MYOB has made some welcome changes to its predecessor, MYOB Plus 2004, then taken the result, bundled it with some less-than-stellar, third-party utilities, and named the package Business Essentials Pro. One of the included apps, the newly minted Premier Accounting 2005, has a fine, flow-chart-like interface that steps nonaccountants through basic bookkeeping chores, such as processing a payroll and creating invoices. The new Process Payroll Assistant provides a five-step Q&A to help you automate check-cutting, and the new Company Data Auditor gives you a handy, bird's-eye view of receivables, payables, and inventory. But we're less impressed with the third-party tools--such as a human resources database and an appointment scheduler--which need better integration with Premier Accounting. And MYOB's technical support could be much better. Longtime MYOB users should consider upgrading to this $299 package, but anyone else in small business who's in need of a thorough accounting program should instead try Simply Accounting Pro or Intuit QuickBooks Pro. Unfortunately, each of the applications comprising MYOB Business Essentials Pro--MYOB Premier Accounting 2005, Atlas Business Solutions' Customer Appointment Manager, Staff Files, Ultimate Financial Forecaster, Virtual Small Business Workshop, and Laughingbird Software's The Logo Creator--installs separately; we'd prefer an approach that's less tedious and time-consuming, such as a single setup screen. The star of the show remains MYOB Premier Accounting 2005, with its well-honed Easy Setup Assistant, a series of helpful start-up guides that thankfully have changed little since MYOB Plus 2004. The Setup Assistant demystifies accounting arcana for small-business owners, one of MYOB's core strengths. During setup, for instance, Premier asks you for some head-scratchers, such as your company's "conversion month," yet the same screen helpfully defines such terms in simple English.
Upgraders from MYOB Plus 2004 will spot the fine-tuning to Premier Accounting: a streamlined Payroll Assistant, pop-up warnings that help you to reconcile a bank statement, and a batch e-mail tool that automates sending invoices to customers. Sadly, there's no commonality between Premier Accounting and Business Essential Pro's other programs. Each has its own unique interface that fails to mesh with Premier's flow-chart-oriented design.MYOB Premier Accounting 2005 remains the star of Business Essentials Pro, and the other programs play supporting roles, but there's little chemistry among the cast. That said, we're impressed with the latest version of Premier Accounting, a seasoned bookkeeping program that offers several useful upgrades. The new Company Data Auditor, for instance, makes it easier to troubleshoot accounting problems in your company file. It includes an account reconciliation feature that lists all accounts and balances with their most recent reconciliation dates, and it provides an audit trail for your review. Batch e-mail, another helpful enhancement, lets you choose whether to send statements and invoices to customers via e-mail or snail mail, and it lets you send batch e-mail easily via the program's Sales module.
However, the lack of integration among Premier Accounting and its bundled apps creates some interesting quirks. For example, Staff Files, a human resources utility that manages employee information, such as performance evaluations and vacation time, imports data directly from QuickBooks--but not from Premier Accounting, the very program with which it's bundled. The same goes for Atlas Business Solutions' Customer Appointment Manager scheduler and the Ultimate Financial Forecaster, which handles cash flow, sales, and expense forecasts. You also get The Logo Creator, which slaps logos onto your invoices, business cards, and letterheads. Simply Accounting Pro 2005 does a much better job of integrating its financial forecasting tools and schedulers.
And we'd like to see Premier Accounting better integrate with Microsoft Outlook. For instance, while you can export your business contacts straight to Outlook from both Simply Accounting Pro and QuickBooks Premier, MYOB Premier Accounting forces you to convert the data to comma-separated format first.As with all business-accounting software, support for MYOB Business Essentials Pro is costly once its initial, free 30-day support period expires. Phone support runs $4 per minute with a $40 minimum, average for business-class accounting programs. You might save money if you purchase a monthly or yearly support package, which costs $7.99 per month for a single-user e-mail help plan without phone support, or $379 annually for a multiuser annual e-mail and phone support plan. Tech-support hours are Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, availability that might create problems for those living in the Pacific time zone.
When we called MYOB technical support, support reps responded politely and quickly to our queries, even if they didn't always have the answers. For instance, one phone tech didn't know how to prevent a pop-up security message from appearing in Microsoft Word--a glitch caused by a macro within MYOB's OfficeLink feature that sends MYOB reports and letters to Excel and Word. Nor did MYOB resolve our simple test e-mail query.
MYOB Business Essentials Pro does provide a 234-page illustrated user guide alongside two books on accounting basics.