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Call us for a free FastStart Consultation: +44 800 011 9185


by Eileen O'Loughlin,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: October 1, 2016

It can be daunting to try to find the right software for an engineering firm. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or you’re replacing a current system, there are a variety of factors to take into account. Between cost calculations, functionality evaluations and deployment considerations, it could take longer than you originally expected to narrow down your software options into a manageable shortlist.

Luckily, we’re here to help you save time as you choose a solution that meets and exceeds the whole company’s needs. Those needs may include time tracking, job costing, billing and project management in addition to core accounting modules. It’s possible to find one specialized system that performs all these functions.

In this guide, we’ll show you how engineering accounting software vendors are optimizing the workflows of businesses like yours. You’ll also learn all the different ways software can be implemented. This knowledge can empower you to make the best decision for your team.

Here's what we'll cover:

What Is Engineering Accounting Software?
Common Features of Engineering Accounting Software
Benefits of Engineering Accounting Software
Evaluating Engineering Accounting Software
Deployment Options

What Is Engineering Accounting Software?

Engineering firms will need project-based accounting software, often with time-recording and billing functions to track billable hours and create the corresponding invoices. Job costing functions to track labor, equipment use, subcontractor usage and materials are also helpful.

Invoices generated by systems in this category should be composed in a readable fashion for the client. These systems should also break down expenses by service provided, performer of service, location, equipment and materials. Implemented correctly, this allows for the optimal accounting and billing efficiency.

Engineering accounting software should be able to serve any sector in this industry, such as:

  • Power
  • Telecommunications
  • Petrochemical
  • Renewable energy
  • Utility
  • Transportation

Common Features of Engineering Accounting Software

Engineering accounting software typically includes industry-specific features in addition to the basic accounting functionalities all businesses need to succeed. Here are some examples:

Core accounting These are the main modules needed to manage financial operations, including the general ledger, payroll, accounts receivable and accounts payable.
Project management Engineering software’s project management capabilities allow the user to automate scheduling, allocate resources, build accurate project budgets and manage staff time effectively.
Time & resource billing The system should be able to meet the different billing needs of an engineering firm, billing by hour or by project and tracking employee time. It should also let you track your billable and non-billable resources to maximize cost recovery.
Engineering inventory modules An engineering accounting solution will contain straightforward categorized line items—including pictures—for each of the thousands of different kinds of products and materials used. This way only the correct item will be purchased and/or billed.
Client communication Effective customer relationship management can help you attract new business and strengthen existing relationships. This includes automating client and contact management and tracking leads, marketing campaigns, contacts and sales all using the same system.
Comprehensive audit trail This describes the ability to track any item from opportunity through usage/completion, providing a complete account that can be drilled down for more detail.
Data visualization Many systems allow users to view financial or operational information through visual tools, such as graphs and charts. The data can be customized and is usually presented in a dashboard interface.

Benefits of Engineering Accounting Software

Professionals can realize multiple benefits as a result of adopting engineering accounting software, such as:

Greater inter-company coordination. This benefit is especially valuable to engineering firms that have multiple locations or that employ staff who regularly work off the company premises. Having one unified software system that is easily accessible to everyone means data can be entered and analyzed simultaneously in different departments. Nowadays, many software solutions offer native mobile device applications to give clients even more accessibility on the go.

Easier compliance reporting. When contracting with government agencies, such as the Department of Transportation or the Department of Defense, it’s very important to ensure every project meets a particular set of regulations. Software can simplify regulatory compliance by providing robust reporting tools that can show time and expense tracking by employee, transaction histories and more.

More transparency. Software users are able to view costs and expenditures in a clear and concise way, which enables business leaders to make informed decisions more quickly. Accounting systems for engineers integrate line items for products and materials used, so you get a more comprehensive view of how resources are being used.

Increased productivity. When a system is designed in an intuitive and user-friendly manner, it helps employees zero in on the exact information they need. This eliminates the need for duplicate data entry. It also allows staff to spend more time focusing on improving the business and less time hunting down spreadsheets or project status updates.

Evaluating Engineering Accounting Software

As with many other service providers, this software benefits from the option to categorize certain expenses in customizable ways, such as billable or non-billable. Engineering firms can also benefit from features that streamline communication to employees and customers to prevent confusion following changes made to a project.

When evaluating these systems, buyers should consider the following:

  • Does it fit the billing strategy (usually billable hours)?
  • Can criteria such as materials and equipment be tracked and stored by the software?
  • Does it include the data necessary for your specialty?
  • Can it assist in producing documents that ensure client comprehension?
  • Does it fit a project-by-project accounting scheme?

Deployment Options

One of the most important decisions engineering software buyers must make is whether to buy a cloud-based or an on-premise system. Cloud software is typically hosted remotely on the vendor’s servers while on-premise solutions are maintained on your company’s own servers.

Cloud-based systems are becoming increasingly popular in the market, largely due to the following benefits:

  • Remote access
  • Lower upfront costs
  • Vendor takes care of software updates
  • Vendor takes care of system maintenance

That said, some engineering firms already have the IT resources necessary to host an on-premise solution and they enjoy the increased control it provides them over the SQL database.

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