Accounting software rant

One of the major annoyances in being the financial guy in our office is the accounting software we use. I would normally use something like GnuCash if it was just about keeping the books, and in fact I do for my personal finances, but with a company things are more complicated and it makes sense to use the same software as our accountant so that files can be swapped easily. This works fairly well in general, but the accounting software is really the laughing stock of usability in our office.

Let’s put the blame where it belongs: we are using Unit 4 Multiverse Lite. They kindly offered us a year-long free license, so perhaps I should not look a gift horse in the mouth, but really… In a way it is a shame I don’t teach usability classes anymore, this software alone would have made wonders for course material. Normally I would just rant and bother my co-workers, but since I’m working at home I’ll do it here. We just got a new version of the software which does some things a bit differently, and some a bit better, but let me tell you about two things I ran into today.

First of all I had to import an electronic bank statement and process it. It was the usual mix of bills we paid, bills other people paid to us, and some transactions from our debit card. After handling all this I clicked on the save icon, and nothing happened. I tried to close the window, but no, there are unsaved edits, and would I like to save? Yes. Nothing happens. Would I like to save. YES! … Anyway, with some careful debugging, walking step-by-step through the procedure and saving each step, I finally found that in one of the sub-windows I did not enter an amount, which it provided by itself in the previous version. It let me happily close that window, and it did not tell me that anything was wrong during saving, let alone tell me what. I wonder how normal people, i.e. without an IT background, solve these problems.

So than the next thing on my list was to pay some more bills. Not a fun thing to have to do in the first place, but at least this time it got interesting. Paying bills is a two step process. First you enter them and then in a separate step you can actually pay them. So I entered a bill, went to the second step, and clicked the bill to pay it. Happily the application informed me that this was going to be a foreign payment, and how would I like to handle this. Except it wasn’t a foreign payment. Again some careful debugging and manual reading let me to the solution. The way bank account details are entered got changed a bit, and I entered all the data I assumed the application expected, including the country code. “Aha!”, the application though, “This bank account has a country code, so it must be foreign.” Well, no, because I’m in the same country, dummy. After removing the country code things worked fine again.

Don’t worry, there are plenty more stories like this, but I’ll keep the other good usability horror stories about Unit 4 Multiverse LIte for another time.

Published on 22/11/2006 at 18h35 by Hans de Graaff, tags

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