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 Building out a set of requirements for a new finance system

When planning a new finance system upgrade for a business, it’s crucial to align and shape the system to meet your company’s precise needs. Here, in this article from Itas Solutions, we provide a step-by-step guide on what to consider and how to approach the process.

What to look for in a new financial accounting system.

Step 1: Define Your Needs and Scope

Before searching for a new finance system, set the scope and determine your key factors. Reflect on the size of your company and its potential growth, as this will influence the capacity of the software you choose.

Tip: Identify the limitations and pain points of your current accounting software. Determine what features are missing that could streamline your operations or provide better financial insights. Then, clearly outline the capabilities you need from the new system. Consider scalability, reporting features, user-friendliness, and integration with other systems.

Step 2: Budget Consideration

Accounting software varies in price, so finalise your budget to analyse which systems are accessible to you. This will help narrow down the options and ensure the chosen system is financially viable for your business.

Step 3: Deployment Options

Decide on the type of deployment required – cloud, on-premise, or hybrid. Cloud accounting software is well-suited for global organisations that need access to data anywhere, anytime. Here at Itas Solutions, we’re huge advocates of cloud computing such as Sage’s Intacct. On-premise options could be more appropriate for smaller companies with local operations.

Step 4: Essential Features

Identify the main features your finance system must have, such as:

General ledger

Reporting

Accounts payable/receivable

Customisation

Data security

Cloud solution

Technical support

Usability

Prioritise these features based on operational time savings, cost-effectiveness, and long-term requirements.

Tip: Look for accounting software that matches your requirements. Consider both current and future needs to ensure the software can grow with your business. Ask for free trials, look at Google reviews, and even ask other accountancy firms!

Step 5: Team Assessment

Analyse whether your current employees have the expertise to carry out a financial system upgrade. Consider the need for technical training and support before and after the new system goes live.

Tip: Maybe now is a good time to look at appraisals and identifying what training may need to happen.

Step 6: Collaboration and Communication

Ensure cross-departmental collaboration among the CEO, CFO and Human Resources to promote a smoother upgrade. Maintain open communication with the entire upgrade team, hold regular meetings, and provide updates on shared project files.

Tip: Consult with stakeholders and engage with the users of the current system, including accountants and finance team members, to understand their needs and preferences for the new system.

Step 7: Training and Support

Focus on training for the transition process, security, and compliance. Update training modules or sessions with features of the new system to ensure all users are well-informed.

Step 8: Change Management

Appoint change managers to oversee the upgrade process. They should focus on keeping a constant flow of communication, charting the existing workflow, and mapping out the post-upgrade process for training purposes.

Step 9: Addressing Blockers

Data Conversion: One of the most significant challenges is converting existing data to the new system. Ensure that opening balances for the General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, and Inventory are accurate.

Historical Data: Decide how much historical data to transfer. While it’s tempting to bring over all historical data, consider the relevance and the added workload. You may opt to keep the old system accessible for historical reference.

Chart of Accounts: Avoid a straight copy of the old chart of accounts. The new system may offer better structuring options that enhance reporting capabilities.

Data Cleanup: Use this opportunity to clean up your data. Remove duplicates, write off negligible balances, and update customer and vendor information.

Test Environment: Create a sandbox or test environment to trial the new system. This allows for testing and training without affecting live data.

Parallel Systems: Running both the old and new systems simultaneously can be taxing. Instead, use the test environment to run parallel operations and ensure data accuracy before going live.

Technology Compatibility: Ensure that your current IT infrastructure can support the new software. You may need to upgrade hardware or optimise technology.

Training and Support: Plan for adequate training for your team to adapt to the new system. Ensure that the software provider offers reliable customer support.

Change Management: Prepare for the organisational change. Communicate the benefits and changes clearly to all users to ensure a smooth transition.

Regulatory Compliance: Ensure that the new system complies with all relevant financial regulations and reporting standards.

Tip: Don’t get blindsided by issues that you didn’t think about. Get the team and stakeholders in a room (or virtual room) and mindmap out the potential blockers and the potential solutions to it. This way, no one is blindsided and buy-in is much greater with everyone being able to have their say.

Legacy Systems: Can there be a data download of the old files and systems without it being corrupted and integrated into the new system (see Historical Data).

Cultural resistance: Historically, the world of accounting isn’t the most respective to change and the people working in accounting are the same. Also you might have a company culture that is risk-averse, so try and get these people on board through meetings and asking for their opinion.

Tip: Consider the Kulber-Ross change curve when looking at change and how staff might react to it. Know that their anger might actually be a sign of being scared. What can you do to support them? (See Step 8: Change Management)

Project fatigue: It’s easy for people to pass the buck and delay a project that they didn’t necessarily want. Fatigue can quickly make its way throughout the project team and the end-users.

Tip: Have regular team meetings to keep the momentum up. Hold people accountable and set deadlines.

Speed of Implementation: This needs to be balanced to avoid rushed or prolonged projects and ensure people aren’t put under too much pressure to complete deadlines and make errors or set such lose deadlines; nothing gets done until the final few days when they know they’re going to be held accountable.

Tip: Use SMART objectives when setting out deadlines and check-in dates to ensure project slip doesn’t happen.

Step 10: Leadership and Alignment

Strong leadership is required to set the vision and direction, align financial goals with operational capabilities, and foster a culture of alignment throughout the organisation.

Leaders should provide the necessary resources and guidance to maintain and continuously improve alignment.

Tip: It’s your job to sell the benefits of the new system. Think of ‘features and benefits’ in your new system. A new feature is great – but what is the benefit to the end user?

Upgrading a finance system is a complex but transformative process for medium-sized businesses. By following these steps and focusing on alignment, prioritisation, and effective change management, companies can ensure a successful finance system upgrade that meets their specific needs and supports their growth objectives.

You may also like to read our article on Building Out a Set of Requirements for your Finance System, that is not only informative but underpins this with a video. 

Who are we? 

We are Itas Solutions, a UK-based financial transformation consultancy and Sage Intacct partner and specialise in supporting SaaS businesses, so we know how good Intacct is as a financial management solution. We love Intacct because of the variety of reports it creates, its cloud-based accounting solution means you don’t have to worry about back-ups, data-loss or software updates and more. 

We also have years of experience helping businesses to plan their financial management/ERP projects, and we’re pretty good at it.  

We started in 1995 with just one client; today, we provide services to more than 200 organisations in the UK. We are here to help our clients at all times. For over 20 years, our clients have trusted Itas with their business, and we have grown as a result of their recommendations and the appreciation of IT experts for our knowledgeable yet individualised support. 

Interested in chatting about a project get in touch via marketing@itassolutions.co.uk  

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