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    Accounting twins get hip to social-networking trend

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2010 First published in Business in Vancouver January 26 - February 1 2010 issue #1057

    High Tech Office column

    Allow me to share one of the problems in the technology columnist business: trying to find something fresh to say about products that come out with new versions every year.

    Take accounting software, for instance. Every year there’s a new version, updated to stay on top of changing government regulations.

    Last year, it struck me that the two top products for Canadian small-business accounting software, Simply Accounting and QuickBooks, seemed to be strangely in synch: both had released products promising improved ease of use with tools to get new users up and running quickly.

    The headline to my column in issue 1011 described them as “accounting twins separated at birth.”
    Another year, another column and, once again, new editions promising improved features. This time, along with the regular set of “new and improved,” both companies are trumpeting social-networking features.

    While developed locally in Richmond, Simply Accounting is a product of U.K.-owned Sage Software. The company notes that small businesses increasingly value social networking as a tool to connect to peers and customers and are beginning to treat it as an outgrowth of traditional word-of-mouth marketing.
    Sage has built as a social network for small businesses, offering tools, services and discussion.

    Edmonton-based Intuit Canada is promoting LiveCommunity, which is built into the latest edition of its QuickBooks software. LiveCommunity is an online forum to allow QuickBooks users to connect to other users, accountants and software experts.

    Sage’s mantra for this year’s Simply Accounting versions seems to be “faster.”

    It promises users moving to the 2010 versions will see faster installation with a streamlined installation wizard.

    Faster startup and access to the home window will let users get to work quicker, while the addition of overall sums and balances to the home window offers quick insight to cash flow.
    Improved sales and purchases windows promise faster data entry.

    Record of employment information entry has also been speeded up; the new ability to export record of employment data directly to the Canadian federal ROE website promises to improve productivity for many users.

    The company is also boasting big improvements in report-generation time. It says that the time to create some complex reports has dropped from 7,000 seconds (almost two hours!) to two minutes.

    Simply Accounting is offered in various versions, beginning with a $50 first-step package. The pro version costs $170, or $370 with payroll features, while a two-user premium version costs $300 (or $500 with payroll). A $150 employee-tracking version is targeted at HR managers, while $1,500 five-user and $2,750 10-user enterprise versions are also available.

    In addition, QuickBooks 2010 promises a new company snapshot feature, with continuous updated tracking of revenue and tasks. Plus, improved multi-currency capabilities.

    GST (and soon HST) management and online filing have been beefed up, and integration with Microsoft Outlook promises easier invoicing.

    Versions start with a QuickBooks 2010 EasyStart free edition and continue through a one-user EasyStart ($80) edition, five-user pro small business ($200) and pro premier ($500) editions and a 30-user enterprise edition ($3,000 per year). Thirty-day free trial versions of the paid editions are available.

    Payroll services are built into the enterprise edition and can be added to the pro and premier editions by monthly subscription.

    (Both Simply Accounting and QuickBooks target growing small businesses with their “enterprise” versions, not the giant multinationals that I think of when I hear the word.) Favicon

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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