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Accounting Software Selection: The Five P's of Success

Mar 2, 2008
Let's face it. Buying accounting software is a tedious process. After all, who enjoys reading endless marketing literature, talking to salesmen, watching Web demos or delving into the endless complexities of how a given software product works?

The truth is, it's not the software evaluation itself that's the problem. The real issue is that most people don't know what they're looking for so frustration and impatience sets in. And you know what happens next? A person or company ultimately makes a decision just to get the project out of the way and be done with it.

But like anything else, this does not solve the problem, it only postpones it. Because when the software is installed and doesn't work as expected, a company is left with an investment with little or no return.

A favorite saying of mine is this: When you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. Here is a simple, real-life example of what can happen when you take this "any road" approach when selecting software:

A concrete subcontractor I spoke with recently purchased a well known construction accounting software package with thousands of installations. He needed software that would import data from a particular estimating program. He was told by the vendor's salesman the software could do this. Without ever seeing the process demonstrated, he purchased both the construction accounting software program and the estimating program. But the two systems were not compatible out-of-the-box. When he called the vendor for help, he was told that someone could be sent onsite to look at the problem for a minimum fee of $2,500! (The construction accounting software had no capacity to import estimating from any third party program.)

So, how do you protect yourself against buying accounting software that won't work for your needs? Simply follow the 5 P's of software selection: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

What this really comes down to is understanding, in great detail, what your requirements are, including:

* Step-by-step operational flow of data
* Functional operations performed on the data
* Integration of data between applications
* Security to prevent unauthorized access of information
* The ability of staff to handle the software
* Level of staff accounting skills
* Data communication needs (if any)
* Ability to extract necessary information in an easy-to-understand format
* Ability to transfer skills between employees during times of staff turnover
* Identify any special or unique functional requirements (e.g. special commission accounting)
* Interdepartmental communication so that the requirements are understood and appreciated by various departments
* Aligning software requirements and priorities to business goals

If you address the 5 P's before starting your accounting software search, failure is out of the question because you'll know what to ask and what steps are needed to get your expectations met. In a small company, this might be accomplished in two or three days. In a larger company, it could take weeks or months.

Doing your homework before you buy new accounting software is the best investment your company can make. The right software will enhance employee productivity and asset management and enable growth without having to add more staff.
About the Author
Sheldon Needle is President of CTS, a leading publisher of independent accounting software reviews and ratings. Get your free Accounting Software Selection Kit and Smart Shortlist(TM) Consult by visiting

http://www.ctsguides.com/accounting-software.asp
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