Account reconciliation software: making the right choice

With a plethora of account reconciliation software to choose from, all offering various features and tools tailored to suit different types of businesses Bobsguide offers an overview of the market

13 September 2018

Account reconciliation is the act of cross referencing a company’s financial records with those of an external source such as a bank or other financial institution to make sure that they match up. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a particularly arduous or even important process, but it is one of the key pillars of any good business. Without good account reconciliation processes in place, companies are at a greater risk of overspending, less likely to detect acts of fraud or left in a position where they are unable to pay employees and suppliers for goods.

The reconciliation process is essential for accountants too, especially if they are going to be able to create meaningful statements at the end of each financial year. After all, a company’s balance sheet is the most accurate reflection of a companys' worth, with it showing how much cash, debt, and assets it controls. But without a thorough set of account reconciliation processes in place that ensure accurate record-keeping of a company’s financials it is impossible to generate a usable financial statement. Having inaccurate account information is never a good thing for a business to have, but the stakes are even higher for publicly listed companies, which risk being penalised by regulators if external auditors find inconsistencies.

In short, no business can run effectively without keeping a close eye on the capital that flows in and out of its accounts. Thankfully, there is a host of account reconciliation software providers that help businesses both large and small to generate invoices, monitor expenditure and render various reports that allow a company to monitor its financial well-being and provide a full picture of its overall performance.

Having a lot of general ledger reconciliation software options to choose from is great, with each program offering various types of features and tools tailored to suit the needs of different types of businesses. But too much choice can feel a little overwhelming. To help simplify this process it is worth bearing in mind three key criteria before selecting a software to help with your company’s reconciliation process: price, accessibility and tools.

Waste not, want not

The overall price you end up paying for a piece of account reconciliation software really comes down to how many bells and whistles you want it to have. The trick is knowing exactly what your business needs are, so you don’t end up paying for added reconciliation tools and features that you ultimately don’t need.

Today, many software providers operate on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model, which means that the application is cloud-based and can be accessed remotely with relative ease. It also means paying a monthly subscription-fee of anything from £10 to £50 which gives the software provider monthly recurring revenues and its customers access to the latest iteration of the program.

Software packages at the upper end of the range will tend to offer access to some pretty advanced tools for you to play, including expense and sales tracking that play a key role in making sure a company’s budget up-to-date no matter how busy it gets. Then there are recurring invoices and payroll services, as well as advanced inventory tracking and purchase ordering tools.

A general rule of thumb, is the larger / more complex a business the more advanced account reconciliation software package it will require. For smaller businesses, there are a number of freemium software applications that offer a suite of very basic reconciliation tools, alongside a host of add-on features that can be accessed, albeit for a fee.

In the cloud

When it comes to accessibility, there are a number of things to consider before pulling the trigger and signing up for a monthly subscription. One is how many employees the company has and how many will require access to the account reconciliation tools and what type of access will each user need. Most of the subscription-based software out there will allow administrators to assign others users with varying degrees of access to the account reconciliation software. In real terms, this means that company directors are afforded the full picture of the company’s accounts, while other employees are restricted in what they can see, but still have the ability to log their billable hours and invoice clients.

Another aspect worth considering is whether users are working from an office where desktop software is suitable or remotely where a cloud-based and/or mobile application solution represents a better fit. Thankfully, most software providers operate a SaaS business model as outlined above, which means that the account reconciliation platform is cloud-based and, therefore, accessible anytime, anywhere. But some more advanced software providers also offer mobile application support too which means that even if a user it travelling light they are still able to access key features with just their smartphone or tablet device.

Bear basics or all the extras

General ledger and account reconciliation software offers businesses loots of tools and features to help give both a broad overview and more granular perspective of a company’s finances and its overall health. It can also ensure that day to day accounting tasks are completed in a efficient and timely manner, so a business can stay focused on driving growth and not get bogged down with back-office functions. In order to get the best software that boasts the necessary tools required to make bookkeeping a doddle and not a chore it's worth having a basic understanding of what the various features do before you buy.

For freelancers or micro businesses with just a few employees there there really isn’t much need in buying an advanced bit of account reconciliation software. Many self-employed people of small business owners will be able to make do with a basic bit of kit that offers a pretty rudimentary set of tools like invoicing, income and expense monitoring, client management and financial report origination. But for bigger businesses that shift a lot of goods or companies that have a pretty complex reconciliation process then a software package that is capable of performing more a more advanced set of functions is probably a better fit. For example, there is software available that can of track a company’s inventory and automatically reorder products that are in high demand. Some can assist in managing vendors and offer purchase order solutions that ensure stock from external suppliers is renewed seamlessly.

For most business owners the account reconciliation software that they end up going with is the one that saves them the most time, which means offering a suite of tools that can automate as much of the reconciliation process as possible. Many software vendors offer programs that can allow users to easily set up automated invoices and past-due notifications so that customers are billed automatically and notified when payments are due or late. This helps reduce the overall workload of the accounts management team giving them more time to put their human capital to better use in other areas of the business.

The bain of most people's lives and that of businesses too is the tax man. Thankfully, there is some great account reconciliation software in the market that can help lighten the burden of tax on your business. Automated tax calculations for everything from VAT corporation tax and even advanced reporting tools are all available on some of the more advanced software iterations. What’s more, the all that tax information can be made accessible by internal and external accounts and auditors.

Nowadays, most software providers offer platforms that have APIs that allow new add-on features from third party providers to be seamlessly integrated - meaning that account reconciliation software can offer a wide range of additional tools and functionality. Payment processing and payroll service solutions are being the norm, making it ever-easier to accept online payments and ensure that employees are paid on time. By integrating additional tools like this, it keeps costs low as businesses have a one-stop shop for a myriad of back-office functions without the need to purchase another, separate bit of software simple to execute payroll or payments.

Finally, it is imperative to check ask the software vendor about the types of security measures that it has in place to safeguard both the company’s financial data, but also that of its customers too. If inappropriate security measures have been integrated into the platform, then not only is the company using the account reconciliation software at a greater risk of fraud, but so is its customers. 

But in the end, it doesn’t really matter whether you are a small businesses that decides to use low cost solution like QuickBooks and take a free trial with EspressoRec or a multinational corporation that has a big budget and is willing to pay up to £2,000 a month to use Statement Matching to handle its reconciliation processes. What matters is that you pick a piece of software that ticks all the boxes and meets all the demands of your business.

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