to help you get complete control over your finances and business performance.

Get in touch to arrange a meeting with the AccountsPLUS team 

Turning your financial transactions into insightful information: an engineering perspective

Understanding the nuts and bolts of your accounting really does give you an advantage as a business owner. As we outlined in our last blog post, breaking down your transactions into inputs and outputs (and thinking like a process-driven engineer) is the first step in getting in proper control of your accounts and finances.

The next step is to start thinking about the process that takes the inputs and outputs – the transactions – and organises them in a way that provides information and insights.

Getting genuine insights from your numbers

To get useful business information, we need to group the transactions in a way that makes sense. At its simplest, we can think of sales, expenses, assets and liabilities. However, accounting packages allow us to get even more, and better, analysis.

For example, we can analyse our sales in multiple ways:

  • We can group the sales by product type or by customer type or by customer region.
  • We can group it by salesperson or by selling unit.
  • We can group sales by best-selling product or poorest-performing product.

By thinking this through when we set up our accounts, we can design the system to provide invaluable information about how the business is performing – information that keeps you in control of the future financial path of your enterprise.

For example, one of my clients is a business consultant. When he first came to me, he just had one figure for sales, with no further analysis. As we were speaking, it became clear that he had three very specific, and different, types of sales:

  • One-off projects – where he helped implement improvements for clients.
  • Recurring income – where he was retained by clients on a part-time basis.
  • Training income – where he provided custom in-house training courses for clients.

However, it also became clear from our discussion that he was most focused on increasing the share of sales that was coming from the recurring income. He’d set a goal of increasing that recurring income to be 66% of his business, but at present he had no way of measuring that – and no way of telling if he was meeting that percentage target.

I recommended that he use an accounting package and group his sales into four categories: Projects, Recurring, Training and Other – a final category, to catch anything that was not in the first three.

As he raised his invoices, he could then select the relevant category for the type of sale.  After that, at any time, he can run a report which summarises the sales by category. And, by doing so, he can easily see if he’s on target or not.

By adding these specific categories into your ‘Chart of Accounts’ (the list of different codes in your accounting system), we make it incredibly easy to track and measure every element of your business and its finances.

Insights into your spending and expenses

We can apply exactly the same categorisation and coding process when looking at expenditure – the cost element of your transactions, where you’re buying from suppliers, whether for resale or for use within the business.

I tend to think of expenses as having a number of main categories:

  • Sales & Marketing costs – creating awareness such as building a website, or producing flyers
  • Building or premises costs – such as rent or maintenance costs
  • Staff costs – such as payroll and bonuses
  • Office-running costs – such as utility bills or software subscriptions
  • Professional costs – such as engaging an accountant, or solicitor
  • Financial costs – such as bank repayments etc.

Within those categories, we can create subcategories to provide additional analysis as we choose. You should choose the categories. The accounts should be working for you – not just for the bank manager, and not just for the Revenue.

Some companies have one ‘big’ expense type in their accounts, while others will chose to break a category down if they think it will help understand what’s happening in the business.   For example, some companies have one category for telephone while others split the telephone cost into mobile and landline. It all depends on what’s most useful for the business. And, crucially, if you have an accounting package then it’s no additional work to simply create a new code in your Chart of Accounts and add a new expense category.

Additionally, many software packages provide a facility to group costs by job or project. While it’s easy to see how this might be useful for a construction company or a project based company, it can also be applied cleverly for other companies.

For example, I have one haulage company who use “projects” to gather the expenses for each truck. In this way, they can easily track fuel, repairs and running costs etc, by truck and can then decide which trucks need to be replaced. It might also indicate if some drivers are more fuel efficient than others.

So think about the type of business that you have and what type of information would be helpful to you in running the business. It’s probably a whole lot easier than you think to code, capture and collate this information.

Putting it all into practice

We’ve outlined how to understand your inputs and outputs, and how to turn this data into insightful reports regarding the performance of the business.

The final step is to combine your basic accounting and financial reporting with a proactive focus on your performance – a topic we’ll cover in the last blog post of this series – “putting your accounting knowledge into practice“.

If you’re looking for assistance with your reporting and business information needs, please do get in contact with us and we’ll show you the ropes.

Get in touch to arrange a meeting with the AccountsPLUS team 

Improving Productivity with Smartphone Apps

On a number of occasions over the past few weeks, I have had discussions with friends and clients about how they use their smartphones. I am getting great use out of mine and would be lost without it. However, others are barely using the capabilities of their phone. So here are some of the features and apps that I find most useful. I am sure they won’t all be of interest to you but I suspect at least one or two will.

Scanning Documents to PDF

This is an app I use regularly. I have an Android phone and I use Camscanner. This essentially takes a photo of a document and converts it to a pdf which I can email or save to cloud storage (Dropbox or Drive). I use it for copying receipts, forms, identification documents and for capturing the flipcharts of meetings. Its a really useful app to have.

To Do Lists

To do lists are great for quickly capturing ideas when you are away from the desk or for reminding yourself about what else is on your list when you get very busy and are in danger of losing sight of your priorities. I was using Wunderlist until recently and I have moved to Trello now. Trello gives me more organisational features.

File Sharing

We all know about Dropbox and Google Drive. I keep some key documents in Dropbox and if I need to send such a document to someone, I can send it straight from the phone. This has come in very handy for me a couple of times. For example, once I was away from the office and got a call from a prospect asking for a copy of a document I had mentioned to them previously. I was able to access the document in the cloud and send it immediately, without having to go back to the office.

Managing Passwords

We all know how important it is to manage passwords for the various programmes, systems and websites that we access now. There are several password managers. I use Keepass on my computer and I save the file to a Dropbox folder. I then use Keepassdroid on my phone to access the same file so I always have my passwords available. Keepass can generate random passwords and can hold the various verification questions that some sites need. Keepass itself is password protected and thats the one password that you do need to remember.
As an aside, you would be amazed at the number of companies that have no passwords or else have the password written on a post it note and stuck to the computer screen. You should have a separate secure password for each key service you use.

Capturing Notes

I use Evernote to capture notes. I have a copy on my computer and on my tablet and on my phone. Once I record my note on any of those, it syncs to the cloud and is available to all the others. I now use this for taking notes at meetings and for lectures/talks. I can attach files or photos and email the note with attachments to any of my contacts. I can also record speech to Evernote (like a dictaphone) and attach the recording to a note. I can search all my notes by keyword which is a huge benefit as this means I no longer have the problem of trying to remember what notepad I wrote a note in. Notes can be organised into folders or by assigning tags to them.

Foreign Exchange Rates

There are a number of apps that will provide you with up to date FX rates. The one I use is XE currency but there are loads of them.

Voice Recording

Another very useful, but easy to forget, app is the Voice Recorder app which is usually standard on the phone. It can be used to record meetings or random thoughts that you might have where you don’t have access to a note pad or you want to participate without having to worry about note-taking.

Cloud Accounting

If you use a Cloud Accounting package like Kashflow or Xero they both have apps for the phone that let you access the data. You will not do your accounts on the app but you will be able to check balances etc.I am not going to mention email or calendar. If you are not using those, you won’t be interested in anything else.In summary, there are two apps that I wouldn’t be without – Evernote and Camscanner.

As always, if you have thoughts or questions on anything in this article, let me know.

ERP: Developing Cross-Functional Buy-In

Today we have a guest post from John Donagher of BSM. A few years ago, I did some work with BSM on developing the client requirements for RFPs for ERP systems. I worked with John then and he is very knowledgeable about ERP and implementing ERP. John recently posted this on his own Blog.

Most organisations are comprised of multiple departments, and when it comes to implementing ERP the impact is felt right across the organisation. Resistance and apathy are major project risks, so how can they be avoided?

The last thing an ERP implementation project needs is a lack of willingness from parts of the organisation to fully engage with and support the project. Negativity can take two forms: resistance and apathy. The root causes for resistance are typically fear of change and a lack of understanding of the rationale for the project. Apathy often results from a feeling that the new system is being imposed, rather than having views regarding what’s required taken into account. ERP implementations are difficult at the best of times, but dealing with resistance and apathy means even more risk for the project.

The road to developing “buy-in” for ERP starts at the beginning of the system selection process. Getting people involved, ensuring their voices are heard and that they’re made to feel part of the decision-making process is one of the best ways to guarantee their long-term engagement with the ERP project. A starting point is to have every department affected by the ERP implementation represented on the system selection project team. Far too often we in BSM see the Finance and IT departments taking the lead role, and while they certainly need to be involved in the selection project they’re generally not best placed to specify the system requirements in other functional areas. A structured selection process with cross-functional involvement can create a positive atmosphere around the ERP project, with dividends accruing right through the implementation in terms of good will.

Buy-in can also be developed through effectively managing and focussing on the business benefits of the ERP project. Ensuring that business benefits are understood, quantified and owned by the business is another important element in achieving buy-in: a manager who understands how the system will improve his area, and who has bought-in to delivering those benefits, is likely to be a strong advocate of the project. If the project is strongly focussed on business benefits, and managers are clear on what the benefits are and are responsible for delivering those benefits, then the project is far more likely to be successful.

This Blog was written by John Donagher, Senior IS Consultant at BSM. If you would like further information on developing cross-functional buy-in please send an e-mail to John Donagher. linkd.in/ZRlLhW

Working with VAT on Kashflow

I have had a couple of questions recently about how Kashflow handles VAT. Users do not seem to fully understand the use of the “submit VAT” button. So here is a brief overview of what needs to be done to have accurate VAT reporting.

When you first submit a VAT report, it is important that you make sure that your submission agrees with the relevant VAT management report in Kashflow. If your VAT submission for Jan Feb 10 says VAT on sales 5000, VAT on purchases 3000 then these numbers should agree to the relevant figures on the VAT Management Report for the same period. If they don’t agree, you need to understand why. Either the VAT submission is wrong or Kashflow is wrong. I recommend that you check the Kashflow report, making any amendments necessary, and make a submission that ties back to Kashflow.

Once you have the submission made you run the VAT management report which agrees with the submission and hit “Submit VAT” button. This does not actually submit anything. It effectively tells Kashflow that all the transactions on the report have been reported to the VAT authorities.

When you run the VAT Management report for the following period, it will pick up all transactions for that period but it will also pick up any transactions in earlier periods that have not been reported (submitted) to the VAT authorities. For example, if in late April, a Purchase invoice dated February comes in with VAT of € 1000, we cannot add it to the Jan Feb return which was already submitted. Kashflow knows that it was not submitted because it was not on the report which you marked submitted. Therefore, it will be brought forward and added to the Mar Apr report. When you download the detail for the report you will see a transaction in there with a February date.

It is important then that when making a vat return the return should agree with the VAT Management report for the same period and that you hit the “Submit VAT” button to let the system know that all transactions on that report have been submitted.

If you have any questions on this, or any other aspect of Kashflow, feel free to give me a call or email me on jim (at) accountsplus (dot) ie.

Recent Changes to Kashflow

Our online Accounting Software, Kashflow, is constantly being improved.

Sometimes the improvements are obvious like the recent changes to the entry screens for sales and purchase invoices. Other times the changes are in the background and you may not realise that there’s a new option that might be useful for you.

Kashflow publish the changelog here – http://www.kashflow.co.uk/changelog.asp. You can also sign up to receive notifications of changes via email, rss feeds or twitter.

For today, I have copied the change notices from the Kashflow changelog for some of the most recent changes.

Recent Changes

Improvements to Customer and Supplier pages 2nd August, 2010

General Look and Feel Improvements 2nd August, 2010

Defaulting Purchases to Paid 2nd August, 2010

Custom Fields for Customers 2nd August, 2010

Email Templates for Statements 2nd August, 2010

Lesser Known Kashflow Features

As I work with clients who are using Kashflow, I realise that there are several features in Kashflow that clients often don’t know about. I am going to highlight some of these in posts over the next period. Some of them may be useful to you.

Repeat Invoicing.

If you have a customer where you have an agreement to invoice regularly over a period, you can set up a repeat invoice. For example, I have a client where I provide a monthly management accounting service. I have a repeat invoice set up that is created monthly. The system sends me a reminder to let me know that it has created the invoice and I just hit the email button to send the invoice out.

To set up a repeat invoice, go into Sales, then into repeat billing – one of the four buttons above the list of sales invoices.

Projects

Kashflow has a projects feature that allows you to assign sales invoices and costs to projects. Some businesses are project based and this allows them to track profitability by project. Even if you are not project based you could use this for departments or you could use it to track costs by vehicle or by individual.

I have a client who produces tv programmes and uses this feature to track costs by programme. I have another client who carries out consultancy projects for clients and uses the feature to track outlay costs (eg. travel) by project for reinvoicing.

Bulk Payments.

Typically, most businesses will receive a payment for each invoice they issue or they will make a payment for each bill (receipt) that they receive. However, some businesses might have a number or smaller invoices or bills (receipts) that are paid together. In this case, instead of going into each invoice and adding a payment, you can use the Kashflow Bulk Payment options. On the Sales or Purchases tab, choose the Bulk Payment button on top of the page. This lets you mark multiple invoices as being paid with one payment.

That’s enough for today. Over the next while I will highlight some other features that you may not know about. If you have any questions, be sure to let me know by emailing me at jim (at) accountsplus (dot) ie.

Are you slack about IT security

Yesterday www.boards.ie was hacked and the passwords of the users may be compromised. If users use the same username and passwords on multiple sites, then the hackers may now have access to those other sites. Could they have access to online banking passwords? Possibly.

A couple of months ago I was reading a blog, and the follow-on animated exchange, about the importance of security in accounting software. While I agree with the importance of security, I felt at the time, that the dev elopers had little understanding of how careless users actually are when it comes to security, passwords and backups.

I have often commented on the amount of companies with no password protection on their accounts software, or common words as passwords, or use the pc users name as password, or have the password visible on a post-it stuck up beside the screen.

Well, recent research has shown just how loose password security is.

It seems that in Dec 09, social networking services and customized widget company, Rockyou.com, suffered a data breach. The breach included millions of people’s email addresses and passwords for Rockyou.com (and in many cases passwords and login details for associated social networking sites). The hacker responsible for the attack subsequently posted the full list of passwords on the internet.

You will end up with a lot of passwords and you will need something to help you manage them. I use a piece of software to store all of my different passwords. It’s a password manager called eWallet. Another free package is keepass. And remember you need to be careful how you use these!

So now, what passwords are you using for the various software and websites you use. Are they secure enough? Do you need to change them. Go on – do it now!

The compromised password and login data was examined by US-based security company, Imperva Application Defense Center (ADC). The data provides valuable insights into the way that users select passwords and an opportunity to evaluate the true strength of these as a security mechanism. What’s good about this is the number of real-world passwords the analysts were able to examine .

There report is available here – http://www.imperva.com/ld/password_report.asp

A full analysis of the 32 million Rockyou.com passwords show the most commonly used passwords are:
1. 123456
2. 12345
3. 123456789
4. Password
5. iloveyou
6. princess
7. rockyou
8. 1234567
9. 12345678
10. abc123

Its amazing, isn’t it. And to think of all of the effort the IT developer puts in to improve security and then see users undermine all that by careless selection of passwords.

So what should you be doing? To keep your accounts safe, NASA recommends adhering to the following steps when creating a password:

1. It should contain at least eight characters.