As time passes, businesses change. While growth is often the name of the game, many other factors come into play—changes in focus, changes in business model, new sources of funding (and associated stipulations regarding said funding), and more—and those working at the business need to adapt with the business. Today, we’d like to explore the path to making an informed and confident decision when moving to your next accounting or ERP solution.
Knowing When It’s Time
For instance, a decision to shift focus from products to services creates an environment in which there are new things to measure, new standards to follow, and new complexities to address (e.g. a software company moving its focus from desktop to browser-based delivery, a newspaper shifting from print classifieds to the internet). Often these shifts are necessary in order to lay the groundwork for growth in the future, and when the growth comes along, the business needs to be running like a well-oiled machine.
Understandably, a shift in business model or a period of rapid growth can put some immense strain on the business and the people working in it. One day, you’ll find yourself in need of a report that your accounting system can’t handle, you’ll find an error in a spreadsheet, or you’ll catch yourself in the middle of another email to your IT team or a consultant in need of a customization, and realize that something is off.
This is a point in the business growth cycle in which you realize that the status quo is no longer the best path—you need to make a change.
Knowing What You Want
Once you realize that the status quo is not the way forward, the next logical step is to look at what your best options will be—first answering the question “what do we want?” This is an important question, as it will guide the discussions you have with potential vendors, implementation partners, and providers of ancillary software, and will provide you a guide for narrowing down options.
Finding out what you need starts at the department level, and needs to include those who the software will affect. In turn, the scope of discussion can vary greatly, depending on the scope of the software—a best of breed software implementation will only need to deal with a few departments (each selects what they need), while a suite will need the input of many more team members.
When looking at options, you need to develop a checklist and choose an option that can check as many of the boxes as possible (if not all).
Knowing How to Get There
Now that you have input from key players and the path to selecting software, now is the time to follow the path to selection. It’s important to test drive multiple options to understand the look and feel of each option, as well as get to know if there are any technical hurdles you’d need to overcome (e.g. learning if you’ll need custom coding for reporting). During this test drive and narrowing down phase, consider following these steps to research and determine what’s best:
Create an RFI/RFP that includes your unique requirements.
Be as specific as you can be with your SLAs, and demand service-level transparency from vendors.
Prioritize “gotta have” capabilities over “nice to haves.”
Don’t get caught up in the shiny features you may never even use, and stay focused on what your business needs to run more efficiently.
Call existing customers and ask them pointed questions about the vendor, product, and service levels, and – most importantly – whether they’d make the same choice if they had to do it all again.
Look into cloud vendors’ infrastructures and business practices.
Make sure their security, performance, and availability capabilities are much greater than your own, and that you will own the data. Research the vendor’s reputation online. Leverage search engines, reviews, and social media sites to gauge how the vendor is perceived in the marketplace.
Knowing You’ve Made the Right Choice
Now that you’ve whittled down your choices to one, it’s time to sit back and watch the money roll in—kind of. After you’ve selected, implemented, and trained, it’s important to measure the impact of the decision on productivity, reduction in errors, and process improvement. Among the successes you can look at:
- Increased finance productivity
- Reduction in restatements
- Time savings for necessary tasks
- Error avoidance
- Speed of decision making
- Ability to refocus time and effort on other important tasks
The path to choosing a new accounting or ERP software is a challenging one, but when you take the right steps, you can find a platform that not only makes your life easier, it can actually give back to your business. We invite you to learn more about the path to accounting software selection by downloading Best Practices for Choosing the Right Accounting Software: Achieving Best-in-Class Financial Management and by watching the webcast of the same name.