9 best practice management software for small accountancy firms 2021

Practice management software is any software that is used to manage the ‘back-office’ of your accounting practice. This includes where you produce, collaborate and track work; where you manage your clients, and things like proposals, payments, and reporting. In an era of remote working, it’s been very interesting reviewing what accounting practice management software has been used the most. It’s been quite eye-opening not only about what has made the cut, but what systems are helping accounting firms thrive in 2021.

To share what we've found, here are the best accounting practice management software options recommended by accountants themselves.

 

What you need to consider before choosing the right software

Researching all of the accounting practice management software that is available can be overwhelming. There are so many options out there and the worst thing is, when you ask other accountants for advice, they all seem to be divided about what practice management means and what the best systems are (go figure).

To prevent you from becoming discouraged and getting sucked into the endless void of trying to make a decision, here are a few things that you can do to help you make the right choice for you and your practice.

Do you want a best of breed system or something that does everything?

a signpost to represent choosing accounting practice management softwareBest of breed software are the best performers in their niche. Think Xero, Practice Ignition, TaxCalc, and GoCardless. All of these are examples of systems which provide you with the best solution within that market.

On the other hand, is ‘suite’ software. Think Accountancy Manager, Onvio, and the IRIS suite. These are the ‘Jack of all trades’ which offer everything you need to run your accounting firm.

While you might not know which type of software to pick right away, it’s good to have a think about it before and while you look at your options. You may think that it’s far easier and convenient to go for suite software, but then when you start looking, it turns out you need multiple best of breed solutions to work together to complete your workflow.

The point is, keep your mind open and look at what you need to help you decide.

For more help on this, read our blog Which is best for a small accountancy firm? Best of breed vs ‘does everything’ Practice Management Software.

Should you use cloud accounting software or a hybrid system?

Will you benefit from being able to access everything out-of-office via the internet? While a hybrid system doesn’t have all the benefits that cloud accounting systems do, it does also allow the business to keep operating even when your system is not connected to the internet. The choice comes down to whether or not you want to go full cloud.

Do you actually need it?

It’s a good question. Don’t get tempted by bells and whistles as you don’t want to end up paying more for the things that your firm doesn’t actually need. Take a moment to look at the features, functions, support, and integration into your firm. Do the essential features outweigh the non-essential? Will your practice suffer or be less efficient without this?

Does it integrate with your compliance software?

Always check that the accounting practice management software you choose is compatible with your existing software! It may sound obvious, but many forget to do this before they invest. If you don't do this, you will have to manually change workflows and transfer client details over to your new system...long story short, it will be a nightmare.

How long will it actually take to set up?

Do your due diligence on how easy this software would be to install and how long or difficult will it be to get your staff trained on it. Every system is going to claim that it’s effortless, so it’s down to you to be objective here. Most software will take hours to set up and to be proficient at it, so try to be as realistic as possible.

How much growth do you expect from your firm over the short-to-medium term?

grow your accounting firmYour requirements will change as your practice grows so make sure to think about this when you choose your software. Where are you wanting your firm to go and realistically, how long will it take you to get there? Make sure to invest in a system that is scalable so that it can grow with you rather than hinder your growth.

For more help with this, read 6 Things You Must Consider BEFORE Deciding on What Practice Management Software to Invest In.

Does it satisfy these 7 key areas?

You want your accounting practice management software to tick as many of these boxes as possible. When choosing the right fit for you and your firm, look at these 7 key areas:

  1. Task and project management tracking - can you add and assign tasks easily as well as tracking progress?
  2. Collaboration - is it easy and efficient to collaborate with your team and your clients?
  3. Time and billing - can it track time and can you bill through the system?
  4. Reporting - does it satisfy all of your reporting requirements?
  5. Integrations - does it integrate with all the systems you need?
  6. User-friendliness - is it smooth and easy to use?
  7. Pricing - is it within budget or worth the extra investment?

Top accounting practice management software for 2021

We don't want to make this process too difficult for you, so we'll keep the information and benefits brief. In no particular order, here are the best accounting practice management software options recommended by accountants this year.

Karbon

Karbon takes a different approach to the rest of the pack, and maybe that's why it is so popular among accountants. A practice management software for tax, audit, accounting or bookkeeping services, Karbon transfers your emails into tasks. What we mean by this is that it's a system that pulls in all your emails and within this system, you can reply to them, create tasks, assign them to others, log them against projects, and more. As you can imagine, this creates a rather smooth workflow where you can easily standardise your processes and manage your clients.

Features that accountants love: 

  • Organisation and flow - being able to turn emails into tasks.
  • Project management - a clear board ensures you never miss a deadline.
  • Collaboration - can easily assign tasks and work seamlessly as a team.
  • Automation - you can use the pre-populated (customisable) configurations or set up your own.
  • CRM - you can manage your client relationships and sales funnel.

Price: starts at $35 (USD) per user/month (if paid annually)

a plant growing to symbolise accounting practice management software that grows your businessSenta

A cloud-based accounting practice management software, Senta is what is known as a 'suite' system. Specifically geared towards accounting firms, this piece of software is well-thought-out and covers everything an accounting firm would need. Just take industry pioneer, Will Farnell's, word for it. He said that "After researching the market and having many hours of demos, we picked Senta because we could make it work for us and tailor it to the FC way; Senta’s capabilities blew our minds in terms of the possibilities of automation and process mapping.

Senta's goal is to make accounting practices more scalable and more profitable by giving them more time to run their business. So don't be put off by the gigantic customisable dashboard when you first log in. This is a programme that is meant to encourage growth and grow with you (not hinder you).

Features that accountants love:

  • Customisable dashboard - you can choose the widgets that you want to see so that you can view everything in your practice at a glance.
  • Highly customisable workflows - can easily repeat workflows and tasks.
  • Integrations - email, SMS, Gmail, Office365, Xero, GoCardless, and more.
  • CRM - you can close more deals and manage client relationships better.
  • Client document management - a built-in secure portal for document sharing and e-signing.
  • Collaboration - working effortlessly with your team and clients has never been easier.

Price: $29 (USD) per user/month (with discounts on annual payments)

Practice Ignition

Practice Ignition prides itself on taking your clients from proposal to paid and all in one place. That's what it's all about - helping accounting practices onboard their clients and get paid faster. Built by accountants for accountants, it seems that Practice Ignition promises never having to chase clients for payments again. While it is a great piece of software for managing a growing client base and creating seamless workflows, the system is lacking in some project management capabilities.

Features that accountants love:

  • Organised dashboard - easily able to monitor revenue, cash flow, sales and more at a glance.
  • Proposals - easily sent due to the built-in service and pricing library features.
  • Automations - sends engagement letters automatically to ensure compliance.
  • Integrations - seamless integrations with a range of accounting and workflow programmes (such as Xero, QuickBooks Online, XPM, and Zapier).
  • Easy payments - being able to collect payments on proposals and get paid on schedule (this is ideal for fixed fee practices).

Price: $75 (USD) per user/month (a free 14-day trial is available with no credit card needed)

a plant pot with money in itXero Practice Manager

For the many Xero-powered accounting firms, Xero Practice Manager is the software of choice. It's no surprise really as it is a full suite that covers a whole range of features, but mainly because it is free for qualifying partners (Silver and above). A very powerful tool for time and billing based businesses, Xero Practice Manager is ideal if your priorities are sending quotes, managing jobs, reporting, and tracking your time and costs. If these aren't necessarily a priority, then you may want to look elsewhere. This system falls down when it comes to collaboration and user-friendliness.

Features that accountants love:

  • Tracking - real-time WIP tracking to better manage workflow.
  • Quoting - send branded quotes to clients.
  • Invoicing/billing - record hours worked and convert them to invoices. Also, bill clients from within XPM.
  • CRM - basic CRM and lead manager.
  • Integrations - seamless integrations with Xero, Xero Tax, and Practice Ignition.

Price: free for Xero Silver partners and above. For new or Bronze partners, it costs $149/month for up to 10 users (after a free 14-day trial)

Rebecca Foy circle

The club helped us save over £1000 a month on software costs

 

Being in the club has given us access to progressive thinkers and the most advanced cloud accountancy firm owners in the profession. This has helped us raise our game and work out in practical terms what being a cloud based digital practice really means. It can be easy to become ‘software drunk’ and feel like you need every piece of cloud software under the sun. But hearing what the other members were using or now not using, gave us the confidence to stop buying into ALL the cloud based tools and slim down the portfolio of software we were using. We’ve switched off all the legacy desktop software and now only use cloud based software. We came into the club as Quickbooks experts, but now have learnt so much from the Xero experts in the club we are equally confident in both software packages.

Rebecca Foy

Davis & Co

money spilling out of a jar to symbolise saving money with accounting practice management software

GoProposal

As you can most likely guess from the name, GoProposal is a piece of software that is best for pricing, proposals, and engagement letters. A great tool for accountants, the software prides itself on enabling not just practice owners, but anyone in the team, to price consistently and sell more confidently. We all know that clients love transparency when it comes to price, so this software was made to remove the guesswork from pricing and instead show you the sophisticated calculations that make up that number. The result? Happy clients who understand your price and value, happy team members as they have more support when pricing, and a happy you as you have consistent pricing and no bottlenecks in your firm!

 

Features that accountants love:

  • Professional proposals - professional and branded templates help you to effortlessly create your proposals.
  • Document management - easily create templates and get clients to e-sign.
  • Real-time use - agree on your fees with your clients instantly in real-time.
  • Client experience - easily collaborate with the client in real-time while discussing price and scope.
  • Integrations - easily integrates with Xero, Senta, QuickBooks, Karbon, and GoCardless.

Price: £60 (GBP) per user/month (for up to 5 proposals per month)

AccountancyManager

AccountancyManager is an award-winning CRM & practice management software; built by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers, with every pain point in mind. It's no surprise then that this software is voted number one by UK accountants and bookkeepers! With all client details, tasks and documents in one place, you can easily access whatever you need quickly and effortlessly. This makes processes such as onboarding extremely slick and streamlined, which means more time for you and a real positive experience for your clients.

Features that accountants love:

  • Automations - access pre-made templates which cover every single automated email and text you will ever need to send to clients.
  • Task management - automate tasks, collaborate, and manage time better as a team.
  • Client onboarding - automate your entire onboarding process from professional clearance to LOE.
  • Collaboration - share documents with clients through the online portal and keep your whole practice on the same (paperless) page by sending internal messages through the system.

Price: £31 (GBP) per user/month (if paid annually. £39 if paid monthly)

a wall full of sticky notes to represent improving your workflow with accounting practice management software

Glide

Similar to Senta and Karbon, Glide is all about improving your workflow to deliver exceptional client service. The software swears by taking control; if you increase the visibility of all staff activities, then you can improve control within your practice and assure client retention. When you think about it, it makes sense. If you can provide consistently high service to your clients, why would they ever want to leave?

 

 

Features that accountants love:

  • Highly configurable - this system fits to your business process, not vice versa.
  • Automations - automate job creation, targets, and communications.
  • Tracking - track progress to manage turnaround times and improve efficiency.
  • Integrations - integrates with Xero, Zapier,  HMRC, and Google Drive.

Price: £38 (GBP) for 1 user/month (after a 30-day free trial)

Dext

Honed as the 'world's favourite paperless bookkeeping platform,' Dext aims to capture, process and share financial documents so businesses can focus on the data that matters. Their claim to fame is that they save you on average, 3 hours per week, by eliminating data entry. Within this time, the software is collecting all the paperwork in one place so that you can see the data you need on a single dashboard. Never miss an invoice or receipt again!

Features that accountants love:

  • Financial data in real-time - both you and your clients can access the data you need at a click of a button.
  • Accurate extraction - extract every line of data with market-leading accuracy.
  • Invoicing and reconciliation - pull invoices from 1,000+ suppliers, automatically categorise documents and enable each line item to be labelled individually.
  • Automated requests - never chase clients for paperwork again. Automate messages through the app-chat.
  • Integrations - the software works seamlessly with email, PayPal, Xero, QuickBooks, and Sage to create the workflow you need.

Price: £10 (GBP) for 1 user/month (if paid annually. £12.50 if paid monthly)

a calendar

Acuity Scheduling

Such a simple tool can make such a big impact on an accountant's life, a tool like Acuity Scheduling. Using Acuity's self-service appointment-booking magic, your day will run as smooth as ever as clients can book appointments with you without you being involved at all. They can reschedule based on your availability and will receive branded confirmations and reminders of the meeting...all you have to do is show up.

 

Features that accountants love:

  • Control your schedule - select only days and times that you want your clients to see.
  • Automations - clients will receive branded confirmations and reminders as well as a link to reschedule if needed.
  • Data collection - collect client details via intake forms at the time of booking. These will be stored for future use if needed.
  • Payments - you can integrate with other software to accept payments online.
  • Integrations - integrates with Stripe, Square, Zapier, PayPal, video conferencing apps etc.

Price: $14 (USD) per user/month (if paid annually. $15 if paid monthly)

Other accounting practice management software to note

Although these systems were recommended by many, it is worth mentioning others that almost made the cut.

  • QuickBooks Online
  • Aero workflow/ Jetpack Workflow/ Pascal Workflow
  • Canopy/ IRIS Accountancy Suite/ CS Professional Suite
  • Financial Cents/ Thomson Reuters Onvio

 

Remember, only get what you need

It is really tempting to follow the siren call of some of these accounting practice management software, but if you don't need a lot of their features, don't invest. First, remember to consider what you actually need now and in the next few years.

Once you know what you're looking for, weigh the pros and cons of each system. Decide on whether connecting a few best of breed systems is better for you or a full suite system.

One thing is for sure. If you choose and execute well, your practice management software will become a highly effective and integrated one-stop resource for your firm. One where you can take control of what needs to be done and by whom, without having a task slip your mind ever again.

 

Read: What is Practice Management Software and Why Your Small Accountancy Firm Needs It ASAP

paul wareham

This year has been revolutionary for me and my team.

We were pretty maxed out with work and I was always too busy firefighting so I knew I needed some help. 

While working in the business, I had become too focused on day to day operations and was not taking time to plan the direction of the firm.  Working with my coach, Ashley, he was able to help me to see what I truly wanted and what I needed to do to get there.

When we get back to full firepower in 2020 we are all looking forward to welcoming the new clients. This growth will definitely allow me to take more time off to be with my family and get back into cycling more often.

Paul Wareham

PS Accountants

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