Accounting for Point of Sale
There are a lot of solutions available to help retail businesses get business done. From touch screen technology to mobile credit card and payment processing, retailers have many choices when it comes to selecting the right technology for the business. But even the best point of sale system can lack the critical element that makes it truly valuable for the business. This critical element is integration to a trusted accounting and finance solution.
The point of sale application generally handles the selling of and payment processing for goods and services sold by the business. Whether it is composed of terminals connected to a host system, PCs running POS software, or mobile phones and tablets running mobile payment processing apps like Square or GoPayment, point of sale addresses the retailers need to capture and record sales and payment information, sometimes customer information, and often inventory information.
All of the information used in the POS solution must make it into the accounting system in some manner, yet point of sale applications are too-often approached as a standalone business requirement, somehow disconnected from other aspects of the business. Sales and items may be recorded in the POS system, and only summary sales data ends up being re-keyed into the accounting system. Centralized inventory management is all but nonexistent in these cases, and gross sales total are often recorded rather than individual transactions and receipts being transmitted to the accounting system. The process of re-keying information from the POS to accounting systems is not only an efficiency-killer, but it is also introduces a great potential for errors. When the business elects to conserve on data entry and post only summary information to the accounting system, detailed sales and transaction data may be lost.
The right approach to bringing point of sale together with accounting is to automate the process of integrating POS data with accounting on a regular basis – with AUTOMATION being the key. Rather than establishing a process that requires manual entry of information in either system, a data import/export solution might be the best approach. There are numerous tools available that can take formatted POS data and import it into QuickBooks, for example, where it can be properly accounted for, and there are numerous systems that help businesses keep inventory data available for POS use. QuickBooks Point of Sale solutions integrate with QuickBooks financial products with no special tools required, but many other POS solutions can also connect with QuickBooks if the right integration tool is selected (like POSitouch, which uses Maherware PTQ to integrate with QuickBooks).
The other factor in getting point of sale data to accounting is actually getting it there… transporting the data from the POS location to where the accounting system lives. In many situations it is not desirable to keep the accounting system on the same computers as the point of sale systems, and in some cases it isn’t even possible. But there is generally a way to get the information in a form that makes it possible to transmit it in some manner. Among the most popular approaches to solving the “getting the POS data from here to there” problem is to use a data sync solution like Dropbox.
If the point of sale data can be exported or output to a file on a PC hard drive, then it may be able to be stored in a Dropbox folder on that PC. At the home office where the accounting system resides, the operator would access the sync’d files from the local PC Dropbox folder and import the data to QuickBooks. For QuickBooks Point of Sale there is an option to create a “mailbag” of sorts from the POS data of a remote store, which QuickBooks POS at the home office would pick up from the Dropbox folder and push to the QuickBooks financial application. For a solution like POSitouch, PTQ software performs the data import to QuickBooks financials, pulling POS data files placed in the Dropbox folders by the POS app. Skyline Cloud Services (by UniData, an Authorized Commercial Host for QuickBooks) offers service for both models, allowing retailers to use the right POS solution for the business and automating integration with the QuickBooks desktop accounting solution.
While I am a big fan of application hosting services and running QuickBooks desktop editions in the cloud, I’m also a realist and recognize that many POS solutions either can’t or shouldn’t be hosted. There are situations where a hosted point-of-sale makes a lot of sense, and then there are cases where no bandwidth or proprietary hardware-based solutions make hosting not even an option. That doesn’t mean that the financial systems shouldn’t be hosted, though, and there are numerous ways to get the sync’d POS exports to the hosted QuickBooks environment, for example.
The key for retailers is to make sure there is a solid process for getting detailed and accurate POS information into the accounting system on a regular basis. Manual entry is almost never the best answer. With all of the technology and tools available, manually re-entering sales information is a waste of time and is likely to produce errors. The better answer is to use an approach that automates the regular collection of point-of-sale data from all sources, delivering the data in a regular and consistent manner to accounting, and providing the basis for end-to-end automation supporting the integration of the point of sale system data with the rest of the business accounting.