Excel does have its merits – when your business is young and your figures are low in volume and complexity, it can serve you well. But it wasn’t built to work as an accountancy system and as your finances develop, online software can be a better option.
If the sight of a spreadsheet makes you nervous, or you’ve ever found yourself in a pickle thanks to a formula gone awry, you’re not alone. Even huge organisations with teams of experts have slipped up, sometimes with embarrassing consequences. In 2013, a student found Excel-related errors in a Harvard research paper on austerity; the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics oversold 10,000 extra tickets for swimming events after a single keystroke error. So if you are thinking it’s time you made the switch, check out our five top tips.
Consider your level of Excel expertise
Because Excel is so widely used, it’s often assumed that it’s simple to master. In reality, if you don’t have specific expertise it can be easy to introduce errors, and tricky to undo them. Also, setting up an accurate spreadsheet that grows with your business takes some strategic thinking; adapting one that no longer does the job is difficult, not to mention time-consuming. If you don’t have experience with Excel, you could be facing a steep learning curve.
Think about whether you need an audit trail
It’s worth noting that with spreadsheets you have no record of changes you or others have made. If you do discover a mistake, it could be difficult to unpick. In addition, there’s no integration with apps you might use to manage processes like invoicing or your payroll.
Explore the benefits of a cloud-based system
With online accounting software like Intuit QuickBooks, you can avoid these pitfalls and save time on your admin. Here’s a look at some of the key benefits:
- It’s quick and simple to set up
- You can access it from any device, including your smartphone
- It’s easy to keep tabs on how your business is doing, with dashboards that display key figures
- It syncs with your online banking – so no more data entry mistakes
- You can use it to create custom invoices
- It integrates with your payroll
- You’ll get a tax report that matches the HMRC form, making self-assessment simpler
Choose a solution that fits your business
Do you need to think about stock control and payroll? Or do you just want to make sure you’re prepared for self-assessment? Look for an affordable system that suits your needs without giving you features you won’t use. With Quickbooks you can choose from four plans, starting with a tax-oriented plan for sole traders and moving through to one for SMEs looking for full finance management. And it’s easy to upgrade should you need to.
When to make the move
This will depend on your spreadsheet skills and the complexity of your accounts. But there are some advantages to switching early on – you’ll have all your figures in one secure, accessible place from the start and a framework that adapts to your needs as they change.
So if you ever find yourself struggling to streamline your invoices or in need of a clearer picture of your balance sheets, it’s time to step away from Excel and embrace the easy-to-use functionality of QuickBook’s online accountancy software.