As a contractor who uses Sage, you have seen that Sage does have its limitations when it comes to your industry – after all, it’s an accounting software so it’s not going to do your scheduling, track your leads, provide a worksheet for you to create your estimate,… To handle those other needs, perhaps you have resorted to spreadsheets, pencil & paper, or maybe you found software that can do some of what you want, but it doesn’t integrate with Sage. As a result, you may find that you are doing double-entry (or some simplified version) or compartmentalizing your information. So while you may have simplified one process, you are still having information in multiple places.
But if you want to streamline your workflow, which has numerous benefits, then it’s time to look at products that handle what you need while integrating with Sage. Some products do a great job with integrating but others fall way short. So here are some key areas to consider:
- Version of Sage – Find out which versions(s) of Sage your software will integrate. If it integrates with Pro, it will integrate with Premier and Enterprise, but Online is a very different software, so be sure to ask. You might also find that the year comes into play, as well, (e.g. the product may work with a newer version of Sage, but not an older version or vice versa.)
- Item level vs Account – Unless this product is going to do everything but your Profit/Loss (Income) Statement and Balance sheet, and job costing is not important, then I take a much harder look at the integration. If you use a desktop version of Sage and job costing is important, I recommend integration at the Item level (vs. the account level). If it doesn’t, you will find that some features and many of your job cost reports in Sage will be useless.
- Method and frequency of integration – Find out how this product will integrate with Sage; sometimes, you have to purchase an additional module or product, so be sure to ask. How does the integration work? Sometimes it’s automatic, sometimes it’s a click of a button and sometimes you have to manually export out of one program and then manually import into Sage (and/or vice versa).
- References – Talk to some who are using the product with Sage and ask about their experience. You might also ask if the sales company uses Sage for their accounting; they often understand the integration better if that’s the case.
- Hosting – If your desktop version of Sage is being hosted somewhere, ask if your hosting company works with this software. If they do, you will most likely pay for the additional program, but usually at a good rate. If they don’t already support your software, ask if they can. If they say they can, be sure to ask what your fee will be – often it’s significantly higher.
And here are two bonus tips – not specific to Sage but always worth asking when buying software.
- Tech support – Find out about their ownership and tech support. I’ve seen some products work great until the owner retires or moves elsewhere. Sometimes the smaller companies aren’t staffed adequately for tech support – or at least not available when you need (perhaps nights/weekends). Larger companies sometimes are staffed better. You might want to ask if the support is US-based. Is the support included or is this an extra cost? Find out what it would be for an annual support plan and what happens if you don’t have the support plan but need help. See how long they support a product. In the case of Sage, it’s 3 years.
- See how they handle patches and upgrades. If it’s cloud-based, that may not be an issue. If it’s desktop software, then ask. Intuit differentiates between patches to fix bugs to the software and actual upgrades to new versions. However, Intuit supports only 3 years, so you may want to see if this product has similar limitations.
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