When pondering great accounting solutions, web engineers should first take note of what’s already out there, market size, and what’s working well. If the application is well-constructed and architecturally sound, client consumption will not be an issue. So how do you develop a SaaS based accounting software? The R&D starts with the architecture.   

Architecture

Stateless Web Servers

In a web based setting one of the first items to consider is web applications do not maintain a defined, local state. A shared database therefore is critical in which the architecture can support no-touch elasticity. It is difficult if not impossible to make an accounting system if web servers are configured with a local state.

Multi-tenancy

When building an MVP for a SaaS accounting system another critical component engineers must consider is multi-tenant architecture which will enable the system to build upon a common infrastructure and spread out services to a wide customer base. In a multi-tenant environment unique tenants will be evident. With each tenant engineers need to identify them so tenant IDs are thus employed at the application and database layer. These IDs are then linked to individual users thereby allowing them to access the data that they have permission for.

Take for example the simple subscription for an application over the internet. This action alone renders the application as SaaS. Yet, to differentiate itself from other ASP applications a multi-tenant architecture is vital. Leveraging efficiencies of a commonly used infrastructure (which also includes application code) reduces operating costs over time via massive resource sharing across users.

So what are the best solutions options? You read our mind, here are couple:

  1. Building custom, web based applications and databases that are unique to each customer. The infrastructure can in theory be shared among all tenants, but engineers can construct-out application environments custom to each client.
  2. To make a SaaS accounting system engineers can place clients on a shared application but with unique databases for each. What would occur is the installation of a single version of software where each client is configured to their own database. Items like physical data segmentation and per-customer encryption are all possible, yet the application as a whole (maintenance especially) is made much simpler. 
  3. Lastly, it is also possible for engineers to incorporate a Salesforce-esque model in which tenants share not only the application version but the database as well. What you end up with is data that is physically co-mingled yet logically separated.

APIs

These are “musts” when building an MVP for a cloud accounting system as without APIs the system can become siloed thus rendering it unmanageable at a distance. This is by no means an aloof call to implement APIs as good API design we know is tough and requires quite a bit of skill. But the long-term benefits are enormous, for clients especially who will be using the SaaS based accounting solutions. 

Support for User-driven Configurations

Part of the value-added of SaaS solutions is clients have the ability to change the online appearance as well as look and feel, extend the data model, define specific workflows as they pertain to their organization and implement security users and groups. This is a custom feel and for engineers to develop a SaaS based accounting software you need to design the software to support user-driven configuration changes. This all falls under the umbrella of “self-service.” When creating these types of solutions, like an efficient gas station, the pump has it all! You keep application costs and issues low by making outsource, self-service a fundamental characteristic of the model.

Scrap the Hard-Coded

To develop a SaaS based accounting software a complex thing to trace for engineers, but a necessity nonetheless, is making sure you don’t have web servers with hard-coded values for server-to-server communication or database connection strings. A good example are IP addresses for instance. Engineers should be sure that the individual layers of the application can scale by themselves without cracking the connection between the various layers to successfully make a high performing system.

Security

To create a system, clear “must have’s” are defining how you choose to identify, allocate permissions, encrypt and secure data, and provide audit trails, among others. At an ideal level, Single Sign On (SSO) via something like SAML will result in one less password for your clients to store and maintain. As accounting data is very sensitive, you can opt for the secondary authentication techniques, custom or incorporated by third-party solution integrations.

 

Features

So how to create a SaaS accounting solution with a range of features? While the range of features can be rather exhaustive to list, it is recommended that you include the following to remain competitive with the other platforms currently on the market.

  • Estimates – Template format where the customer can easily fill-in and forward-out client estimates is recommended when developing SaaS based accounting software. Multiple currencies should be available and the bigger systems also include multiple languages.
  • Invoices – With accounting solutions a template format with an invoice timeline is recommended as clients will be able to easily review what is open, overdue and paid in a simple format. Giving clients the option to brand their own logo, set up auto-recurring invoices and customize automated late payment reminders are good first steps to develop a cloud accounting software.
  • Expenses – Expense tracking (bank payments, out of pocket, receipt reconciliation) is fundamental when constructing the system and the ability to take pictures of receipts and upload them is also a common new feature of accounting solutions. Some platforms give employees the ability to record their own expenses and request reimbursements as well.
  • Projects – To track projects with a SaaS model a to-do list is vital coupled with the rate per hour, billed hours, unbilled hours, the status, and then a notes section. A custom, separate area should allow the client to track project profitability and also define tasks and maintain a running status.
  • Banking – The ability to link bank accounts obviously is paramount. Uploading electronic statements in OFX, QIF or CSV formats is pretty standard across platforms as is a custom area to explain new transactions and also create bank account charts for further analysis. Multi-currency bank account options are good for more developed platforms.
  • Accounting – To make a system the typical profit & loss, balance sheet, aged debtor and creditor reports and capital assets are paramount for web engineers. Additional items such as dividend vouchers for clients, journey entries and comprehensive views of all accounts are also ever-present throughout.
  • Tax – Lastly, to develop a SaaS based accounting software providing the option of being able to set up and configure the sales tax per country is a valued, custom feature. Also working in the functionality of adding multiple sales tax rates and compound taxes is helpful to make a SaaS accounting system.  

Best In-Show

The above mentioned are the nuts and bolts and what to keep in mind when projecting the software development cost. So now that we’ve laid out the architecture and how to construct the system, who are the vendors out there considered “best in-show and how much does it cost?”

One of the most popular solutions available today is BillQuick. Offered as a stand-alone enterprise option, self-hosted or a cloud service, this agile billing and accounting solution provides a range of business accounting, management and market intelligence in a tidy package that is malleable enough to support a range of industries – accounting, consulting, architecture, interior design and construction to name just a few.

The web based system can be deployed on iPhones, Androids or Blackberries and comes with over 400 customizable templates for reporting and 150 plus similar templates for invoicing. An especially valued component is BillQuick’s seamless integration with third-party accounting software plus the company maintains an active, working partnership with Microsoft, Intuit and MYOB Australia to certify data can be easily extracted, customized and subsequently presented. The company has been in operation for roughly 16 years with over 300,000 users across the globe, and a base subscription is $19.95 per month.

Next up is NetSuite, another web based program that markets itself as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) provider. The system features applications for order and billing management, supply chain management, payment management, financial accounting, financial reporting, analytics and much more. Easily integrated with any company’s sales/service/back-office processes, NetSuite operates on a variety of web based browsers and supports data export into CSV as well as IIF files. Data security is a selling point with NetSuite as a highly regarded, built-in, online security control self-manages the package in real time. NetSuite starts off at $99 per month.

Similar to NetSuite, the outsource model, Financial Edge NXT, is a great solution that provides accounts payable and receivable, fixed asset, banking, grants, endowment, project and general ledger functionality to small and medium sized businesses. A personalized dashboard with an array of options for highly customizable views, the Blackbaud funded solution gives users up-close and personal tools to monitor anything from income statements, to cash balances, program-to-expense ratios and much more. Especially attractive to those in the nonprofit industry, NetSuite’s donor management and development tools are extremely well designed which provides daily tracking features that dovetail nicely with communication/marketing processes that typically accompany these relationships. NetSuite starts off at $299 per month.

 

To develop a SaaS based accounting software the above are just a handful of the principal accounting solutions vendors today. The industry is ripe for improvement however so take note of best practices and take a stab at creating the next, great SaaS solution today.

Read also: Outsource SaaS application development (CRM example)

Need an experienced team? Consider Apriorit SaaS development services!

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