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5 Mistakes Accountants Make When Selecting New Software

6th Apr 2022
Brought to you by
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Skore is the process improvement software that allows Accountants to map, analyse, improve and...
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Avoid these and you’re on your way to a successful implementation and a healthy relationship with your vendor.

We all know that new software tools can help transform your practice, increase profitability and improve both customer and employee experience. By automating key processes you can speed things up and reduce errors to make everyone’s lives easier.

However, there are the horror stories; technology projects that went on for years instead of months, costs that doubled then tripled and for all this pain the system didn’t do what everyone expected. In fact, according to a Project Management Institute survey in 2017 as many as 76% of technology projects failed to meet the original expectations. Therefore here we highlight 5 common mistakes accountants make when selecting new software and how to avoid them. 

Not gathering your business requirements first

Your business requirements are what your practice needs from the software. For example does the software need to capture and track your client’s income, expenses and tax liabilities? That’s a business requirement.

Business requirements come in many different sizes from the strategic to the tactical but most importantly it’s about having a discussion with different teams and colleagues about what they want from a new software. The big stuff is normally about aligning with your business objectives, the small stuff is more about making sure you’re not making life more difficult for people after you have implemented the software.

The easiest way to identify requirements is to map out your key processes. These don’t need to be too detailed. What you’re doing here is using processes to stimulate a discussion about what the business needs. Imagine you were looking at a system to run payroll. Map out the key steps of that process with the team that does that work today. Take each step in turn and talk about what a system should do. It needs to capture changes in salaries, calculate leave and statutory payments. It will also need to calculate tax and national insurance contributions.

This may seem obvious but the devil is often in the details. As you go from step to step you’ll realise it needs to integrate with existing systems. In addition some clients may have special security requirements you’ll need to consider.

The more detailed your requirements are up front the less likely you are to realise something major is missing the day you switch your new system on.

Unrealistic requirements

While you want a good level of detail for your requirements you need to be very clear about which of those requirements are absolute must have features and which are merely nice to haves.

A must have feature is something that you cannot do without. Be careful here because it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that nearly everything is a must have. In reality, selecting software is about making a series of compromises. It’s unlikely you’ll find a system that does everything you want perfectly. 

Think carefully about what’s most important and what things you are prepared to make a compromise over. These compromises are your nice-to-haves and they will give you flexibility over which solution you choose. 

Most vendors are going to try and meet as many of your requirements as possible. That doesn’t mean they do everything well but you should make sure that your must-haves are made easier by the software.

Not considering the relationship with your vendor

A benefit of having realistic requirements is that you can focus on the relationship with the vendor. A rigid set of requirements means you’ll focus too much on the system, and what it does, rather than the people you have to deal with when things don’t work out.

Remember that buying software is a long term investment, you’re going to be training people and putting valuable data into the system. You want to know that the vendor has your back.

What type of company are they? What is the culture? What do they value? If your team is more traditional and operates in a more formal working environment then the playful tech startup that starts emails with “Hey dude,” might not be the right fit.

Alternatively, you could find that the big corporate software company that service your big competitors might be helpful during the sales process but go AWOL once the contract is signed.

Will you have an Account Manager and are you able to work with them? These relationships become more important if anything goes wrong and you’re more likely to find quicker solutions if you have great communication.

Ignoring Outsiders or Unknown Vendors

It’s easy to stick with what you know and only review the list of well known, or market leading, vendors. But it’s well worth giving the outsiders a chance during the selection process. At best you might find the next big thing in Accounting automation, at worst they are likely to give you something to think about and challenge the more established vendors with.

Outsiders are typically outsiders because they've approached the problem you’re trying to solve in a different way. This might be just what you’re looking for but until you check them out it’s impossible to know.

Seeing how they approach the problem might make you re-evaluate some of the other vendors you’re considering and end up with something better than you expected. You’ll never know unless you take a look.

Not optimising the process first

Systems are great for automating processes but they’re not super intelligent. They’ll only automate exactly what you tell them to. So if your existing process has any faults or inefficiencies you risk building these into your new system. This is a classic reason why many new systems appear to just make previous problems worse.

If you’ve got a bad step in your process then the new system is just going to do that bad step more often and faster. To make matters worse, your team probably has another manual process in place to mitigate that problem. Once you speed up the process they’ll have to spend more time working on the workaround. And that just means you’ve pushed the problem elsewhere and not really gained any benefit.

Therefore optimising the process before you automate it in a new software will help you make big improvements. At a simple level this can be done at the same time as your requirements gathering, when you map out the process.

Take time to ask questions like “what could we do better?”, “what would make this easier?” or “if you were designing this from scratch, what would you do differently?”. Review the answers, measure how long the process takes at each step and who does it. Make sure everything makes sense and every step is being done for a good reason.

Make changes before you submit these processes to the vendor for your demos. Your process will become the instructions both you and the vendor can use to configure the system and train your team on how to use it.

Conclusion

New software projects can be complex and time consuming but the benefits, when achieved can be considerable. So it’s worth taking a bit of extra time to de-risk your next software selection process and make sure you document your processes, identify the requirements and think about what sort of vendor you want to work with.

Skore is the Process Improvement Software designed to be used and understood by everyone in your practice. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you build the agile and resilient practice you desire.