Part 13 of our blog article series: "Strategies for business success"
(and part 2 of 3 of our mini blog series on "Accounting software - how to choose the right one for you")
Following on from part 1 of this mini blog series on "Accounting software – how to choose the right one for you", in part 2 we will discuss how to establish your business's accounting requirements, choosing the right package to suit your needs, and tips for successful implementation.
Choosing a software package is comparable to shopping for a new appliance – if you don't take the time to ascertain exactly what you need and how you plan to use it, you risk getting caught up in the product's sales hype. You may end up spending more on features you'll never use, whilst potentially missing out on some great functionality. The better you understand your business's needs, the better equipped you are to find the right software to match.
Establishing your business's accounting requirements
Here are some points to consider which will have bearing on your software choice:
What type of trading entity?
Whether you are trading as a sole trader, trust, partnership or limited company will affect the type of software required. For a sole trader a simple and affordable personal accounts package may be sufficient, whereas the needs of a large company will demand a robust, multi-user, full-featured system with scope for enhancements.
Do you employ staff?
Using an accounting software program which includes a payroll function will streamline the arduous payroll processes and make it easier to stay compliant.
How many transactions per month?
Assess how many transactions you process a month. Ten or less transactions per month could indicate a manual system would be the most cost-effective option. High levels of transactions would benefit from a software program that intuitively remembers past entries to maximise efficiency.
How many users?
If the number of software users is limited to one person, a fairly low-cost and basic package will meet your needs, however more than this will require a robust system capable of supporting concurrent-users.
Also consider the cost of user licences, as well as the level of access you want to allocate to different users - check the package has that capability.
How about your future needs?
Lastly, look beyond the "here and now". If you foresee a lot of business growth, you may need to choose a software package that can comfortably grow with you. After all, you don't want to be forced to move to another system again in a few years time.
Choosing the right software package – a checklist
||The software is designed to cater to your specific industry and/or business size (small, medium or large enterprise)
||All functionalities and/or add-on modules are capable of dealing with your specific requirements
||The software meets all statutory requirements, to enable you to stay compliant
||It is compatible with your current computer operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc)
||The software can be customised, if necessary
||Ability to integrate easily with other programs, systems and online platforms
||High online security protocols in place with regards to keeping your business information secure and mitigating threats (especially pertinent to cloud-based software)
||Good levels of software support available (training, help desk access, maintenance and updates, and ongoing product development)
||Your accountant is familiar with the program, and it is compatible with your accountant's software
Successfully implementing a new system
Once you've completed your due diligence and made your decision to migrate, the final process is devising a plan of action to implement the new software and transfer your business data. A little bit of forward-planning goes a long way to ensuring the transfer goes smoothly:
Talk to the team
Open lines of communication are key to a successful strategy. Meet with your team to discuss the change, outline the advantages of the new accounting package, and brainstorm potential problems and solutions. Help get everyone on board and align the team's objectives. If your organisation is large you could assign a team to oversee the project.
Depending on the software selected, installation could be in the form of discs, an internet download, or the supplier managing the install. This is often a fairly quick process however larger packages can take some time and cause business disruption.
Comprehensive training should be provided to all users who will work with the software - check with the supplier if training is included. In large businesses it may be prudent to give in-depth training to one or two people to become fully conversant with all aspects of the program, and they in turn provide specific training to other team members or departments.
Company set-up and data transfer
For large organisations a great deal of data will need to be loaded into the new program. Depending on the software this may be possible by data export/import functions, or by manual data-entry. Performing a range of data integrity checks afterwards can help ensure everything has been inputted or migrated successfully.
Smaller organisations may be able to fill in basic information only and switch from a cashbook to software on the first day of a new GST period.
Running parallel systems
A useful strategy you may wish to employ is to run your old and new systems side-by-side for a while. You can then compare them to ensure you're consistently getting the same results in both. In the event you discover your new system is not working as you'd hoped, you will still have the old one as a fall-back.
Going 'live' and software support
There may be some trepidation when your new software goes live, and there will be a learning curve ahead as everyone comes to grips with using the new program. However, armed with good training, software support and help desk access during those initial months, you will soon find your feet and be using that software like a pro!
Watch out for part 3 of 3 of our blog article mini-series on 'Accounting software - how to choose the right one for you' where we give you a general overview of how some popular accounting programs stack up against each other.
Keep on eye on our blog this month as we present a series of articles on
strategies for business success
You won't want to miss these!
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