Accounting software: the risks of ownership

decision makerWhen making decisions, larger organizations have the luxury of time and experience, advice and expertise. They are positioned to invite accounting software providers to court them and blow their whistles and jingle their bells. Small businesses, on the other hand, assign the risks of ownership to the accountant in-house. And, that functionary runs the risk of forgetting generally accepted practices in favor of the alleged best deal or all-purpose fix.

Once you are in the market for accounting software, you should be leery of any product as simple as an off-the-shelf disc or easily downloaded program. The newest business or non-profit is too young to appreciate the need for long-term tax planning and advice. Business volume may not warrant complex bookkeeping or recordkeeping at the moment. But, even while a simple spreadsheet may chart transactions and cash flow, any ambition has to picture something larger.

Plan, plan, plan!

Any decision on accounting software puts you on a layered journey. This move is not a horizontal roll out. Regardless of your size, the launch and outcome have complex implications.

  • Project Management: A conversion from a manual system to software or from one software product to another involves a number of people and functions. You may be the conversion’s champion, but it takes input, feedback, and inclusion.

    Any project needs clear and achievable objectives and goals. And, those targets should be yours, not the vendor’s. To identify and frame those goals, you have to solicit and respect the needs of anyone who interacts with the software and its product. If it does not serve their interests as well as your own, the software serves no purpose.

  • Communicate fully: Successful installation of any accounting software depends on thorough, wide, and deep communication. And, that takes planning. Anticipating the installation and implementation assumes you have marked any and all objections, difficulties, and understanding.

    Effective communication includes pre-information, redundant training, practice sessions, and incremental roll-outs. Training must include all users, and it must respect all the concerns they bring to the table as the project evolves. It should also take a specifically formal and comprehensive form for the most senior and influential partners.

  • Test unsparingly: Accounting can be as much an art as it is a function. But, most people don‘t see it that way. Their metrics for a quality system are pretty much limited to speed and accuracy. So, it serves your best interest to test the accounting software with your organization’s real numbers and scenarios.

    Errors will occur, and you must differentiate between those that are human error and those that the system allowed. You, then, must figure out if the software facilitates those human mistakes and/or if you can fix the software errors.

  • Take ownership: You need a new system because something in your process no longer meets your growing needs, perhaps because it lacks flexibility and scalability, or maybe because it does not integrate with other organizational functions.

Everyone who touches the new software sees you as the “owner.” You are accountable, or at least perceived of as accountable.

Finding yourself in such a position should compel you to shop accounting software options long and hard. Your internal customers may expect you to be the accountant functionary, but this decision calls on your skills as a professional, comfortable with the risks of ownership. So do your research, try our Software Selection Tool and let us narrow your search for just the right accounting software for your business.