REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 15, 2007 – Small businesses are an essential part of the U.S. economy. According to AMI-Partners 2005 data there are approximately 20 million small businesses in the United States. However, a majority of these are still using the shoebox-and-paper accounting method instead of software.
Rajat Taneja, general manager of Microsoft’s Small Business Applications and Services organization, spoke with PressPass about the release of the next version of Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2008 – available as a no-charge download, and Office Accounting Professional 2008 – available for a trial period as a download through Office Accounting Express and available at retail in early 2008.
PressPass: What makes the launch of Office Accounting Express 2008 so unique in the accounting software market?
Taneja: Office Accounting is one of the most modern applications available to help small businesses not only do their bookkeeping but also gain deep insight about their operations, such as profitability and cash flow. Office Accounting Express 2008 was built to help small businesses move from paper and pencil and shoebox receipts to a more comprehensive business management solution. The software also includes migration tools to enable users of Quickbooks, Sage and Money move their data to Office Accounting. The design of the software incorporates several critical Internet services to enable customers to take advantage of the power of the Web, like electronic billing and payments, online payroll, and more. And finally, the core Office Accounting Express software is available at no charge, while the optional services are billed either as subscriptions or as transactions.
Probably the most unique value that Office Accounting provides is the ability of users to use Business Contact Manager within Outlook to access financial reports, create sales orders, invoices, and time entry, and additionally view customer financials seamlessly. Also, all reports from Office Accounting can be exported to Excel, and several powerful pivot tables can also be automatically created for deeper analysis and saved back into the reporting system.
PressPass: What are the differences between Office Accounting Express 2008 and Office Accounting Professional 2008?
Taneja: Office Accounting Express is the product meant for companies just starting up who have simpler needs and business processes, and don’t face the same constraints and regulatory issues as those small businesses that are more established. It provides an easy and simple interface to invoice customers, receive payments, manage P&L and balance sheets, and conduct banking transactions.
The Professional version includes enhanced features, appropriate for more established companies, including the concepts of sales orders, financial charges, inventory management and fixed-asset management, to name a few. Office Accounting Professional 2008 also contains several additional financial reports that can be customized and are more applicable to growing businesses.
A general rule of thumb is that if multiple people need to access the software and use it, then Professional is the right product. However, for more information on the differences between the two products, please visit the Office Accounting Web site.
PressPass: What is new in the 2008 version?
Taneja: There are many new features in Office Accounting 2008. We have been listening to our customers, and have used the feedback to enhance the newest version. Some of the new features in the United States include:
Spanish version with bilingual capabilities. New bilingual versions of Office Accounting Express and Professional targeted to Hispanic businesses enable customers to switch between English and Spanish. This will enable Hispanic-owned businesses — one of the fastest-growing segments of small businesses, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — to manage their finances and communicate with customers in both languages.
Resource Center. The Resource Center brings together more educational resources than ever before in one easily accessible location, where users can browse through a broad range of topics ranging from financial management basics and business issues to demos and trainings.
Budgeting. Customers can create budgets and track how they compare with actual results for better control over their finances.
Universal transaction import. Users can import financial data including transactions into Office Accounting from virtually any accounting package or line-of-business software via Excel or comma-separated value (CSV) files.
Invoicing that is easier than before. Customers can now send Office Accounting documents in Word or PDF formats in bulk with just a few clicks.
Enhanced purchase order and sales order tools. Users can now create a purchase order from inventory on a sales order as well as create purchase orders for items based upon inventory reorder points.
Online banking that is more streamlined. Office Accounting now enables easier setup of online banking and supports more financial institutions than ever before.
Some of the new features in the United Kingdom include: VAT tax, foreign currency, payroll, custom account templates, electronic billing, online banking and several powerful reports.
PressPass: Why did Office Accounting create a Spanish language version of Office Accounting?
Taneja: Hispanic-based small businesses are one of the fastest growing segments in the U.S. economy – but considerably underserved in the IT market. As part of our dedication to the small business market, Microsoft will offer Office Accounting in Spanish named Office Professionales en Contibilidad 2008, which will have the same rich functionality as the English version, and customers will have the ability to communicate in either language.
PressPass: What prompted your decision to introduce Office Accounting in the United Kingdom, and what localization have you done to make it suitable for that market?
Taneja: The UK-version of Office Accounting was designed with very deep involvement of end users and accountants over the last two years. The product at launch has certification from both the ICAEW and HMRC who extensively tested the product for several months. The product has all features that are required to run a small business in the UK including VAT taxes, payroll, banking, reports and support for multiple currency. Customers testing the product have provided extremely positive feedback with many already using it to run their business.
PressPass: The Microsoft Professional Accountants Network (MPAN) will launch at the same time. How do accountants become part of this and what benefits can they achieve by doing so?
Taneja: The MPAN program was designed from the ground up in consultation with accountants in both the United States and United Kingdom. Members get several benefits such as access to the Office Accounting software, CPE training, certification, networking opportunities with qualified Microsoft IT partners and access to our specialized support — all at no cost. Once certified, the MPAN members become part of a database that enables Microsoft to connect new users and businesses to them on a proactive basis. MPAN members can also get the Microsoft action pack of popular desktop software at a very nominal cost.
PressPass: What are some of the capabilities in Microsoft Office Accounting that makes it significant for the accountant community?
Taneja: Office Accounting 2008 is significant in the market as it enables the accounting professional to actually add in tools, navigation elements and menus that link to their Web site and other content. This will enable the accounting professional to have a deeper and more ongoing relationship with their clients within the context of the software. In addition, Office Accounting enables easy online sharing of data, an accountant viewer for managing multiple clients and several powerful features like customizable account templates, power journal entry and special reports to ease the period end reconciliations.
PressPass: How does this product fit into Microsoft’s small business strategy?
Taneja: Through customer research, Microsoft continues to invest deeply in helping small businesses be more efficient and better serve their customers through the adoption of IT solutions. As part of that strategy, today we are highlighting how together, with our customers and partners, Microsoft is helping to redefine “business management” for small businesses by offering a financial management solution with partners, and upgraded accountant features.