There are many constants in business, but your accounting system isn’t one of them. At some point, the accounting system you set up when you started your business will become obsolete. Whether you use Quickbooks (the accounting software of choice for more than 70% of small business owners) or a manual system cobbled together in Microsoft Excel, the time will come when an upgrade to a more robust, feature-rich platform is necessary. (Check out these 7 signs that your business is outgrowing Quickbooks.)
Switching to a new system is understandably daunting. It’s not like business can stop while you get up to speed on the new platform. But there are some steps you can take to ensure a successful transition. Melinda Swann, XMI’s lead accountant and accounting system implementation specialist, offers these five tips.
1. Know what you want out of your new accounting system
Most business owners know when they’ve outgrown their current accounting system. It becomes evident when they want it to do something it was never designed to do. When working on an implementation, Swann asks business owners (or the employee who “owns” the accounting process) to walk her through the entire sales process, from the time the sale begins to when the bill is paid, all the way to the reporting stage. “This helps me design the system that will work with your business,” she says. “It’s much easier to do that on the front end than having to retrofit the system later.”
2. Identify what you like about your current accounting system
Do you like the way your invoices look or the way your reports are formatted? Whatever it is that you appreciate about your current system can probably be built into the new one. Keeping some aspects the same helps to reduce the learning curve.
3. Be open to suggestions
“That’s the way I’ve always done it” isn’t a good enough reason to continue inefficient practices. Your implementer may be able to help you develop a process with fewer or easier steps that still give you the data output you need.
4. Be prepared for a learning curve
Switching accounting systems is rarely seamless and it will take a few cycles to completely get the hang of it. Don’t be discouraged, Swann says. For starters, read the manual or watch the training videos.
“Any time you have a new appliance or car, you need to read the manual,” she says. “The same goes for your new accounting platform.”
The first time through an accounts receivable or accounts payable cycle it will take you twice as long because you’re learning the platform. The next one will take less time. “Give it at least two cycles before you pass judgment on it,” Swann says.
5. Make sure your implementer is responsive
When partnering with XMI on an accounting system implementation, clients are encouraged to put Swann and her implementation team on speed-dial. As you work your way through the new process, Swann recommends keeping a running list of questions. If you can’t go any further because you’re stuck, pick up the phone or send a quick email.
“Most things can be resolved very quickly if your implementer is available, responsive and, of course, knowledgeable,” she says.
Finally, make sure your implementer will be available for up to six weeks after you’ve started using the new system, Swann says. “We don’t consider an implementation successful until the clients say they’re happy.”