[IMGCAP(1)]Implementing a new accounting system needs to begin with a vision from the end user.

Users and the implementation team must begin to plan out the roadmap to achieve their vision.

The implementation team usually creates a project plan with achievable phases and goals.
When viewing the entire system, a technology agreement with proper expectations needs to be established to determine who is going to be responsible for getting the right moving parts to align together. All needs have to be mapped out, including licensing, updates, departments and locations, account coding, and timeframe. Everyone involved must consider holidays, vacations, and any other internal or external projects.

The key to the success of the project is to continually focus on when, whom and why the solution is being set up, as this big change will be occurring soon. The time of the year is most important for the client’s success, whereas top managers enable their time frame and goals achievable for all.

Some of the goals that coincide with the timeframe are specific to the project and the overall organizational needs. A successful business solution implementation begins with an implementation methodology and realistic expectations that are set and managed throughout the process. For the implementation team, the ability to successfully manage this change on schedule comes from experience. When multiple departments and various locations are involved and as more change occurs, trust plays an important role in any ongoing relationship for current and future projects.

Based on experience, here are several phases in the successful implementation of a new accounting system:

Review: The first step is to conduct a thorough review of your organization’s requirements and processes, to identify what is working well and which aspects of the organization need improvement or refinement. These requirements or goals should then be mapped to a project plan, becoming the driving force behind your implementation.

Setup: Using the project plan produced in the previous phase, design your proposed new accounting system. Accountability is the process for all involved. Adhere to the timeframe and structure the plans so they can be agreed upon by all. Remember to respect everyone’s time. Anticipate other changes, and make the adjustments within budgetary plans.

Confirmation: Build on the test system and utilize any data migrated from the legacy system. This step involves teaching end users the best practices and procedures for the new accounting system, while ensuring that any changes are worked out and verifying that the maximum benefits can be obtained. After reviewing the results of this testing and training period and applying any corrections, management should sign off on the new system, while verifying that the work to date has been acceptable.

Implementation: Working from the procedures developed in the setup and confirmation phases, the next phase is the completion of the final version of the new system, beginning with opening balances if not migrating data. At this point, the implementation team’s full resources are on-site and the team is ready to make the final transition to the new system.

Post-implementation support: After the successful launch of your new system, it is essential to provide or receive ongoing support. Online training, phone support and training sessions are examples of initiatives that can prove useful. It is also important to update the system regularly and proactively, providing any training needed as a result of any changes.

Some of the core functions are ongoing activities, but are not limited to and must incorporate the following components for a successful implementation:

Software and systems support: Before the project proceeds, a thorough accounting technical review of the existing infrastructure must be completed. Software and systems support is ongoing and a recurring review of the current systems infrastructure ensures that the data (and any analysis of it) is delivered in an optimal fashion. Software and systems support also enables an opportunity to make specific recommendations for ongoing improvements to the hardware and software infrastructure.

Consulting services: Get external consulting assistance as needed for any aspects of the internal review. This includes an extended relationship analysis and an accounting technical review. Other consulting services include recommendations for best practices, details on the delivery of training and procedures, maintenance, testing, production and disaster recovery environments, and the development of custom reports. A complete examination of your organizational environment may identify additional opportunities for improvements. Communication is everything.

Project management: All aspects of the implementation must be tracked by the project manager, whose responsibilities include task assignments, resource availability, project documentation, budget and timeline oversight, and communication among the project team members.

It is essential that a company’s implementation team trust and communicate well with their ERP consultant team during the implementation process. We encourage our prospects to meet our proposed consulting team during the pre-sales process. This helps to determine if the personalities involved with the project will work well together.

John C. Peace is chief operating officer of Accountnet, Inc. and a Microsoft Certified Professional. He can be reached at www.accountnet.com or (212) 244-9009.

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