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A review of off-the-shelf accounting software 2023

14th Jun 2023
Brought to you by
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The Access Group provides integrated business management software.

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A review of off-the-shelf accounting software 2023

Do you buy or do you build? That’s the question you need to answer when choosing your new accounting system. Should you buy an off-the-shelf accounting solution or do you need a more tailored, buildable system to suit your organisation’s needs? Let us help.

This article is an honest review of off-the-shelf accounting software. We hope we can help you work through the process of selecting the right type of accounting software for your business.

Off-the-shelf accounting software meaning 

Off-the-shelf accounting software refers to readily available, pre-packaged software designed for immediate use. It is a standardised solution accessible to everyone, allowing you to make a purchase online and start utilising it right away. With a one-size-fits-all approach, this software provides the same set of features to all users.

Off-the-shelf vs bespoke accounting software

What’s the difference between off-the-shelf accounting software and bespoke accounting software?

As explained above, off-the-shelf accounting software is a ready-made product with standard features. Whereas bespoke accounting software is a tailored product suited to your organisational needs. With bespoke accounting software, you can choose the features that your business needs and then add/remove them if your business needs change or your business grows and becomes more complex.

For example, your business may need accounting softwarepurchase ordering software and invoicing software, but it may not need fixed asset software and expense management software, but that’s okay – bespoke accounting software allows you to only pay for the features you need.

Typically, bespoke accounting solutions are more expensive because they are tailored to your organisation. This is why medium-sized businesses often use bespoke solutions such as Access Financials, whereas smaller companies often use off-the-shelf solutions like Sage Accounting, Xero and Quickbooks.

A review of off-the-shelf accounting software

Below is a review of off-the-shelf accounting software, covering the advantages and disadvantages you need to know before you select your new accounting software.

Advantages of off-the-shelf accounting software

1. Ready to use immediately – As off-the-shelf accounting software is a ready-made product, you’ll be able to purchase the product and start using it immediately. This is great for your organisation if you have a small amount of data to upload to the system and you need to get started quickly. Be careful if you have a large amount of data as this may become complex when uploading it to your new software – a bespoke solution may be better for you if this is the case.

2. Cost effective – Off-the-shelf accounting software is cheaper than bespoke software, this is because it’s a simple product. If you’re a small business, this is a great option for you to keep the costs down, especially if it’s your first accounting system. Usually you’ll get a free trial with off-the-shelf accounting software which can be helpful if it’s your first time using an accounting system as you’ll be able to test and play to see if it’s the right fit for you. If you’re a medium-sized organisation, we recommend you don’t choose the cheapest option as you’ll outgrow the accounting software and run into problems – a bespoke solution would be a better choice.

3. Support – As off-the-shelf accounting software is produced for a mass market, there’s likely to be plenty of tutorials and guides online to help you use the software. Just make sure that your contract with the provider also includes human support because you may face some bumps in the road when implementing and using your new accounting software so you need someone at the end of the phone to help fix any bugs.

Disadvantages of off-the-shelf accounting software

1. Not scalable – You may decide to choose an off-the-shelf solution for the cost and convenience but unfortunately, as your business grows the product you once paid for is not going to grow with you. You’re going to face challenges with the system which will take your finance team away from doing great things. If you can forecast your business growing, we highly recommend you purchase a bespoke accounting system rather than an off-the-shelf solution. Even though the initial cost will be higher, the tailored software will be future proofed and you’ll be able to add/remove/tailor features as you grow.

2. A lot of features – You may be thinking, how is ‘a lot of features’ a disadvantage? For some businesses, it may not be, but for some it is. An off-the-shelf accounting system comes with a large amount of features. The features are the same for every customer that buys the product. However, not every business is the same, so not every business is going to use every single feature. This means, you might pay for a system and then only use half the features. Before purchasing, review all the features on offer and if you only need a few, take a look at the bespoke systems out there, like Access Financials, that allow you to purchase the features you need.

3. Out of your control – As off-the-shelf products are ‘one size fits all’ the provider will usually roll out upgrades and functionality updates to all its customers. You don’t have any control over this so you’ll need to watch out for features changing – which may be good or bad for you, depending on your processes.

Is off-the-shelf accounting software right for your business?

So, there’s our review of off-the-shelf accounting software. We hope it’s helped you decide which is the best solution for you.

Ultimately, if you’re a small business looking for your first accounting system then a cheap off-the-shelf product is probably best for you. However, if you’re growing quickly or you’re a medium organisation, don’t risk outgrowing an off-the-shelf accounting system. Paying a little bit extra now will benefit you in the future and will ensure your accounting processes stay seamless.

Questions to ask yourself when researching:

  • How many users do I need?
  • Which features will my business use?
  • Can I use the software on my desktop or will I need to use it on my laptop, phone and tablet?
  • How much am I willing to pay for good accounting processes?
  • Will I need support along the way? Have I got technical expertise within my finance team that can help?

If you’ve realised an off-the-shelf accounting solution is not suitable for you, then take a look at our bespoke solution, cloud-accounting software. It can be customised to your needs and will grow as your business grows to ensure you don't have to change systems again.

If you’re still not sure, our finance specialists can advise on which accounting software is best for you, even if it's not ours, so request a call back today!