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Keys to a Successful Accounting Software Implementation

Implementing a new accounting software application requires significant investments in time, energy, and financial resources. A proper implementation plan is key to maximizing the long-term value of your new system.

AAFCPAs Provides the Following Best Practice Recommendations to Ensure Clients Get the Most Out of Their New System:

Change is Hard

AAFCPAs advises clients to acknowledge the need for a cultural shift and to gain buy in with everyone in the organization.

  • Set the tone at top
  • Identify a few key champions
  • Ensure everyone understands the benefits to them individually and to the organization, as well as the detriment if no change is made

Project Management

AAFCPAs advises clients to set and manage to a realistic time frame.

  • Create a project plan with milestones, deadlines, and task assignments
  • Prepare a functional requirement document based on the system requirements specifications (SRS) developed during the system selection process
  • Consider a “phased in” approach
  • Define “go/no go” criteria for your go-live date
  • Monitor and control scope creep

Create a Strong Foundation

Getting your Chart of Accounts (COA) and financial dimensions correct is 90% of implementation success and can drive real business benefits through performance insights. A new general ledger system provides organizations with an opportunity to improve processes, data integrity, and information consistency.

  • Interview information stakeholders to understand how the COA drives performance insights. Who needs what information, how, and when?
  • Consider all reporting requirements when designing the COA
  • Eliminate manual work and get out of Excel spreadsheets by utilizing the new system whenever possible

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Historical Data

If you invested time in creating a new, stronger foundation and COA, your historical data may not easily fit into your new multi-dimensional configuration. And, the process for scrubbing and recreating the history in the new system can significantly affect your timeline and costs.

  • AAFCPAs advises clients to evaluate your data conversion choices and to review your options with your implementation partner and your IT team
  • Determine how much data to bring over. Determine if you are going to use the historical data on a regular basis. If not, can you store historical data in the old system or in another data source and access it as required?
  • Clean up vendor and customer lists
  • Create a “mapping” from your current COA to new COA and dimensions
  • Consider adding “historical” dimensions for any projects, departments, locations, or grants that are no longer relevant

Training, Testing, and Documentation

AAFCPAs advises clients to plan for adequate training, testing, and documentation.

  • Hands on user training is most effective
  • User Acceptance Testing is key and should not be rushed
  • Document new processes as you go

Go Live Plan

  • Review the “go/no go” criteria and ensure the team is comfortable with training and testing
  • Identify at least one Power User who “owns” the system going forward
  • Make certain your implementation partner is available for assistance during your first check run and first bank reconciliation process
  • Do not forget to bring over amounts paid to date during the current year for 1099 vendors
  • Confirm that all key financial reports are built out and tested

Periodic Review

  • Plan for system review with key stakeholders at 30, 60, and 90 days after implementation
  • Review new features and functionality at least quarterly
  • Review business processes and add automation as new requirements become known
  • Stick to the plan–don’t stop after the first phase
  • Sign up for user groups and annual conferences hosted by the software provider

Implementation Tips Specific to Sage Intacct:

  • All COAs should use standard categories so that the built-in financial reports are meaningful and can be used to easily verify historical imported balances.
  • Rename any dimensions to terminology that fits your organization, i.e., Project can be relabeled to Grant, or Customer renamed to Funder.
  • After importing historical data, turn on “Disallow Direct Posting” for control accounts such as Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, and Net Assets (Retained Earnings).
  • Activate all reporting periods including Inception to Date.
  • Intacct provides the ability to customize the entry screens in journal entry, AP Bills, and other frequently used screens. Update the screen layouts to facilitate data entry.
  • Do not use leading zeros in any ID fields and remember that IDs cannot be changed once saved; however, descriptions can be.
  • Customize each user’s preferences for navigation, menus, and list views.
  • Utilize the power of Smart Rules and Smart Events.
  • When importing data, always import the employee dimension first (if utilizing). Employees create a contact record and you cannot reference an existing contact record on the employee upload.
  • Enforce “balance by location” whenever possible even if you only have one company. It will be much easier later to move to a multi-tenant shared environment later if needed.  Likewise, enforce “all transactions must have a Location ID,” i.e. no transactions with blank location IDs.

Implementation is a shared process between finance, IT leaders, implementation teams, system champions, and the rest of the organization. Implementation teams are encouraged to maintain engagement and communications throughout the implementation process.

AAFCPAs provides strategic guidance on the selection and deployment of key business applications and technologies to meet corporate objectives and drive productivity.  If your organization is considering implementing a new system, or has already started on the implementation journey, and would like to discuss your approach, please contact Dawn M. Pantano, CPA, CITP at 774.512.4086, dpantano@nullaafcpa.com, or your AAFCPAs Partner.

About the Author

Dawn Pantano
Dawn is ideally suited to help AAFCPAs clients develop, implement and maintain IT systems and processes that improve business performance, drive revenue, control costs, and reduce risk.  Dawn specializes in delivering proven technology and business advisory solutions that streamline business processes, and enhance collaboration and information sharing across all functional areas of an organization. She provides strategic guidance on the selection and deployment of key business applications and technologies to meet corporate objectives, and drive productivity. She skillfully and pragmatically answers the question “What do I need most,” so clients may optimize their ROI on technology investments.