Changing accounting software Consider options and timing

Sarah Menge
Sarah Menge

Technology has become an increasingly important business tool not only for production and marketing, but also accounting and financial reporting. The ability to anticipate and react to changing technology needs remains essential. Upgrading or changing computer software can be a time consuming and expensive process, but there ways to ease the transition and make sure you select the right product for your business.

When upgrading or changing accounting software, it’s important to consider both current and future needs for financial reporting as well as the testing and timing of implementing changes.

For many small businesses and not-for-profit organizations, a general accounting software like QuickBooks will fulfill their accounting and reporting needs. Organizations that regularly prepare a number of different reports for internal analysis or report externally to lenders, bonding agents, or accountants might want to invest in more robust software specifically designed for their industries that will offer additional functionality for tracking and reporting on measures important to the business. The additional reporting capabilities could save time and reduce the chances for human error in compiling information from multiple sources into one report.

If you’re considering investing in a specialized product, ask around at trade shows or from competitors about their experiences with different products and make sure to select an option that offers adequate support and training. You won’t fully realize the benefits of any new software unless you invest the time to learn all of the available functions.

Successfully changing accounting software products requires a period of training and testing the new system to make sure all of the functions operate properly before making a final transition. This typically requires running a dual system for a period of time, entering the same transactions into both programs so the systems and reports can be checked against each other for accuracy. While this involves a lot of additional time up front to record the transactions twice, it’s much easier and less costly to run an appropriate testing phase than to try and work through any errors and learn the new system all at one time. The ideal amount of time to run two systems will differ for each business depending on the type and number of transactions processed.

Timing software changes is also important in making a smooth transition. If possible, choose a time period that has a clear breaking point, such as the end of a quarter or fiscal year. Using the end of the fiscal year would reduce additional work to compile records from two different systems for annual reports. However, staff availability for testing and implementation might not be available depending on the seasonality of the business.

In addition to planning the timing of a specific software change, business owners should consider the timing for upgrades and changes in all programs. Technology constantly changes, making programs obsolete or incompatible as newer programs and versions are released. Companies that move too quickly to install new versions and upgrades could have to deal with more errors in the systems. Companies that wait too long to install changes could be faced with changing their entire system in one year. Finding an opportune time to change technology can be a challenge.

Remaining cognizant of changing technologies and open to change will go a long way towards successfully implementing technology upgrades. Reach out to advisors, business associates, and technical support experts whenever possible to help get the right system in place for you.