Selecting effective accounting software is a strategic decision that every organization has to make. This decision requires consideration for the needs of the organization and for its future plans, as well as knowledge of accounting packages available to satisfy those requirements. Below are the three critical steps in the selection process:
1) Focus on key requirements. Software far too often is selected on the basis of a convincing sales presentation or by assuming that upgrading existing systems is the best way to meet new challenges. These approaches are fraught with risk as they preclude consideration for alternatives available today. Your organization should review its systems and processes to identify key performance requirements. These typically consist of functionality that must be preserved as well as new functionality essential to the organization in the medium to long term. Bypassing requirements and moving forward with a software solution amount to hoping that the solution will meet as-yet-unidentified needs. For example, should the solution encompass requirements beyond financial reporting (manufacturing, customer management, etc.)? Who will use the system and how? Identifying key performance requirements ensures that options can be evaluated against criteria important to the organization, laying the groundwork for a successful project.
2) Identify and evaluate alternatives. Accounting software packages come in a multitude of price points and functionality. Every segment of the market, from small organizations to multi-national enterprises, is served by a number of solutions. Candidate software should be identified by focusing on solutions suited to the organization’s industry and size. In identifying alternatives, it is recommended to keep an open mind and consider a range of options (on premise vs. cloud, horizontally vs. vertically focused, etc.). Each accounting package candidate should be evaluated based on the key performance requirements identified earlier, with increased weight given to more critical requirements.
3) Plan for a successful implementation. Even the best solutions can be deployed poorly, thus limiting benefits to the organization. Successful accounting software implementations require a mix of disciplined project management and deep understanding of how accounting software supports business processes. Approaching software implementations using proven project management methodologies will help keep the project on budget and on schedule.
Keeping these three steps in mind will help your organization find the right accounting software solution and avoid the pitfalls that can be associated with poor software selection and implementation processes.