By Jim Wong, CPA | April 14, 2014

Over the past decade or so, the rapid growth in the use of technology has touched every aspect of our lives. Most IT and accounting professionals can attest to this. And if you can’t, I recommend you spend some time catching up!

The days of pouring over ledgers are long past, and there is accounting software now available for every sized business, from the smallest mom–and–pop outlet to the Fortune 500 giants.

We wanted to give you some advice when it comes to choosing software that will work best with the internal flow of your company and employees. So, we had a conversation with Adam Bluemner, Managing Editor for Find Accounting Software, a free, software–selection assistance service.

Jim Wong: Hi Adam. Thanks for taking the time to chat today.

Adam Bluemner: My pleasure Jim. Happy to be here!

Wong: Let’s start with the basics. What is most important to consider when evaluating new accounting software?

Bluemner: The most important item to consider when selecting new accounting software is evaluating your own processes and needs. After all, even if you look at your very closest competitors, you’ll find significant differences in terms of your functional needs, growth expectations, existing tools, OS environment, expertise, and capital availability.

There are many useful accounting software tools and other great resources on the market that will help with your internal accounting needs. Once you identify what those needs entail, it becomes easier to find a solution, and ultimately, find the right accounting software.

Wong: What are some steps that you can recommend taking in order to determine those needs?

Bluemner: There are a few ways you can go about doing an effective process evaluation. The first is to have a project leader who understands how software supports key business objectives. This will help you with a preliminary scope for software. Then, it’s a matter of taking the time to consult with the process owners over each functional area. In order to draw out insights, try brainstorming tools and SWOT analyses to flesh out the depth of your demands.

When doing process evaluation, make sure to both quantify and qualify. Important questions to consider include:

  • How much time does it take to do each task?
  • What reports are missing?
  • How do you use your data to make decisions?
  • Do you have the right information to make good choices?

When you evaluate solutions to these questions, there’s a lot to determine in terms of verifying functional solution matches. You’ll also need to consider whether you want a program that can deploy internally or have as a cloud–hosted SaaS option. Take your time and do your research.

Also, remember that there is more than just matching functionality. Consider solution scalability and supportability, very carefully. These factors help experienced, software decision makers make the best choice in accounting software.

Wong: OK, we’ve done our analysis and made our choice. What is the biggest challenge in implementation?

Bluemner: The biggest challenge when it comes to accounting software implementation is making sure that the stakeholders responsible for providing additional resources don’t underestimate the process.

Marketers have a vested interest in describing software transitions as turnkey. For their part, buyers want to believe that securing a successful implementation can be done with minimal resources. It’s important that the project owners fully understand that with sophisticated software like an accounting or ERP system, implementation is rarely turnkey.

You should also look for opportunities to minimize cost. For instance, if you have an employee who has experience with the new software, tap them to lead the training rather than pay a consultant $200/hour. Conversely, stay away from asking your internal IT staff to implement the new accounting software or ERP system if they have no direct hands–on experience.

Wong: Are there any user–driven communities that provide “watch outs” or list common pitfalls of implementing new accounting software?

Bluemner: Absolutely. Scouting user communities in advance is one of the best ways to choose the right software and make the implementation successful.

Another great information source is social media. Any place that gives you a two–way conversation between vendors and users is going to be very revealing with what works and what doesn’t.

Wong: Well, Adam, this has been very enlightening. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us here on the blog today.

Bluemner: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Adam Bluemner Byline:
Adam Bluemner is the Managing Editor for Find Accounting Software, a service providing free software selection assistance. Over the last decade, Adam has spoken with thousands of companies, helping them achieve business success through intelligent software investment. Adam writes extensively on ERP, accounting, and other business management software.

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