I hear a lot of buzz around using various add-on software titles (apps) that work with QuickBooks Desktop or QuickBooks Online, and for good reason. A well-written app can add loads of functionality to your accounting processes while reducing or eliminating duplicate data entry.
QuickBooks is very open to the app developer market and provides specific tools to allow developers to work with QuickBooks, which is one of its great strengths. From the user’s point of view however, it means that there are a lot of apps to choose from and there are new ones coming on the market all the time as developers compete for a portion of QuickBooks’ considerable user base. So how can you be sure that an app does what it says it will, in a manner that makes sense and is easy to use? Well, you have to do some due diligence to make sure your app experience is a good one. With that in mind, read on for five questions to ask that will help you assess the relative strengths of the plethora of app offerings out there.
- Will it work with my version of QuickBooks?
For a detailed listing of apps that integrate with QuickBooks Desktop or QuickBooks Online, visit apps.com. This searchable database is a great starting point and will allow you to search by name or by function.
When you arrive at the apps.com site, start by selecting your country code at the top right of the screen. Be aware that apps that integrate with payroll may not work in the Canadian version of QuickBooks, particulary when it comes to the Desktop (as opposed to Online) versions of QuickBooks. If you can’t determine by reading the app description whether it is intended to work with Canadian versions of QuickBooks, ask the vendor this question directly and don’t allow them to assume that it must work in Canada if it works in the US. A good question would be “Do you have users in Canada who have successfully integrated your app with QuickBooks to import timesheet data and process payroll?”
- What level of integration does the app achieve?
The best of the apps will allow you to enter data only once and will sync both ways between the app and QuickBooks. In other words, you can add a list item such as a vendor or a transaction such as an invoice either in the app OR in QuickBooks and the information will transfer to the other software. Be aware of situations that require one-way syncing as this will restrict which software you can enter new data into. Avoid scenarios where you have to enter data twice – after all, you are looking for efficiencies, right? One example I’ve seen recently is a scanning hardware and app package that promised to scan vendor bills and post them automatically into QuickBooks Online. After the client made a significant investment in purchasing this developer’s scanner plus a subscription to their online app he called me for assistance in setting it all up. We quickly discovered that all of his QuickBooks vendors and expense accounts had to be keyed separately into the app even though they already existed in QuickBooks, then there was a mapping process that the user had to do in order to connect the two profiles. As if this wasn’t bad enough, we then discovered that the app couldn’t recognize HST (it was a US-based software), meaning that even after scanning his vendor bills, he had to manually go into each one in QuickBooks to separate the HST.
- Which functions must be done in the app and which will remain in QuickBooks?
Many apps, particularly those that manage customer relationships or project management, require invoicing to be done from the app, not from QuickBooks. The app then sends the transaction information over to QuickBooks. The best case scenario is when the integration stops there and you can take over with receivables management, entering customer payments and bank deposits into QuickBooks. As QuickBooks needs the payment information to flow through to the bank deposits and monthly bank reconciliation, it is usually best to handle receivables management directly within QuickBooks. When syncing invoices over to QuickBooks, they may arrive as detailed invoices that list the products and descriptions or they may just be summary entries with the details displayed only in the app. If tracking inventory is one of your goals, you will need the detailed invoice entry to be held in whichever product, whether the app or QuickBooks, that is keeping records of inventory on hand.
- What do the users say?
The following may come across as self-evident, but software vendors are in the business of selling their software. If you want to know where the warts are, you need to seek out and read user reviews. If nothing else, it will be an education in what specific questions you should be asking. Look for user reviews from an independent site, not testimonials on the app’s website. Would you post a negative review of your product on your own website?
- What support is available?
Support options can vary greatly, from developers who get very hands-on with detailed aspects of your setup and QuickBooks integration, to the other extreme where you are left to figure things out largely on your own. Telephone support is no longer a given or may only be offered for an extra fee, leaving the budget-conscious user to search FAQ areas of the app developer’s website or use online chat or monitored user forums that offer peer-to-peer support, usually in addition to answers written by the developer. Support hours can vary greatly as well. If your app’s developer is located on the west coast or overseas and you are in the Eastern time zone of Canada, you may find support hours to be quite limited during your work day.
If you would like assistance with sourcing and implementing an app to round out your accounting system, why not give BookSmarts a call to help you navigate the choices and avoid an expensive and disappointing lesson?