Microsoft's entry into the small business accounting software arena is a serious contender, if still a little rough around the edges.
Microsoft's entry into the small business accounting software arena is a serious contender, if still a little rough around the edges. Still, there are plenty of things to like about the software, including its integration with Microsoft Office applications and clean layout.
I installed Microsoft's Small Business Management Edition 2006 which sells for $649 and includes the full suite of Microsoft Office applications, Small Business Accounting (SBA), and Business Contact Manager. The accounting application sells for $179 without the Office components, but the inclusion of Office is a key factor in Microsoft's offering. There is extensive interoperability between accounting functions and Office applications. For example, any list in the accounting system can be exported to Microsoft Excel; reports can be exported to Microsoft Excel; and customer and vendor information can be made available in the Business Contact Manager. When taken together, these interactions can reduce some of the work normally associated with daily accounting routines.
Once installed, SBA opened with a wizard that prompted for the first steps, which included learning about the application, creating a new company, opening a sample company, and importing an existing QuickBooks company file. SBA can import QuickBooks files for versions up through 2003, including all but the most recently released version.
A Convenient Dashboard
For companies setting up their accounting systems for the first time, SBA's setup wizards will make the task relatively painless. I was able to enter the basic company information in less than 10 minutes. Of course, this didn't include customers, vendors, employees, etc. I selected the consultant business type from the list of available businesses, and SBA created a standard chart of accounts applicable to that kind of business. Non-accountant types will appreciate not having to generate a list of accounts and account numbers, but the list of 150+ general ledger accounts is likely to be overkill for many small businesses. Of course, it's simple to add and delete accounts as needed.
Once the basic setup was complete, SBA presented a dashboard type page that showed a consolidated view of the company. The screen layout is similar to Microsoft's familiar Outlook Today screen in that it shows upcoming events, bills to be paid, reminders, cash summary, a summary cash flow graph, and buttons that provide access to frequently used functions like customers, vendors, employees, etc. It is possible to add, remove, and rearrange dashboard content, and while the options are useful, they are limited to the nine items on the list.
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