Are you wasting time with these five accounting software problems?

By Emily Coltman

2 December 2014

Emily Coltman FCA, Chief Accountant at ICAS Partner* FreeAgent - explores some common accounting software problems and how a cloud solution can help.

Using accounting software can be a great way to save time and money for your practice. The data is more likely to be accurate than an Excel spreadsheet where one wrong formula can throw out all the results.

But not all accountancy software is created equally. The software you use has to be right for both you and your client. Otherwise, it can end up costing more time and money than it saves, and frustrate both parties.

For small business clients, it's especially important to have accounting software that's flexible and easy to use. These clients are focused on the immediate running of their business and finding time for bookkeeping can often take a back seat.

1. Sorry, which version are you using again?

If you and your client are running different versions of the same desktop accounting package, you'll be familiar with the cycle of endless upgrades, license keys and phone calls. Not to mention trying to upload your journal entries on to their (incompatible) copy of the software - only to find that you can't bill that time!

With a cloud system, there's no software to install and you don't need to worry about upgrading to the latest version as it's all there whenever you or your client logs in online. And as ledgers are updated automatically as transactions are posted, everyone sees the same - and the only - version of the data.

2. I'm not in the office right now…

When your clients' books are on a desktop accounting package, urgent calls from clients when you're out of the office mean a frustrating - and potentially costly - wait until you get back to base. The same applies when you're trying to get in touch with clients, and they're on the go.

On the other hand, if you use cloud accounting software, you can both work from your laptops, tablets or smartphones, wherever you are. Urgent queries can be dealt with in a timely manner, and your clients can take care of jobs when they're fresh in their mind. You'll see the same data as your client, whether you are sitting side by side, or on the other side of the world.

3. Help! My computer crashed, and I've lost everything!

Have you ever had this phone call from a client who's using spreadsheets or desktop accounting software?  Did your heart hit the floor even as they spoke, knowing you would have to recreate their records from last year's backup - perhaps spending hours or days re-entering many months' worth of data?

With all of the clients' data stored in cloud software and backed up frequently, it doesn't matter if one machine dies - the accounts will live on.

4. What was the password?

Everyone knows how important it is to password-protect accounts. But when your practice needs to securely store and access a different password for each client's records, the system can break down quickly.  Passwords end up scribbled on sticky notes for everyone to read, or jotted down in notebooks that then find their way out of the office in a team member's briefcase which gets left on the train…

Cloud accounting software can give you access to all your clients' books with just one password - no sticky note required.  You can quickly hop from one client's records to another, saving you a great deal of time and effort.

5. But I didn't know it was a problem!

When your clients use desktop accounting software, small mistakes in your clients' books that are left for months until the records come in for the VAT return, or, worse, for year end, can multiply into big problems. That incorrect formula in Excel, those missing bank transfers in the reconciliations, that supposedly "balanced" bank account that contains huge monthly "adjustment" figures - all these cost time and drain staff energy and morale. And you either have to absorb the cost or ask the client for more cash.

If your cloud system has an alert system you can set up your own customised early warnings for unusual activity in your clients' books, for example if a computer is posted to the P&L instead of the balance sheet. These alerts mean you can resolve mistakes quickly before they become an issue, saving you time at year end, and giving your clients better financial information.

Your accounting software should be easy to use it encourages clients to keep on top of day-to-day bookkeeping tasks. This means they have good financial information about their business and know in advance if they risk running out of cash. You have timely, accurate information to prepare your clients' accounts and tax returns and to advise them about tax and business planning. Meanwhile, your staff are freed up from administrative, time-consuming tasks. Everybody wins! 

Find out more

*Freeagent are working with ICAS to help practices support their clients.  If you want to find out more simply visit the ICAS Website, call 0800 025 3900 or visit our website at 

About the Author

Emily Coltman FCA, Chief Accountant of FreeAgent, is a very unusual Chartered Accountant - she is bilingual in accounting-speak and plain English!
A graduate of the University of Cambridge, Emily has been working with small businesses for the past 14 years and is passionate about helping their owners lose their fear of "the numbers" and the taxman. She is the author of three e-books, "Finance for Small Business", "Micro Multinations" and "Very Awkward Tax".


  • Corporate and financial reporting
  • Development of the profession
  • Technology

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