Governments must provide accountability, transparency, and visibility into their use and management of funds. Their constituents demand it. But to do so, they need a fund accounting system that not only captures data accurately but does so in ways that make it easy to generate reports, synchronize information across multiple offices and diverse geographic locations, link expenses and income to specific projects, and do so in a cost-effect manner.
That’s a tall order. Fortunately, software developers understand the growing demand for true fund accounting that encompasses the unique needs of government accounting. If you’re shopping for accounting software for your government agency or department, here are the top 5 “must-have” features to look for in a software package.
Government Accounting Software: 5 Necessary Features
Government accounting software shares some similarities and differences with corporate accounting systems. Both systems need features such as the ability to invoice customers, receive payments, and run payroll.
But they differ in many features unique to government fund accounting. When searching for the perfect software to handle your agency or municipality’s needs, consider the following elements necessary for governments and hard to find in many off-the-shelf software packages.
- Complete data integration: A common frustration among users of older systems is their inability to share data between various programs. It’s time-consuming to download files, upload them again into a new program, and manipulate them to create reports, graphs, and charts. Look for time-saving features in your new government accounting software that includes complete data integration. It’s a feature that enables smooth, fast integration of data from your older programs into the new system.
- Organization-wide access: If your current system exists in siloes throughout the organization, you know how frustrating it can be to find what you need. You may need to request several different reports from various departments, for example, because you lack access to the data required to complete a project. Newer government accounting systems enable access to some features but limit sensitive data to only those who need to access it. It’s a great feature that makes sharing information easier and faster.
- Robust reporting features: Say good-bye to using spreadsheets to create reports. New fund accounting programs include plenty of features that enable users to create and share reports quickly and easily. When you have to present information to constituents or external stakeholders, a picture is worth a thousand words. The ability to generate bar charts, graphics, pie charts, and other data visualizations at the click of a button makes reporting a breeze.
- Allocation management: Allocating resources across government agencies, municipalities, states, or other sections can be challenging. Legacy programs often require special programming to make them flexible enough to accommodate multiple areas for allocation. A “must-have” feature for government accounting software today is allocation management. Such features enable you to allocate expenses, perform account reconciliations, and distribute budgets automatically.
- Flexible tax management: Managing and billing property taxes, sales taxes, and other specific taxes add another layer of complexity to government accounting software. Features such as property tax management, sales tax management, and additional local and specific tax tracking are a must-have in new government accounting software.
Secure Online or Onsite Deployment
Some governments require all software deployments to be onsite, through their hardware and servers, to ensure data is kept secure. Others prefer cloud-based systems that enable rapid and real-time data sharing and updates. When shopping for government accounting software, take into consideration the software platform and any additional security features you may need to add.
As you shop for government accounting software, the “must-have” features may grow beyond the five above. This list is meant to start your thinking in the right direction. If you’d like to explore your options for government accounting software, please contact us online. We are a Native American woman-owned business focused on fund accounting solutions and specialize in national and international government accounting software selection and implementation.