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Building a Micro-multinational accounting system?


Posted by Lawrence Sinclair on 02 Oct 2009 at 14:06

I'm thinking of building a Ruby on Rails based micro-multinational accounting system. It's the last thing I want to do, but it seems like nothing else free or paid out there is adequate.

Currently, we make do with Intuit Quickbooks Pro. Compared to the alternatives, it is a pleasure to use, and makes accounting rather easy. But it has a number of fundamental failings from our perspective, and I can't find an alternative that addresses them.
Missing Essentials
(1) multi-users with appropriate permissions
(2) remote access from anywhere
(3) dealing with multiple currencies
(4) ability to create custom features and interfaces to deal with special regulations, processes and access to information for other related systems (like analysis and reporting).
(5) can be hosted on a remote server
Nice to Have
(1) consolidated accounts. We run companies in many countries and jurisdictions. It would be good to have them all consolidated in realtime with a single combined view of cash, revenue, expenses, assets, and liabilities, etc.
(2) runs on a unix system (linux, mac OSX, solaris)
(3) works via a web browser.
(4) integrate with other open systems, such as Evernote, Highrise.
(5) runs on the cloud and/or in a Virtual Machine
Getting these missing essentials and nice-to-have features can't come at the cost of ease of use or reasonable cost. I looked at some open ERP systems that promise everything I want (like openerp.com), but they still have clunky interfaces for inputing accounting information, and their broad focus makes them hard to manage, understand, and modify. Other systems, like Quickbooks online, look simple and easy enough to use, but have no ability to be modified for our other uses since they are closed.
Of course, building our own system won't be cheap; we would have to find a way to recover some of those costs by commercializing it or getting some sort of spin-off effect such as more clients.
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