Intuit is a remarkable company. It has dominated the small-business accounting market since the 1990s; with an 80% market share, QuickBooks is the default bookkeeping system for small startups.
And QuickBooks does a great job. It’s inexpensive, quick to set up, easy to use, and easy to correct. It integrates with banks and credit cards, online timekeeping systems, tax preparation software and other third-party applications. QuickBooks will serve the needs of many small companies for years.
One major weakness of QuickBooks is how it handles project accounting. You can do it, but it takes some effort, some workarounds, some custom reporting and some spreadsheets. Once you have more than 25 or 30 employees, you need a third-party timesheet system. And you can’t let your project managers into QuickBooks to plan or report on their projects without giving them more access than you’d probably like.
So project-based businesses start looking at alternatives when they have a need for more robust project planning and accounting, often at around 20 employees.
How will you know when it’s time to make the switch? Here are some good indicators:
- You’re manually updating a spreadsheet for every project every month.
- Your chart of accounts has grown unwieldy because QuickBooks doesn’t give you an easy way to track certain kinds of information.
- You’re paying for QuickBooks plus a timesheet system plus a couple of add-ons and hosting every month.
- You’re ready to give more control of and responsibility for the numbers to your project managers.
- You are pursuing a government contract opportunity that will require you to have a DCAA-compliant accounting system.
I’ll make an unabashed pitch here for Unanet as the “next step” after QuickBooks for growing project-based businesses. Unanet has offered a great project planning and management system for years. With the addition of full financial accounting in 2015, it’s now a true replacement for QuickBooks – robust project-centric accounting for growing businesses at an affordable price.
If your QuickBooks instance is no longer sparking joy, perhaps it’s time to thank it for its contribution and let it go. If you’d like to hear more about our experience switching to Unanet, let me know – send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.