by Saeward Schillaci, The Resource Group
So, you’ve decided that you need new accounting software for your project based business (consulting, marketing, SaaS or so forth). From here, you have two options: The first option, which is chosen far too often, is to decide based on simple, arbitrary factors. This might include picking whichever vendor seems the friendliest, using whatever your competitors are using, or choosing based on preferences of friends. This willy-nilly decision-making style is fast and easy, but it doesn’t ensure that the software functionality matches the needs of your business. It’s basically gambling – it might work out, or it might be a total waste of money that results in your business going back to the same outdated spreadsheets everyone used with the old system.
The second option is to pick your software systematically, based on what functionality your company needs. This is how you can ensure that you make the right decision and get the best return on your investment by implementing software that will help your company grow and meet changing business processes.
Here is our [The Resource Group's] recommended process for deciding what your company will require from new software, based on our decades of experience helping customers choose the right accounting solution for your business.
Step 1: Make a Project Charter
First, you need a plan for the who-what-where-when-and-why of the selection process. This is typically called a project charter. Project charters allow you to approach the selection process in an organized fashion and to communicate the process with coworkers. In addition, once you have an organized plan to bring to the table, you’ll have a greater chance of gaining approval from the executive team. Your project charter should establish four pieces of information:
- Project sponsor: This person is typically an executive that has the authority to make decisions and backs the project from a management perspective. Without a project sponsor, most projects don’t succeed.
- Project leader: This will be the person who is in charge of making everything happen. Without an organizer, you may lose the momentum needed to make a good choice of software in a timely fashion.
- Project participants: Who needs to participate in the selection process? Once a new system is chosen, who will be responsible for ensuring training, testing, upgrades, and so on? Identify each person and their role.
- Subject matter experts: Who best knows what your company will need and want from its new software?
- Project timeline: Give yourself some deadlines so the project doesn’t end up at the bottom of your list of priorities.
Step 2: Inventory Your Current Systems
The second step in making the correct choice is to figure out what software you currently have, and how you’re using it. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you have?
- Be specific, including both the type of software and the edition or version that you have. This includes not only your financial software, but also the software you use for business intelligence, CRM, inventory management, HR, project management, etc.
- For example, your company might use QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise, version 12.0; Salesforce; and FloQast.
- How do you use each piece of software?
- Catalogue the people who use the software, and how they use it.
- For example, the sales team might use Zoho for creating quotes and managing customer contacts.
- How many users do you have for each function or software?
- For example, if your company has Xero Business Edition, you might have 2 standard users, 2 read-only users, and 1 invoice-only user.
- Current integration points
- For example, you have an integration between Zoho and Xero, but you transfer data manually to Cicero.