We get a lot of inquiries from companies asking a simple question: ‘Should we use FinancialForce?’

The answer depends on many, many factors, and we’d like to share as much information as we can to help you make this decision.

First, though, we also like to ask ‘If you didn’t use FinancialForce, what else would you probably use?’ because everyone uses an accounting system. The question is really one of, which accounting system suits you the most right now and in the short to medium future?

FinancialForce is incredibly powerful, and even more so when combined with PSA or other sister applications. But, and this is an important caveat, it’s a bit of a beast. If it was a car, it would be a gas-guzzling Humvee. You can load it up with 8 people and tow a large boat, but don’t expect to be quick off the starting line or nimbly dodge between traffic.

Here are the characteristics of a business that usually does well with FinancialForce:

  • Employee count is at least 30, ideally over 50.
  • Accounting team is technically minded and backs the transition
  • Company already uses and loves Salesforce
  • At least 2 competent Salesforce Admins and a succession plan to keep this at 2 or more
  • Management knows what additional actionable information it will get
  • A business / market / niche that allows you to leverage the additional information / automation

You certainly don’t need all of these to succeed with FinancialForce, but every thing above you don’t have is an additional risk factor.

So, what other options are there?

Quickbooks Desktop – the Volvo Station Wagon

Chances are, one of your buddies in college owned an old Volvo Station Wagon. They were reliable and just didn’t die, often racking up 200 or 300 thousand miles. They weren’t sexy, but the Volvo would get you around affordably, and even accommodate a surprising amount of furniture with the seats folded down.

Welcome to Quickbooks Desktop. It’s showing it’s age, but it’s reliable and industry tested and your accountant knows how to use it. It’s the dominant accounting system in the US. No-one ever gets fired for choosing Quickbooks Desktop as their accounting system. (well, maybe if you are the CFO of a Fortune 500 company….)

Integrating Quickbooks Desktop with Salesforce, however, is a hassle, plain and simple. You need to install a slightly flaky bit of software on your (probably flaky) Windows Desktop which has to rely on your (possibly flaky) broadband. The car equivalent of these integrations are the disastrous Diesel cars introduced in 1980 after the gas crisis of 1979. Don’t remember those Diesel cars? Good, you’re happier because of it.

The integrations are growing in number, and you can find a list of them on the Salesforce AppExchange.

Xero Online Accounting – The New Mini

Everyone loves the mini. Cute, nimble, and fashionable, it’s what gets the cool kids around. But you might not want to try putting a family of 7 in it…

Welcome to Xero. Sleek, smooth, approachable, and fast off the starting line, Xero is the accounting system taking over Australia & New Zealand, and starting to make serious inroads into America. It’s easy to set it up, easy to configure, and users like the look and feel.

The challenge for Xero is that it lacks features other accounting systems have. Do you need job-based costing? Sorry. And, chances are, your accountant has at best heard of it but never seen it.

While you can use Zapier or similar tools to do lightweight syncing between Xero and Salesforce, we’ve found only one integration we really like, and that’s Breadwinner. Their connection between Xero and Salesforce takes only minutes to setup, provides deep integration between the two systems, and has amazing charts on each Salesforce Account so you can see everything about that Accounts invoice history (and whether they’ve paid or not).

Quickbooks Online – Jeep Cherokee / Mazda CX-5

A bit of an SUV and a bit of a Minivan, this one gets you everywhere with the features you need at a reasonable price. It’s not flash, but it gets you around safely and reliably – which is the whole point.

Welcome to Quickbooks Online. If you haven’t taken a look at this SaaS tool in a few years, it’s time to do so again. Quickbooks Online got off to a bit of a rough start, which isn’t surprising given that traditional software companies often have problems moving to the cloud. But Quickbooks Online has revamped itself a few years ago and is now doing great. It’s growth is steady and, most interesting, acceleration, meaning that every quarter it’s actually growing at a faster rate than the last quarter.

Quickbooks Online currently has lots of integrations, but sadly most of these are either generic syncing apps like Zapier, or legacy connections initially built for Quickbooks Desktop that have added Frankenstein-like capability for Quickbooks Online. If you’re going to use QBO, you should choose an integration built explicitly for Quickbooks Online.

Sadly, that app doesn’t exist yet (but will hopefully by the end of the year). In the meantime you can use Workato or Autofy, both found on the AppExchange.

What we’re looking for is Breadwinner for Quickbooks Online, due Q3 2015. Based on our early preview, we think this will be the best integration between Quickbooks Online and Salesforce.

What else are you driving?

Did we miss anything in our list of FinancialForce Alternatives?

What else should Salesforce users consider?

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