The classic method of selecting an accounting package (and this will also hold true for any type of software package) is to
1. Establish your requirements
2. Rank these as Essential or Desirable
3. Establish whether the packages satisfy your requirements
4. If a package cannot provide your Essential requirements, discard it
5. Rank the remaining packages in order of the Desirability of the remaining requirements that they can satisfy.
6. Make further enquiries about the top ranked package (site visits etc)
7. Implement the chosen package
What we have found, is that most, if not all, modern accounting software packages will now provide the functionality to satisfy most transactional processing requirements. This means that the emphasis switches from the functional to the analytical.
Before an accounting package is purchased, a company must be satisfied that it will be able to analyse its accounting (and possibly its operational) data in a way that gives its managers the ability to run the business. A company can be fairly certain that packages such as SunSystems, with its many analysis codes, and Coda, with its ability to use elements to analyse data, will be able to handle their requirements. If there is any doubt on this matter, however, a company must establish, before an accounting package is purchased, exactly how its Chart of Accounts is to be structured.
In our opinion there are a few of rules that should be followed
1. Be clear about the aims of selecting
and implementing the system (whether it is cutting staff, improved reporting
etc) and ensure that everything that you do maintains progress towards them.
2. Do not enforce strict deadlines on the implementation - there are plenty of other ways of ensuring that progress is being achieved - regular steering group meetings for example. An artificially short deadline will just result, in the long run, in a less than ideal system.
3. Do not just seek to replicate the existing systems. This is connected with the previous point. We have seen a number of occasions when companies have, through time pressures, had to simply copy their existing chart of accounts structure from one accounting system to another. If you do this, you miss any opportunities created by the increased functionality of the new system.
4. Do not force the new systems into the framework of your existing processes. Just because, for instance, purchase orders are currently raised manually by the requisitioner and entered into the accounting system by finance, doesn't mean that they have to be in the future. The introduction of a new accounting package affecting, as it does, so many areas of a companies operations, is a great opportunity to modernise many of the practices that can bedevil organisations.
5. Wherever possible, ensure that people taking decisions that the company will have to live with for a long time, are permanent employees - so that they will still be there if any problems arise, and also because they will have the greatest knowledge of the company and its business. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't use consultants, simply that the final approval is given by a company employee.
Whether it is done before or after selection, the design of the Chart of Accounts is the critical stage of the implementation process - and it can't be rushed. Although it may seem obvious what information is required to run the business, it is still a worthwhile exercise to involve as many people in the consultation process as possible. Not only will this ensure that everyone buys into the new software and processes, but you may be surprised at exactly what information people want. You may also be surprised at the level to which individuals duplicate the records kept on the accounting system, because they either don't trust the figures from it or because information arrives too slowly.
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Attwood Business Consultancy Ltd