Don’t Shortcut Your Search for New Accounting Software
By Jim Komos, CPA, Partner, Tax Department
Technology, used well, saves time and money. But when the technology solution doesn’t meet your needs or your organization’s abilities, it becomes a burden and source of ongoing frustration. So how do you get the benefits without the pain? It pays to put a little extra effort into the planning up front. You should also discuss your options with your IT people and your accountant before you purchase accounting software.
All too often we see expensive accounting software packages underutilized or even not used at all. A major reason for this is that either the system does not really match the needs of the organization, the systems are too complex for the personnel assigned to use the software, or there is insufficient resources to properly set up the system and related processing. It is not uncommon for a well-run system to fall apart after a change in accounting personnel.
To help minimize these problems it is important to begin the process with an inventory of your software. What do you have now that you want to continue to use and what functions would you like to add. When thinking of enhancements, define them in terms of what you want to do. Let your potential vendor determine what technology you need to accomplish it.
Many construction / real estate companies buy accounting software and, even when the installation goes well, quickly grow frustrated when they don’t get the return on investment they’d expected. From an accounting perspective, two of the primary implementation risks that contractors face are bad data and missed opportunities.
Clean up before you boot up
You’ve probably heard that old tech adage, “garbage in, garbage out.” The “garbage” referred to is bad data. If inaccurate or garbled information goes into your new system, the reports coming out of it will be flawed. And this is a particular danger when transitioning from an older software platform to a newer one. For example, you may be working off of inaccurate inventory counts or struggling with duplicate vendor entries. On a more serious level, your database may store information that reflects improperly closed quarters, unbalanced accounts because of data entry errors or outstanding retainage on old jobs.
Too often there is a rush to implement a new system by a specified date. Cleaning up the data is usually the first thing to go when trying to meet these deadlines.
A methodical, analytical implementation should uncover some or, one hopes, all of such problems. You can then clean up the bad data and adjust entries to tighten the accuracy of your accounting records and, thereby, improve your financial reporting.
A major risk to construction accounting software implementation is imprecise or incomplete job-costing data. Contractors face a distinctive challenge in integrating not only general business accounting data, but also the details of multiple, ongoing projects.
A typical approach is to move job-costing info from the old system to the new one as quickly as possible, using whatever on-the-fly method seems most expedient.
Naturally, doing so can lead to data transfer errors. But, again, there’s also a risk of missed opportunity here. When upgrading to a new system, you’ll have the chance to improve your job costing. You may be able to, for instance, add new phases or cost code groups that allow you to manage project expenses much more efficiently and closely.
Beyond job costing, other opportunities for improvement include optimizing your chart of accounts and improving your internal controls. Again, to obtain these benefits, you’ll need to take a slow, patient approach to the software implementation.
Getting a leg up
Just thinking about what could go wrong will give you a leg up on avoiding the biggest disasters. To further increase your chances for success, involve your CPA in the implementation. “We’ve helped companies ease into their new software systems and get the results they expect,” said Jim Komos, CPA, Partner, Ciuni & Panichi, Inc. “And we’ve helped others recover from a very unpleasant implementation experience. Our advice is, don’t go it alone.” Contact Jim at 216-831-7171 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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