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Software review: MYOB BusinessBasics. By John Stokdyk

2nd Jan 2007
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The trouble with typical PC-based accounting software is that double-entry journals and other features that appeal to experienced accountants make it overly complex for budding entrepreneurs who want something simple to help them control their finances as the business takes off.

Like other "starter" packages based on cut-down versions of big brand accounting applications, MYOB's BusinessBasics needs to overcome this hurdle. Using the accounts of a local sports club as a test bed, I put the application through its paces during the Christmas break.

MYOB BusinessBasics: Key points
Entry-level edition of MYOB's small business acounts package, providing bank, sales and nominal ledgers only. Those seeking time/billing, foreign currency accounting, jobs management and specialist accounting tools should investigate or upgrade to MYOB Accounting or Accounting Plus.




  • £67.23+VAT, a very good deal for such a comprehensive, but easy to use application.

Installation and set up are fast and easy, as one would hope. A New Company File Assistant walks you through the creation of a new company in five steps, including selecting a readymade chart of accounts. Options are also available to import what MYOB calls an "accounts list" either from Excel, or from a Quicken Import.

The Excel import feature is a nice touch, often found in grown-up applications. But a few experimental import attempts confirmed the advice of MYOB's no-nonsense user guide that this task is best done under an accountant's supervision.

In the absence of a suitable accounts list, the Accounts module of the BusinessBasics Easy Set Up Assistant includes an Edit tool makes it possible to add and group new accounts, with the option to create hierarchies with up to three sub-levels. The tools work, but are very much a one-at-a-time option, which could make major changes somewhat laborious. The Accounts Set Up Assistant is also where you enter opening balances for each account.

The Set Up Assistant Customise options for data entry, enquiries and help are also basic, but include time-saving features such as "easy-fill" menus that instantly recognise accounts, suppliers or customers from the text you type in. Or you can select them from a pull-down list. Another useful option allows the user to select accounts by their names rather than nominal code numbers.

The Sales Set Up Assistant has the most options, including invoice templates for service, professional, part-based and "miscellaneous" sales types. It also sets up the VAT codes you will use and the accounts that will receive money paid by your customers. As with the Accounts List, the set up tool has a quick data-entry screen where you can enter names by typing them in, or importing and editing/correcting an existing list.

As the user guide suggests, first-timers will need to set aside around 30 minutes to create a new company file - although more time (30mins in my case) might be needed if you wish to customise your accounts.

Like its more sophisticated siblings (Accounting and Accounting Plus) MYOB BusinessBasics is designed around a Command Centre window that points you towards Accounts, Banking and Sales centres, which display a simple graphical hierarchy for each activity, with options below to list reports or find transactions. The Command Centres emulate the graphical flow charts that are becoming popular to guide users through more complex accounting applications such as Sage Line 50 and QuickBooks.

The Sales Command Centre is simple enough to use, and offers good facilities to add and edit customers as you go along. The Sales Register keeps a record of all sales, with options under different menu tabs to create new quotes and invoices, or to convert a quote to an invoice. Similar facilities are available to raise credit notes and settle invoices against them.

Pretty quickly it became apparent that my customer list import had gone wrong, with some inconsistent formatting of customer names and several rogue entries in the telephone field. But where was the list so I could fix it? There is no such thing as a customer list in BusinessBasics. I tracked down summary of customer list details from the Report menu, which is where I learned that they were held on cards. It's simple enough to edit the records once you find them via the Lists-Cards menu option, but the MYOB terminology proved to be an irritating stumbling block for several minutes.

Ease of use
It was also no problem to go ahead and record sales to my motley collection of members - or customers. Raising invoices and receiving payments came easily - especially with an option to settle an invoice as it is raised to account for weekly collections of members' fees. Each invoice also included the option to record the sale against a job - which was also mirrored in the Bank Register. It might be overkill for a non-profit sports club, but would be extremely useful for a consultancy or other service-based or project/contracting organisation.

The Reports Index screen provides lots of standard templates under five main headings (Accounts, Banking, VAT, Sales and Lists) plus a basic customisation filter tool.

Extra features: Budgeting and bank reconciliation
MYOB BusinessBasics features a number of interesting "extras" not always found on budget price systems. These include a tool to set budgets for each account, with and controls to apply automatic increase options. It looked good, but was a little too sophisticated for my organisation and was not fully explored in this review.

Banking is also very strong. The Bank Register is the key screen in the banking module, providing an instant overview of transactions in and out of bank accounts, with a handy payment generator/check writing form at the bottom of the screen, which also included a button to set up recurring payments. There is also a convenient on-screen button to record bank entries such as interest and overdraft charges.

The BusinessBasics Bank Reconciliation module lets you choose the date of accounts you want to reconcile (for example to go back and re-do a reconciliation if you need to check it) and allows you to drill down to the individual transactions that go into each entry. You can also import bank statements to carry out the reconcilation.

Error correction
Due to some initial set-up errors, my own efforts at bank reconciliation were an embarrassing mess. How could I eliminate all the initial payments that I had mistakenly directed into the bank account rather than holding with undeposited funds before I compiled them into a bank deposit?

It was actually quite easy, as the Set-Up-Preferences Security menu includes an option allowing users to change/delete transactions. The default option was to allow changes, so whenever you view a transaction, the Edit menu conveniently includes a Delete option for misposted payments and invoices. What may be a boon for the ham-fisted amateur could be a source of potential concern for the user's accountant.

User help
As with many other tasks, the program steps users through period- and year-end processes (backing-up data files and locking previous periods) and the user guide provides useful advice about about working with an accountant and dealing with their adjustments.

This summary is typical of the user guide and help files installed with the program, whcih describe the application in a similarly straightforward, step-by-step style. If you need more assistance, a telephone helpline is available during office hours for customers who buy an MYOB support plan. The user help is admirably succinct, but given the target market of very small and start-up businesses, MYOB may have missed a trick by failing to include some simple overview information about why you need to do particular tasks, what the different elements of the package are intended to do, and how they work together.

MYOB BusinessBasics seeks to ease users into accounting tasks via the Command Centre screens. But there is no gettting around that this is a typical Windows XP generation business application. The BusinessBasics interface feels "bitty" and, allowing for the MYOB terminology, it is usually quicker and easier to navigate around using the standard menu command bar across the top of the screen than going back through the Command Centre.

Each of the program components is presented in a separate screen window. On a good-size monitor, these can appear a bit mean and more often than not, the default views of reports and enquiry screens fail to display very much meaningful information, so a lot of time is spent dragging window corners to enlarge them. It is easy for the screens to get buried underneath each other and on several occasions BusinessBasics complained when too many windows were open simultaneously. During the review, it became apparent why the latest generation of business applications tend to be structured around two or three big window views, with Outlook-like task panes and icon signposts.

But given the relative ease of tasks such as data entry, making/receiving payments and producting reports - and more specifically extra features such as the job analysis, budgeting and bank reconciliation tools - the quibbles about screen layout and design are very minor. Aside from the potential lack of a proper audit trail, MYOB BusinessBasics is a durable accounting package that strikes a good balance between functionality, ease-of-use and value for money.

The program costs £67.23+VAT, a very good deal for such a comprehensive, but easy to use application.


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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
03rd Jan 2007 11:31

Half-price January sale: Background
The publication of this review and MYOB's half-price sale (offer ends on Thursday 4 January) was entirely coincidental.

Somewhat concerned that I was dealing with an application that was about to be superseded, I called Simon Smith, general manager of MYOB Business Solutions about the reasons for the half-price offer.

"Just as you spent the holiday period catching up with your accounting software reviews, we wanted to see if people would take the opportunity to get their books in order if we offered a big discount. People did," Smith said.

There were no plans to retire or alter BusinessBasics, but MYOB was considering other developments that might be relevant for start-up businesses, he added.

John Stokdyk
Technology editor

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