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How to Ensure a Successful Accounting Software Conversion

Jan 9, 2008
Implementing new accounting and business management software can be a significant challenge. To ensure success, it's important to fully understand your business objectives regarding the new software and develop a plan to meet those objectives.

This article outlines elements that are vital to getting your accounting software up and running quickly and effectively. Following these guidelines and strategic planning suggestions before conversion provides the framework for your implementation and gives you control over the entire process.

Assemble Your Team

Your conversion team should resemble a pyramid of sorts. With a team leader at the top, followed by layers of support personnel with various levels of involvement, you will create a strong foundation for positive results.

Conversion Lead
Your in-house conversion lead is the primary contact between your company and your software vendor. This might be the company owner, CFO or controller. This person should play an integral role in using the new software and will be responsible for keeping your implementation on track.

Top Level Managers
The next layer of your team is comprised of the top-level managers. Some examples would be the controller (if he or she isn't your conversion lead), chief project manager, equipment manager and service manager. These individuals will provide valuable input on what they need from the new software to most effectively perform their jobs.

Data Entry Staff
At the base of your pyramid is your data entry staff. During your conversion, it's important to include staff that will use the software on a daily basis. Discuss current processing procedures and identify ways that the new software can improve or streamline workflow.

In addition to these core groups, make sure you include other personnel at some level. This from-the-top-down approach to assembling your conversion team will effectively gain company-wide commitment and support for your implementation.

Tip: Consider bringing in your outside CPA as an additional team member or consultant.

Get Software Vendor Assistance

The most knowledgeable source for conversion assistance is your accounting software vendor. With hundreds or thousands of implementations under their belt, your vendor can provide invaluable guidance every step of the way.

If a conversion or implementation manager is available through your vendor, take advantage of their experience. Use vendor-supplied conversion checklists and do the legwork suggested to best prepare for your transition.

Resources offered by your vendor are worth the financial investment and will deliver a significant return on investment.

Tip: Get your vendor's recommendation on where to order new checks and forms for your software.

Create a Timeline

With your vendor's assistance, create a detailed timeline for your implementation. List everything that needs to be done, start to finish. Brainstorm with your entire in-house team to gather additional to-do items; the more thorough your list, the greater your chances are for success.

It may help to designate general categories to organize your thoughts. Some examples include: Pre-Installation, During Installation, Data Conversion, and Training Topics. Hardware and software installation dates and are just a couple of specific timeline items for consideration.

Conversion is an excellent time to evaluate your current chart of accounts and cost codes, and to make changes if needed. Adding these items to your timeline will prompt you to review and revise before it's too late.

Develop your timeline in calendar format with hard dates or date ranges for each milestone. Assign a team member to each item, making sure your conversion lead checks in frequently.

As you create and complete your timeline items, it will be important to ask questions. Communicate with your vendor and conversion team by asking: Are we on track? Are there things to add to the timeline? What potential pitfalls or delays can we anticipate and avoid?

Tip: Don't forget to add your "Go Live" date to your timeline.

Converting Your Data

There are two basic options when it comes to data conversion: manual and electronic. The choice you make will depend on the services offered by your vendor and how much data you want to bring into your new software.

Manual Data Conversion
This option entails manually re-entering specific data into your new software. A time and labor-intensive task, using a team approach can help, especially if your entire staff tackles the data entry with gusto. Some companies choose to bring minimal data over to the new software, keeping their old system around for look-up purposes. In this case, manual data conversion is adequate.

One caveat of manual conversion is data entry errors. Long hours and tight deadlines are a breeding ground for mistakes. Make sure you implement quality control procedures to verify the accuracy of entered data.

Electronic Data Conversion
Electronic data conversion involves the use of technology to bring your existing data into the new software. This option is ideal in many cases and for a multitude of reasons. Less labor-intensive than the manual method, the electronic route benefits smaller conversion teams or more aggressive timelines.

If electronic data conversion is available through your software vendor, give this tool serious consideration. Guidance on how to retrieve your data from your old system should be provided, as well as a listing of acceptable import formats.

Data quality, validation and formatting are key issues with electronic data conversion. Make sure you fully understand what your vendor can and cannot do, what your responsibilities in the process are and what procedures are in place for error checking.

Although electronic data conversion can import master files, job cost history, customer information, vendor details and open invoices in a very short period of time, it does require some technical knowledge. If this is a problem, your vendor may offer technical consulting or services to handle your electronic data conversion for you.

Data Cleanup
The "garbage in, garbage out" principal applies to data conversion. The quality of your converted data will only be as good as the source you import from, whether that import is done manually or electronically. Taking steps to clean up your data prior to conversion gives you the opportunity to:

* Standardize your data (capitalization, abbreviations, acronyms)
* Identify missing or duplicate records
* Purge unnecessary data
* Reformat your data if necessary
* Evaluate for corrupted information
* Test your data's validity when exported

Testing your converted data is just as crucial as data cleanup. Manually or electronically entering data into a test database on your new system gives you the chance to evaluate critical processes and review vital reports for accuracy.

Think of testing as a practice or dry run for the real thing. Verifying data integrity, running queries and comparing reports in the new software with those from your old system are just a few safeguards gained by testing. The end result? Issues can be identified and corrected before going live.

Tip: Consider hiring temporary help during your conversion to assist with data entry or to provide day-to-day business support during this time.


Once your software is installed and your data converted, training is the next phase in your implementation. Do not cut corners on training. Adequate instruction on the functionality and features of your new software will lay the foundation for continuous improvement in your workflow processes.

On-site training will be your best option for hands-on learning using your own data. Start with training on the core modules such as job cost, payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable. Once these fundamentals are mastered, you can begin to roll out your additional program modules.

Follow-up training can be done on the phone, via e-mail or perhaps another on-site training session. Proactively improving knowledge of your new system will result in a more complete implementation, providing a strategic advantage to enhance your construction management processes. In any case, heed your vendor's recommended training guidelines for the system you have purchased.

Tip: Consider on-site training "refreshers" once a year, when you upgrade to a new version of your software or when you experience staff turnover.

A Continued Partnership

Long after your go-live date has passed, your relationship with your vendor will continue. Nurture that relationship whenever possible. Communicate enhancement requests to the development team. Offer to be a reference for prospective clients. And if regional or national user conferences are planned, attend them if you can.

Accounting and business management software can be a complex environment. The time and monetary investments made in a new management system are commitments to your long-term profitability. Building a partnership with your vendor will contribute to your ongoing success.
About the Author
Sheldon Needle is President of CTSGuides.com and helps companies make smart technology decisions. Get your free Software Selection Kit and Smart Shortlist(TM)Consult by visiting

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