Last week I worked the Greater Washington CPA Non-Profit Symposium in Washington DC. Not only was I fortunate to be able to present Sage Intacct in one of the technology sessions but I also got to meet and talk technology with many Non-Profit Finance team members. It strikes me that even when folks realize they are on outdated and legacy software they are reluctant to change their systems. We all know that implementations can be painful and working with the right partner can really make all the difference and bring your organization up to speed with technology.
Over the last 20 years of helping folks determine the right software fit and managing over 100 implementations, I have learned a few things that I believe are most important for people to consider when contemplating a change in technology.
Here is my list:
1. The partner you pick is as important or more important than the product you pick. Yes, the product is essential in making sure that you can meet your requirements and manage your ever- changing business but if you don’t have a partner that is working your behalf, you might not be seeing the whole picture. At SSi Consulting, we work with multiple products and spend a lot of time up front understanding your needs and requirements before suggesting a potential product or products you should consider. You want to pick a partner that focuses on accounting technology full time. There are a lot of partners that just represent one publisher and therefore try to shoe horn you into their product at all costs instead of giving you options. There are also many CPA firms that have technology practices but that might not be their focus. They may be more interested in getting your accounting work. Spend time learning about your partner and who will be working on your implementation. Talk to others that have used this partner and can describe the level of service they received during the implementation.
2. Does the Publisher have experience in your industry? There are many publishers and products out there that started as accounting or financial systems, but do they fit your business? How dedicated to your industry are they? Does their product come with the compliance and reports you need? Sage Intacct for example, has a Non-Profit Template that comes out of the box with over 100 reports including Statement of Activities and FAS 958 and FAS 117. I recommend you understand where the publisher; Microsoft, Sage Intacct, Unanet and others are putting their resources and their development so that new compliance changes and their product work in your industry.
3. Be realistic about your implementation timeline. Everyone wants to get the new software implemented as soon as possible to take advantage of the new features and I recommend that you do not rush the implementation. The design stage is most important in ensuring you benefit from the processes and features that the software is known for. Also, don’t try to customize your software to match your old software. It is best to use the system as designed and then in Phase II or Phase III decide if you need to add customization or 3rd parties to accomplish anything that isn’t handled out of the base system. In many cases organizations have outdated processes that no longer have business reasons for doing them, but staff are reluctant to change the processes because “we have always done it that way”.
4. Be willing to change and embrace change. Yes, change is hard but keeps our brains nimble. Typically, organizations change accounting software every 7-10 years. If you have been on your software longer than 10 years, it might be worthwhile to see what new software packages are available for your industry.
Technology is changing faster than ever and having a Cloud ERP system that is updated regularly and staying current with the compliance changes can make a world of difference. Not only will your staff be more efficient and spend less time doing manual tasks, but they will also benefit from being able to get to their data quicker.
Feel free to contact me if you are considering new software. I would love to talk and point you in the right direction.
Assistant Vice President