The finest software can be transformative—not only easing the workload and speeding the workflow, but uncovering patterns in financial and operational data of great value to audit clients. Yet, these new software packages can be enormously complex. Implementing them can be challenging. By paying close attention to a few critical success factors, however, firms can help ensure their accounting software upgrades generate maximum return on investment.
No one can hit a target they can’t see. Any new software installation—whether a full replacement or an upgrade—has to start with a definition of success. Identify the goals for the implementation project.
Does the firm want to:
Each organization will have its own unique goals: make sure everyone is clear on what they are.
Implementing new accounting software, and potentially new ways of working along with it, is a major change management effort. As with any change, there will be some resistance. That’s why leadership support has been found to be the most important factor in getting employees to support change. Managing partners, partners and senior managers must all be seen to be 100 percent behind the new software. They need to not only explain what’s happening, but why—and, perhaps most importantly—how the new software will benefit staff.
Proper training is vital to the success of any accounting software implementation, as well. Ensuring staff understand how to use the new tools—whether libraries of risks, controls and management letters or real time collaboration—is key to earning their buy-in to the change effort and to unlocking the software’s value. Be sure to underscore the software’s capabilities, above and beyond the necessary functionality. Set the stage for training by communicating the rationale for the change and its benefits for staff, clients and the firm itself.
The collective sigh of relief may be audible from auditors now freed of routine tasks and able to focus on work that is more mentally stimulating. Create and deploy a detailed training plan that’s relevant, practical and meaningful for participants and gives them what they need to do their jobs more efficiently.
And once formal training’s over, follow up with a regular stream of incremental training, such as accounting software “tips and tricks” and educational videos, to reinforce what staff have learned and build on those foundations.
The transformational capabilities of today’s accounting software can tempt firms to tackle a hugely ambitious implementation program. But trying to change too much at once can be counterproductive, and potentially undermine the project’s success. Instead, develop and stick to a realistic rollout plan that reflects the firm’s implementation objectives—as well as its capacity, capabilities, willingness to change and overall risk tolerance. Take a phased or gated approach to implementation to enable staff and the firm to adapt to changes in sequence before moving on to subsequent, more advanced features.
Today’s new accounting software can transform how accounting firms operate—helping staff collaborate more effectively, deliver more value to clients, and achieve profitable growth. Focusing on the critical success factors around implementation can help you ensure your firm reaps the full benefits of its software investment.
Thinking about upgrading your accounting software?