By Patricia Fusco
Microsoft has lowered the price barrier for its entry-level accounting systems with the release of Small Business Manager 7.0. Built for small businesses that need more than basic bookkeeping software, the new application features an affordable, integrated software solution capable of managing a broad range of everyday business functions.
Priced at $995 for single users, Microsoft's Small Business Manager costs more than three times that of more basic accounting systems, such as Intuit's QuickBooks Pro or MYOB. But the new application makes migrating toward Microsoft's Great Plains Business Manager, which starts at $1,500 for a single user, a much smaller pill to swallow.
If you plan on growing your small business, then Microsoft has crafted a tempting lure for its new accounting application. Pueblo, Colo.-based LaMar's Donuts International is just the type of burgeoning small business that needed a better way to account for its dough. With 42 employees, two stores and plans to expand in the near future, LaMar's Donuts Chief Financial Officer Ruth Mondragon said she wasn't about to settle for a second-rate accounting system.
"You shouldn't have to compromise just because you're a small business," Mondragon said. "The product is very cost-effective for a small company."
Mondragon explained that LaMar's Donuts needed an accounting solution that was affordable and easy to use, but that she needed a consolidated report to look at a view of the company's multiple locations and systems.
"It is so easy to use," Mondragon said. "I can just look at financials and know exactly where we're at in each store."
Jonathan Weinstein, director of small business product management at Microsoft Business Solutions, said small businesses played a key role in developing the software.
"Throughout the development process of Small Business Manager 7.0, we gathered feedback and suggestions from our partner network and a wide variety of small businesses," Weinstein said. "We made their priorities our priorities."
Our Business Is Your Business
By listening to small businesses, Weinstein said Microsoft was able to build just what small businesses ordered an accounting solution with the flexibility and power needed to succeed in an increasingly challenging marketplace.
Microsoft Business Solutions Small Business Manager 7.0 includes features designed to help businesses better manage sales and inventory functions. New sales and purchasing tools are integrated with inventory functionality. Quotes, sales orders, invoices, statements and payments are all integrated, allowing small businesses streamlined management of the complete customer life cycle.
Inventory control options include the ability to assign multiple cost methods or set multiple price levels. Inventory integrity features include serial number and lot number tracking, as well as physical inventory checklists, cost and quantity tracking, and inventory adjustment capabilities.
When it comes to fiscal controls, Small Business Manager 7.0 offers all the typical bells and whistles, along with cash flow forecasting, closing period controls, accurate transaction postings, and the ability to electronically file payroll information with the government.
Because its Microsoft-made, naturally there is an opportunity for enhanced integration between other general office applications and Small Business Manager 7.0. Small businesses can import records and transactions with a wizard-based tool and readily export data and reports to Microsoft Excel and other applications. Additional capabilities for integrating industry-specific software created by other authorized developers also are available, so transferring from one accounting system to Small Business Manager 7.0 should be a breeze.
The price of the software depends on what type of accounting solution your small business needs. You can download Small Business Manager 7.0 and try it for free for 60 days. Estimated retail prices begin at $995 for single users and $2,495 for up to five concurrent users. A U.S. payroll add-on suite is available for $500. Microsoft's Small Business Manager 7.0 is available immediately through authorized resellers and consultant partners.