Small retailers across the country know the pain that is inputting point-of-sale data into an accounting program. Entering sales, inventory and customer information by hand from one application to another is a black hole into which valuable time disappears at an alarming rate. What's more, it often results in duplicated effort and an increase in data entry errors. A model of modern efficiency it ain't.
Today, Microsoft has released what it calls a bridge between point-of-sales and accounting. It's a small piece of free software, often referred to as a plug-in or add-on, that integrates Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006 with either Microsoft Point of Sale or the Microsoft Retail Management System.
This tiny piece of downloadable software carries a cumbersome name: the Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006 and Point of Sale/Retail Management System Connector. For simplicity's sake, we'll call it the Connector.
According to Microsoft, the Connector's key benefit, in addition to the time savings and reduced data entry, is that it helps small business retailers to better manage their cash flow and improve productivity.
According to Mike Dickstein, director of retail solutions, Microsoft defines a small retailer as someone who owns fewer than 10 stores. "Research from the IHL Consulting group tells us that approximately 1.34 million people own fewer than 10 stores, and that nearly 96 percent of all retailers in the United States about 1.3 million are single store owners. The market is significant, and connecting point-of-sale data with back-end accounting programs hasn't been easy for the small retailer due to a lack of IT resources. This new plug-in will make the process much easier."
Currently, the Connector does not integrate with eBay stores, but Dickstein said Microsoft is keeping an eye on that growing market and may consider integration at some point.
And while Dickstein wouldn't provide any numbers on how many small businesses are using Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006 versus other leading accounting programs, he did say, "Retailers account for one-fifth of all small businesses, and we expect the adoption of Microsoft Small Business Accounting to accelerate now that they have this POS integration."
A Real-World Opinion
Dan King is the president of New West Technologies, a Portland, Ore.-based company with 18 employees. Until recently, his company, which specializes in IT consulting and installing information systems, relied on a combination of Quickbooks and Microsoft's Retail Management System.
"We really wanted a better way to integrate our POS data into the accounting program, and we found it. We switched to Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006 about a month ago, and the Connector download works very well."
King said he finds the new accounting program is easier to use and more intuitive than QuickBooks. "I'm not the one who works with it, of course, but that's the feedback I'm getting from my accounting staff," he said.
It's natural to assume an IT consulting company wouldn't have any trouble installing and setting up the software. "The install was very easy, but not for the obvious reason," King said. "Our sales and administrative staff set it up, and they're not very technical. You really don't need IT skills to get up and running."
He estimates that over the past month the new integrated Connector has saved his company a full day's worth of work hours. "It's a huge savings for us," he said. "It gives us better information faster. That's hard to beat."
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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