Techniques: Off the Shelf: Software

A single software product handles accounting, financial reporting, word processing, and much, much more

There's got to be a better way" has been the lament of more than one techno-savvy small-business owner struggling to find efficient ways to, for example, send a mailing to certain clients. After spending the better part of a morning getting up-to-date customer information from the accounting system's database and importing that into the contact-management system, there is still the challenge of mail-merging with a word-processing program, and--well, never mind. You get the picture.

The engineers at Proven Edge had small businesses in mind when they developed the company's namesake line of software products. The Professional Edition of ProvenEdge combines business activities such as accounting, contact management, scheduling, checkbook management, chart and graph generation, and project management in a unified and inexpensive software solution.

The core of the software is its accounting system. ProvenEdge provides facilities for bill paying, invoice tracking, and financial reporting. One nice feature lets you set financial targets not only for expense and income areas but also for purchases from a specific vendor. Then it tracks your company's actual performance against the weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals you've defined.

ProvenEdge gives you the information you need when you need it. When, for example, you enter a new purchase order, ProvenEdge can display your purchase history with that vendor: contacts, forecasted and actual purchases, and details of your accounts payable. Maybe you intend to write the vendor a letter requesting a higher line of credit. If you click on the form-letter icon, ProvenEdge launches its word processor, formatting a letter to your contact. It's a simple matter to merge data from your vendor file into the letter. Believe me, this process is faster, easier, and much less prone to errors than importing data from your accounting system, passing it through your contact manager, and firing up your mail-merge and word-processing programs.

You can use ProvenEdge to develop price quotes and invoices, but its current release doesn't create and track sales orders. That is its biggest shortcoming, especially for businesses that routinely ship from inventory.

Need help getting started? Give ProvenEdge's Rapid Start hot line a call, and a rep will promptly assist you with the accounting and business aspects of the program. The company also provides unlimited lifetime telephone support for all users running current versions of its products. Need training or local support? ProvenEdge has a national value-added reseller network, called Proven Edge Business Partners, available to help.

Because ProvenEdge has been designed to work as a unified package, you can't integrate it with most external word-processing programs--it allows only rich-text, plain-text, and ASCII formats. But its functional comprehensiveness is, of course, exactly what makes it so appealing to small- and home-office users.

The Product
ProvenEdge, Professional Edition, from Proven Edge Inc., St. Petersburg, FL (888-877-6836; $599)

Alan Bauman, president of CompuWorks, a $4-million computer-systems-integration company in Pittsfield, MA

486 PC; Windows 95 or Windows 3.1; 8 MB RAM; 40 MB hard disk