“The best accounting package for my business is the software that supports the most comprehensive breadth of accounting functionality.”
And below are a couple of graphics from TEC Advisor (based on a hypothetical accounting software selection project) that show why this is flat-out wrong (click to enlarge the images):
In an evaluation of over 4,100 accounting criteria, Infor FMS SunSystems [see TEC’s competitor rating analysis for Infor FMS SunSystems] outranks Microsoft Dynamics GP [see TEC’s competitor rating analysis for Dynamics GP] by a hair: look at the weighted average, where Infor scores 90.69 to Microsoft’s 89.56, suggesting that Infor supports a marginally larger breadth of accounting functionality.
“Aha,” you might say, “Infor is better for our needs. Let’s go get ‘er.”
Not so fast.
Take a look at this:
Here, Microsoft has the edge over Infor, with a weighted average of 90.74 to Infor’s 88.69.
So what’s the difference?
It’s all in how you prioritize your requirements.
In the first graphic, all priorities are equal (and set to “must have”), for the following modules: General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Payroll, Inventory, Job/Product Costing, Fixed Assets, Order Entry, Budgeting, Manufacturing, Multinational Accounting, General, and Technology. (See Your Reference Guide to SMB Accounting Software Features for more information about these modules.)
In the second graphic, I modified the priorities to reflect some hypothetical business considerations.
Note that successful software selections are not based on features and functionality alone. Other factors include (but are certainly not limited to) implementation strategy, vertical expertise, and of course, pricing. These factors are not reflected in the graphs above.
Now, here’s your accounting software selection challenge:
Can you tell me why modifying your priorities changes the overall accounting product ratings?
The answer is critical to software selection success. In fact, many software selection mishaps are directly attributable to improper assessment of business priorities.
If you want to play around with these priorities yourself, you can. Do it. (If you found this blog post thanks to your TEC Newsletter subscription, you already have a TEC account: use the login fields to sign in quickly).
I appended “Difficulty = Basic” to the title of this blog post because this is the first in a series of software selection challenges graded by order of difficulty. Stay tuned for Intermediate and Expert Challenges in the weeks to come.
Leave your answers below!
You may also be interested in a free custom accounting software comparison report that provides a high-level comparison of Infor FMS SunSystems and Dynamics GP. Use the link above to add a third accounting product of your choice.
Want some junk food for your brain? See Is Your ERP System Provider a Psychopath? (and check out the intriguing poll results!)
Q: Why [does] modifying your priorities changes the overall accounting product ratings?
Well, one obvious answer is product differentiation. Infor and MS Dynamics are viable market solutions, as are many others such as the deep Sage product line. However, each vendor has conducted extensive market research and inentionally (key word) developed different product and/or modular features and functionality emphasis. You’ve heard it before…”if you don’t differentiate then you’ll only compete on price.”
Also, and don’t take this personal, but online product search engines are imperfect. For instance, I recently helped a business find project management software. The software that actually met the clients needs best did NOT appear in initial searches, respected industry Top 10 lists, etc. The human part of research has exponential value; especially for businesses that want a system that exactly meets their needs - not just a short list of participating vendors.
Finally, regarding your statement, “…many software selection mishaps are directly attributable to improper assessment of business priorities.” That’s ok, but even more so “many software selection mishaps are directly attributable to”…de-emphasizing pre-search Needs Analysis (internal) and documenting System Requirements BEFORE product research and/or reaching out directly to potential solution vendors. Too many companies (buyers) open themselves up before they are really ready to buy, and that’s a costly mistake.
Thank you for your response—you’re absolutely right to focus on the necessity of conducting a thorough assessment of needs and requirements before reaching out to vendors. And yes, it would be a shocking miscarriage of process to rely exclusively on Top 10 lists or online product search engines for the purposes of compiling a shortlist (or even a working list) of vendors.
That’s why we strongly recommend an initial research phase consisting of preliminary study and a definition of organizational strategies and tactics. Organizations at this stage should begin to understand what their overall strategy is regarding the software they are looking to implement. In addition, they need to know both their short- and long-term objectives and constraints with respect to their business processes. During this phase, it’s also important to review systems currently in place in order to gauge whether it’s worth upgrading the current software, as opposed to acquiring an entirely new system.
As far as actual research itself is concerned, a recommended best practice is to issue a call for tender (also known as an RFI prequalification) to all vendors. In essence, this is an open letter to all applicants. This call for tender may be launched via e-mail campaigns, newsletters of newspaper ads, or trade magazines.
Letting the public know the project goal and background enables software purchasers to gather interested and pre-qualified candidates. It also allows them to inform unsuitable candidates (at an early stage) that they are not qualified.
Disqualifications may be based on 1) inappropriate status (e.g., vendor versus value-added reseller [VAR] versus consultant; 2) inability to provide required software; or 3) poor industry fit.
TEC makes a number of resources available to the software purchaser for this research phase. The TEC Vendor Showcase highlights company profiles as well as identifying the ideal customer profile for specific solutions. Potential buyers can also access different vendor white papers to further assist their research. Additionally, they can also gain access to TEC’s comprehensive archive of research articles from its daily newsletter.
To identify the relevant solutions, there are a few questions it’s useful for the purchaser to ask:
• Area of focus (Does this software apply to my type of business or industry?)
• Functions and features (Are the features and functions relevant to the needs I have defined in my RFP template?)
• Services (Can the vendor provide the services and support I need?)
• Cost (Is the software solution within my price range?)
• Technology (Is the vendor up-to-date with the latest technology, environmental compliance, and industry best practices?)
• Viability (Is the software robust enough to address my future needs?)
Purchasers can use certain high-level criteria to narrow a long list down to 20 to 30 vendors. For example:
• annual revenue
• application areas
• business type
• requirements for localization
It’s worth emphasizing here the need for purchasers to keep accurate records of all information. This helps them conduct the rest of the software selection process efficiently, and also helps preserve an information trail in cases where a vendor decides to dispute its disqualification from the process.
Thanks again for your comment, Keith–always good to hear from you.
[…] Accounting Software Selection Challenge #3: Microsoft vs. Infor (Difficulty = Basic) » The TEC… […]
it seems, this is a one of the latest software product introduced to make accounting work fast.
will try it in sometime and post a reply.
I think Microsoft has yet to provide a decent Operating system and yet, they still can’t produce a highly functional ERP Accounting Software. God only knows when they will recover from their long slump.
If you’re interested in additional information about Accounting Software Training, please feel free to use the links I’ve provided. Thank you!
Your blog is very interesting and informational. Microsoft Dynamics GP is also a good accounting software. However I would still go for MAS 90, MAS 200 or MAS 500 depending on the business size that wants to implement an ERP system. But when it comes to choosing between Microsoft and Infor.. Microsoft is my bet.
Great info! it’s good to see this information in your post, I’m always interested to learn more about small business,find accounting software
An accounting software is a one size fits all general purpose tool that is suitable for a small number of businesses: businesses that have a simple business process such as retail store, wholesale business, restaurant, small repair shop, etc… An accounting software, any, is unsuitable for a large number of businesses: businesses that don’t have a simple business process.
People don’t realize this because their current system is so patched up and clunky that the problem has been blurred and buried ten feet below the surface.
The simple and undeniable fact is that if spreadsheets did not exist, the usefulness of your accounting software (regardless of the brand) would drop by at least 50% and in very many cases the accounting software itself would be unusable, I really mean unusable.
Why is it so? The answer is simple: An accounting software is an accountant’s tool not a business tool and as such its function is very limited. The best proof that its function is limited is this: In the majority of businesses, users spend a significant amount of time and effort extending its functionalities in order to bridge the gap between accounting and the company’s business processes by using multiple spreadsheets, databases, 3rd party add-ons, electronic files, etc…. QuickBooks payroll is no longer adequate? No problem, new spreadsheets are built and maintained by the payroll person or an add-on is purchased. The sales process is getting more complex and your MS Dynamics or Sage is too complicated or heavy to reconfigure? No problem, another series of spreadsheets is created by the sales department. The result is a system that is patched up and stitched from nearly every side. That’s the type of result you get when you use a screw driver to drill a hole. Very messy and painful isn’t? The astonishing part is that people do it naturally without questioning this nonsense. The not so surprising part is when a business commits the sin (they all do) of asking their CPA or a system reseller to suggest a solution, he almost invariably recommends another brand of screw driver.
To add to Tom Coyes observation…it can be summed as this: If the only tool you have in the toolbox is a hammer, then every challenge or problem is seen as a nail which requires hammering. The technology is not the silver bullet it all comes down to the requirements and processes for which every so often we ignore at our peril. Software vendors will always tell you their product is able to accomplish all the tasks you have as part of the sales effort. However, not many businesses/users ask the 64k question…This is our business processes, How can your product support our processes? Hence, we continue to be frustrated post implementation if ever successful!