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Evaluating Accounting Software

Carlton's six step process for selecting
accounting software

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA


Over the years, J. Carlton Collins, CPA has evaluated dozens of accounting software packages ranging from low cost entry level systems to multi-million dollar ERP solutions. In this article you’ll learn how Carlton approaches his initial evaluation via a six -step process, which he refers to as “Evaluating or Eating Accounting Software”. 

There are over 4,400 common features found in today’s top accounting software products – however attempting to evaluate all of these features is a daunting proposition. Over the years I have developed my own special 20-minute technique for quickly evaluating an accounting software product that I have found to be very reliable. If the product passes my initial review, then a more detailed evaluation is warranted. However, if the product fails this test, I usually conclude that the product it is not worthy of further consideration.

I refer to this process as eating accounting software and it consists of the following seven-course meal:

  1. Print a financial statement to the screen. (featuring MAS 90)
  2. Customize a data input screen. (featuring MAS 90)
  3. Enter an inventory item. (featuring Dynamics)
  4. Process a sales order. (featuring BusinessWorks)
  5. Evaluate the account number structure. 
  6. Drill down and around. (featuring Navision Attain)
  7. Integration to popular add-on report writers and tools.

After evaluating the above system capabilities, you will then be in an excellent position to determine whether additional evaluation time is warranted. If the system fails this simple test, my advice is to move on – waste no more time on that product.

Bon Appétit


After evaluating the features mentioned above, many people have written and indicated a desire to investigate a product further. These people say that their evaluations based on the factors described above went great, and they have asked for additional key features to evaluate. Hey, we aim to please. To accommodate these requests, I've continued my list of additional key features below. I will provide detailed explanations and examples of those features as soon as possible:

8. Search or Look Up capabilities.
9. Notes and comments.
10. Event-triggered reporting.
11. Data slicing and dicing.
12. Allocations.
13. Commissions.
14. E-Commerce.
15. Set up a customer.
16. Set up an employee.
17. Contact management or CRM

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Evaluating Accounting Software