There are preparation & precautions for accounting system conversions, but each is unique to your organization. Rolf Neuweiler A2ZCFO (image: accounting loop)

How to Convert Accounting Systems Successfully – Steps, Precautions, and Preparation

As with all business systems, accounting software and systems become outdated and inappropriate for a company’s growing needs.  There is always a great deal of excitement and anxiety when implementing a new accounting package.  Throughout my career I have been involved with many system conversions.  Time and time again these conversions often seem to be simple, easy, and have the illusion that shortcuts are available. Each and every time, the facts prove otherwise:  Short cuts do not work. Taking shortcuts only results in chaos, cost overruns, and delays. Good planning and adequate resources are truly needed to make conversions successful.

Software vendors often are hesitant to discuss the accounting aspects of their systems in detail, as the complexities of reviewing and listing everything that needs to be done demonstrates the need for longer schedules and bigger budgets.  Big dollars make the sale harder to close.

In addition, companies often make the following incorrect assumptions or shortcuts:

  • Their existing staff has time to perform their current jobs and fully participate in the conversion.
  • Their existing staff has the expertise to evaluate, choose, and implement the new software.
  • The accounting software is the easy part of a business conversion and will simply fall into place when the other business modules such as sales, operations, etc. are installed.
  • The new software will work better than the old software.
  • Business processes will not need to be changed.
  • People will indefinitely remember what they learned in system training.

For a successful conversion, these steps must be taken:

  • The system should be thoroughly evaluated to ensure it will provide better information and business processes.
  • Staff must be trained on how to test, use, and accept the new software.
  • Appoint team leaders and assign responsibilities to your employees, your software vendor, and outside consultants.
  • Testing should be performed before the conversion date.  The same information and processes should be run “in parallel” for one to three months.
  • Budget for additional staff cost for the implementation, testing, running “parallel” accounting, and required ongoing training.

Additional steps to ensure a successful transition include:

  • Build a conversion team and include a representative for all the functions involved.  The team should include senior leaders as well as staff members.  If you don’t have the time or skill set in house, pay for professional advice before you choose a system.  Having the right team upfront will both save you money and shorten the implementation time.
  • Interview and ensure you are confident with the software vendor’s implementation team.  Your sales team most likely will not be the same people working with you during the implementation.  Ensure the vendor team has performed many installations similar to yours and will be available after the conversion date.  Negotiate the support plan prior to selecting a vendor.
  • Be sure team members are relieved from some of their current job duties so they can have the focus and energy to ensure a success completion.
  • Define what a success implementation is and list the specific goals, milestones, and output.
  • Build a budget and schedule for the conversion.  Be conservative.
  • List everything that needs to be done, from start to finish.
  • Clean up your data prior to conversion and be sure to test that all of the data has converted properly.
  • Ensure you have enough training before, during, and after conversion.  Consider refresher courses every 6 to 12 months.

I have been a team member for many system conversions and implementation during more than 30 years of my career. I have included some of the general items to consider, but each conversion is complex and unique to your organization. At a2zCFO, we are passionate in providing high quality financial, accounting, compliance and many other related services, A to Z, to family offices, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. We keep your ship on course, as your navigator, your right and left hands. Please contact me if you wish to discuss your current situation in preparation to a conversion.

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