by Dr. Marie Gibson, owner of Gibson & Associates
As more business owners work from home and ask their employees to work remotely as well, they’re wrestling with how to adapt their accounting software to meet their changing needs. Should they continue to use QuickBooks Desktop (QBDT) or should they instead adopt QuickBooks Online (QBO), the cloud-based version? While this article focuses on QuickBooks, business owners can use it to frame their decision making about other financial software.
At first glance, this decision might seem to be one of the easy ones that business owners are making during these difficult times. However, this decision actually requires more consideration than is readily apparent. Sometimes when business owners are facing complex decisions, they don’t know what they don’t know. They might need clarity on the questions to ask; and there are ramifications of making decisions without considering all of the potential results and consequences. This article groups the questions into five general categories to help make this decision easier: Digital Access, Accommodations, Communications, Management and Security.
- DIGITAL ACCESS
When analyzing digital access to the software, there are three main options to consider: hosted, remote access and cloud-based (QBO).
Your current QBDT software could be hosted in the cloud through a subscription from a hosting company. Basically, your software license is provided to the hosting company which charges you a monthly access fee. Each user has their own username and password; the subscription fee is charged per user and can be somewhat expensive.
You could continue to house your current software on the premises of your business with access provided to each of your users either by using remote access software or VPNs (which are private data tunnels). If you no longer have a physical location, the primary location of the software could be your home. Examples of remote access services are LogMeIn and GoToMyPC; they are also subscription-based.
A business could also migrate to the QuickBooks Online version of software. This is different software than the desktop version; looks different, acts similar, has a bit of a learning curve, and the migration process should be done with the help of a qualified expert. There are three versions of the QBO software.
The number of accounting and sales staff that will need access to your software could change depending on your changing dynamics. Has your accounting software been installed on only one computer up to this time? Or is a multi-user version with server/network access? How would you transition that scenario to a home office or offices?
If you are considering the creation of a digital accounting office, where have the workspaces been? And how much room is required to replicate them? At your office manager’s home? Or your lead bookkeeper’s house? Is there room physically? Will the area be dedicated and secured physically? Will you need to purchase equipment? Will you need to create an ergonomically proper work environment? How will you create, control, and supervise a safe and efficient environment at each accounting professional’s home?
Think about how many storage boxes you now fill … could you reduce those with the help of automation? Could you scan and file all of your accounting documents? If so, how, and where are you going to store the digital data? You must have storage capabilities for both physical documents and digital documents.
If your accounting staff is working from home, what will their communications look like with other employees, with your customers, with your vendors? How will you oversee this communications activity? Often, we don’t realize how frequently we interact with other employees in a daily work environment; sometimes it’s only very briefly to clarify a small point. How will this type of communication be handled with staff working from home offices? Will you text? Email? Which is least disruptive? Which questions can wait and be batched together; which questions need immediate answers? Who decides?
A business accounting system is comprised of countless functions including Admin, IT, Sales, Receivables, Marketing, Invoicing, Ecommerce, Payments, CRM, Purchases, Payables, Bills, Expenses, Inventory, Job Costing, Scheduling, Time Tracking, Payroll, Supervision, and of course, Governmental Reporting, Taxes, Planning And Budgeting. Who is going to manage and coordinate these functions as employees transition to work from home offices?
Do you need employees to work simultaneously? Or will they now have flexible time to work as they prefer? What about coffee breaks or lunch hours? Who will manage this scheduling and communication with others during this time? What will the approval process look like? What will be your policies when the internet is not accessible? Will that time be an employer paid coffee break? Or one that is managed and scheduled by the employee?
Security is an important issue when considering work from home accounting functions. Dependable Wi-Fi capability with appropriate levels of security will be required at each of your employees’ homes. Seven-character passwords can be breeched through the use of brute force in less than a minute, while passwords with eleven characters take ten years. A password with 16 characters takes 74 million years to hack with brute force. What will be your policies regarding personal use of work computers? Restrictions on accessing other website locations? Protections from phishing?
DIFFERENCES IN SOFTWARE
Each of the QuickBooks versions has similarities and differences. Although the basic accounting infrastructure (double-entry accounting) is the same; the software versions are quite different. Intuit is committed to providing a robust work environment for all companies with the QuickBooks Online (QBO) software and has continued to expand its capabilities. However, QBDT may still be more effective for larger enterprises with complicated manufacturing and construction costing, or for specialty businesses and non-profits.
QBO has a minimalistic visual presence which can create an extended learning curve with which new users may become frustrated. However, once you learn and accept QBO’s particular nuances, your user satisfaction will increase. Do you and your accounting staff wish to be learning new software during this stressful time? If you are hectic, crazy busy, this may be a major factor in your decision-making. If business is slow and there’s down time, however, then this is a great time to be learning new software.
Learn more about this topic at NCET’s Biz Cafe Online on June 10. NCET is a member-supported nonprofit organization that produces educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology. More info at www.NCETcafe.org
Dr. Marie Gibson owns Gibson & Associates, a management consulting firm that helps business owners create, trouble-shoot and fine-tune their accounting systems. She helps owners find the information they need to make their decisions with certainty in an uncertain world. (www.marie-gibson.com)