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Tips for Converting Software Packages

Thursday, September 1, 2016
Software plays such an important part of everyone’s professional life in today’s environment.  As accountants, we are everyday users of specialized software.  This makes our computer programs of choice even more important.  We become accustomed to the specific software that we use.  We know, and sometimes take for granted, the advantages and learn to live with or work around the disadvantages of the particular suite of software we use.  Inevitably, the time may come when it becomes more advantageous to go a different direction and switch programs.  Unfortunately, this change may also be forced upon us due to changes by vendors.  

This can be a major change and even a disruption to the normal flow of business.  It is easy to assume this process will be easy or to listen to sales pitches assuring the consumer of this.  The process can be quite tedious, but proper planning can lead to a tremendous outcome.  Perhaps those disadvantages found in the current programs are not necessary or there are programs that have advantages and features that the user was not previously aware of.  Another benefit is efficiencies can be found when programs of the same suite are used.  There can be numerous benefits to new software and the implementation process can be very important to help capture these.  There are several steps and areas to consider.

Define Success – This is a step we all take for granted.  What should be accomplished?  How can software aid in this?  Where are the problem areas of the business and how can these be improved?  These questions and many more should be answered.  Specific goals should be set and considered rather than making a quick decision and moving forward.  This is an opportunity to make life in the office easier.  Once the factors are considered and defined, different software packages from different vendors can be explored.  

Create a team and a schedule – A team of a few people with knowledge of the business processes and the commitment to improvement is vital.  This team can be the difference between improving business processes and increasing productivity or actually harming the day-to-day operations.   A realistic schedule is also very important.  This schedule should also have built-in milestones to track progress and to keep the conversion process moving.  

Make a selection – The team should do the homework and make a good effort to improve your processes rather than simply selecting a new program.  This choice of a new software package should also be accepted by team and by leadership.

Clean up data – It is also the perfect time to clean up the data that will be converted.  Better data, and even less data, can reduce the chance of errors during the conversion process.  This also may be something that is long overdue.

Implementation – Implementation itself can be broken down into steps.  
First, implement basic functionality that replaces and improves upon the existing procedures.  This builds a good foundation.  
Second, implement functions that the company was not previously utilizing or was under-utilizing.  These functions should also be important to improve processes.  
And third, add any custom finishes to really personalize the new software

Training – Don’t forget training.  The conversion team will be very adept with the new software, but not everyone else will be.  There are many choices for staff training and most vendors will provide this.  Training everyone in the new software may be the only way to realize the successes that were defined earlier.  

Most likely this is a process that shouldn’t be undertaken regularly.  And sometimes this is a process that is undertaken out of necessity and not by choice.  In either case, this is a tool that can help improve company processes and ever grow the business.  Proper goal setting, planning and follow-through can help achieve these positive outcomes.

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