Out-of-the-Box Accountant

Help Office customers manage their books without the headaches of learning a whole new interface.

Accounting might not be the most exciting topic or the snazziest category of software, but you can't argue with its importance. Sure, you may get more of a "Wow" when you show a customer the latest virtualization environment or security technology, but when it comes to meat-and-potatoes tools for keeping track of their business, a rock-solid accounting package is essential.

Small Business Accounting 2006 (SBA 2006) covers all the bases-accounting, payroll, banking, sales- and purchase-order tracking and inventory management. It's suitable for companies with up to 25 employees, so it's good for your smaller customers who are most likely already using Excel and the other Office applications. This alone can help you sell SBA 2006. It has a similar look and feel to Office 2003, which eases the learning curve.

SBA 2006 can easily share data with other Microsoft Office programs-Word, Excel, Access and Outlook with the Business Contact Manager Update. You can sell SBA 2006 by itself (if your customers are already using Microsoft Office) or as an integrated component of Microsoft Office Small Business Management Edition 2006.

The "Company Home" page in SBA 2006 gives business owners a complete view of their company's financial situation. They can check cash flow and account balances, coordinate payroll, generate quotes, set up reminders for payments or other transactions. They can also choose from a variety of customizable reports and daily snapshots to follow critical business data.

Microsoft Small Business Accounting 2006

Microsoft Corp.
Release Date: September 2005
Price: $199
www.microsoft.com/sba

Get Your Balances in Balance
Installing and configuring SBA 2006 is easy — whether your customers opt to do this themselves or you provide installation services. The SBA 2006 Startup Wizard helps install and set up the program. If your customers already have their financial data stored in QuickBooks, Microsoft Excel 2003 or Excel 2002, the wizard can also help them import and convert their files.

Microsoft has a partnership with Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP), so your customers can establish a payroll-processing agreement with them. ADP can also handle the entire payroll process or provide individual services like managing employee data, printing checks, running reports and filing payroll taxes.

Your customers can choose from more than 60 customizable report formats for forecasting and tracking cash flow, inventory and sales. Helping prepare customized forms and reports is another service you can provide for your less technically oriented customers.

The cash flow management tool in SBA 2006 helps your customers make plans for multiple scenarios, examine their numbers and change data to conduct "what if" scenarios. The report generator creates quotes, invoices and purchase orders. It can also generate templates for managing customer contact information with other Office applications. The customizable reports can show detailed data on sales and purchases.

Small business owners need to control employee access to particularly sensitive business data without limiting their ability to be effective. They can set up SBA 2006 to protect sensitive business data, while still giving their employees the information they need to do their jobs.

Beyond the day-to-day management, SBA 2006's ability to assemble and maintain financial data in one place gives your customers valuable business intelligence. They can view their company's entire cash flow — invoices, bills, payments and any other transaction that affects the final balance. The "what if" scenarios help them forecast future cash flows and make intelligent decisions about their financial status.

Competitive Landscape
There aren't a huge number of competitors in this space, but they're all significant players. This is representative of the market's maturity. The biggies come from Intuit's QuickBooks and Peachtree. QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks Premier, Peachtree Complete Accounting and Peachtree Premium Accounting are all full-featured accounting packages for small business customers and worthy competitors to SBA 2006.

Priced at $199.95 (for one user) and $399.95 (for five users) for the Pro edition and $399.95 (for one user) and $1,399.95 (for five users) for the Premier edition, QuickBooks now supports up to five users. Both editions offer a fairly typical array of features and functions that lets users print checks; pay bills; track sales and expenses; create estimates, invoices and reports; track payroll and employee time; integrate with Microsoft Office; download credit-card and bank transactions; track inventory and set reorder points; build inventory assemblies; and create business plans and forecasts.

The Premier Edition has specialized tools for tracking inventory assemblies, creating purchase orders and setting multiple price levels. There is also a business plan builder and a forecasting and budgeting tool.

Peachtree Complete Accounting 2007 ($269.99) and Peachtree Premium Accounting 2007 ($499.99) are comprehensive packages that provide standard accounting, general ledger, accounts receivable and payable, inventory, payroll solutions, time, billing and job costing, fixed assets, and analysis and reporting functions.

Spotlight Highlights


Key Features:
Integrates easily with other Office applications
Familiar interface lowers learning curve

Opportunities:
Bundle and integrate with other Office applications
Develop custom solutions for specific tasks

Competition:

  • QuickBooks Pro
  • QuickBooks Premier
  • Peachtree Complete Accounting
  • Peachtree Premier Accounting

The 2007 edition of Peachtree Complete Accounting (PCA) lets your customers filter reports with custom fields, provides enhanced integration with Excel, pre-configured tax forms and recurring transaction management. PCA also integrates and synchronizes contacts with Outlook.

Customers can filter both standard and custom reports using custom fields. This lets them categorize reports in ways that are more useful to them, as well as store data unique to their business, and use it in any report format.
Peachtree Premium Accounting (PPA) has all the features of PCA, plus advanced budgeting, financial analysis, serialized inventory tracking, advanced billing, more than 140 different business reports and a multi-user option. PPA also has industry specific versions.

Marketing and Sales
Your small business customers need to spend their time minding their business, not the books. There are numerous online resources that you can use to help educate your customers and sell them on the value of SBA 2006.

There are several online guides you'll want to check out. For existing Microsoft Office customers, download the white paper entitled "Integration of Office Small Business Accounting 2006 with Microsoft Office 2003 Editions." This will help you educate your customers on how they can use SBA 2006 with the rest of the Office suite to increase productivity and decrease accounting errors.

There's a Quick Start to help both you and your customers get SBA 2006 up and running as quickly as possible. Once SBA is deployed, hand your customer the Small Business Accounting 2006 User Guide with step-by-step instructions, notes, tips and cautions. The user guide includes chapters on Getting Started, Managing Your Company, Selling to Customers, Buying from Vendors, Managing Employees, Keeping Bank Records, Generating Reports and Small Business Bookshelf.

Customers can now have one year of free, unlimited support through Microsoft. This is a nice bonus to include when you're speaking with potential SBA 2006 customers, but keep in mind that SBA 2006 is available to U.S. customers only.

The Final Word
SBA's strong suit is its obvious tight integration with the rest of the Microsoft Office suite. This alone could help you steer your customers to SBA. The competitors are mature enough that there isn't a huge discrepancy in features, so the ease of use, ease of sharing data and familiar Microsoft interface will almost make the sale for you.