Having selected your accounting software, a new accounting system implementation, or the upgrade of an existing installation to the latest version, should be treated as a properly planned business project. Use of a proven methodology is recommended as there is a high level of risk, both in terms of data integrity and disruption to the organisation.
There are three different approaches to systems implementations:
- Parallel Running – in which the users continue to do their work using the old system, whilst simultaneously setting up and getting used to the new system. This is the safest approach.
It has the benefit of allowing all the potential problems to be discovered and sorted out before switch over. But it usually requires a significant time commitment from the users since, for example, they are usually inputting the same data twice.
- Phased Adoption – means that the implementation happens in several phases. So, for example, financial ledgers, payment processing and reporting are typically required on Day One. But functionality such as eProcurement can usually wait until these are bedded in. This approach tends to have higher integration costs.
- Big Bang Adoption – the switch between systems occurs on a specific date. Everybody starts to use the new system simultaneously and use of the old system (other than for reference and archive purposes) is discontinued from that moment on. If badly implemented, this approach can lead to delays, user frustration and budget overruns. In high pressure situations it is not uncommon for users to abandon the new system temporarily and revert to manual processes; in the belief that they will be able to “catch up when things quieten down”.
Most software vendors provide consultants with the necessary skills to plan, implement, train and support the software package, irrespective of which accounting system implementation approach is used.
Typically accounting system implementation consultants are qualified accountants, employed and trained by the software vendors. They work with clients to successfully deliver projects based on a proven methodology.
The vendor usually also provides a project manager who works with an organisation’s internal project sponsors – usually representatives from the IT and Finance departments, and from senior management.
Accounting System Implementation Checklist
The recommended steps for a successful accounting system implementation are as follows:
Based on initial project discovery discussions during the software selection process. This phase should clarify the project in terms of:
The outputs should include, but are not limited to:
- Project definition
- Terms of Reference
- Plan for the complete project (including test and cutover plans)
- All to be agreed with the customer and vendor prior to starting the accounting system implementation process
- Development of a technical plan with the customer.
- Physical installation of the software.
- Data Migration (when upgrading from a legacy system).
- Technical and administration training.
- Any other technical activities as agreed.
- Technical plan to be signed off by vendor project manager.
Project Team Training
This training equips the users’ staff with the knowledge required for them to participate in the accounting system implementation project – however this may instead happen during the Project Initiation.
- Product training in relevant modules
- Systems administration training
- Project methodology training
- Design workshops
- End User Training
This phase must include design workshops to cover:
- All functional areas
- All system design areas
- Database and coding structures
The output of this phase is a System Design Document which:
- Establishes beyond doubt that the solution is achievable
- Is at a level of detail that enables a consultant to configure the complete solution
- Is at a level of detail as agreed in the Project Initiation
- Is signed off by the customer prior to the configuration phase of the accounting system implementation commencing
This phase involves the configuration of the accounting system, as defined in the System Design Document.
- All configurations, including reports and other outputs, should be completed in this phase.
- All work carried out in this phase should be fully tested by the build team and be acceptable for submission to the customer.
- All remaining plans should be agreed in detail with the customer:
- UAT (User Acceptance Testing)
- Migration and Cutover
- End User Training
This plan must be agreed in advance with the customer, whose responsibility it is to carry out.
Minimum test criteria are:
- Structural coding tests
- Comprehensive transaction and interface testing
- Business process tests
- Reporting and other output tests
- Security tests
- Budget loading tests
- Historical data tests
- Parallel running tests
In a well-managed and low risk project, the full system will be tested exhaustively prior to End User Training and go live.
Where the testers are the end users, then training will be required, and build team testing becomes critical.
The testing must be signed off prior to go live.
Data Migration and Cut over
- This phase includes all activities associated with migrating historic transactional/summarised data to the new system.
- The phase also includes consideration of all activities the customer must carry out to achieve cutover.
- The vendor will also manage handover to their support helpdesk.
End User Training
- A training plan must be agreed in advance of this phase.
- Standard end user training materials may need to be created.
- Responsibility for delivering the training must be agreed.
- All job functions and view only functions must be covered.
- Records and sign off of staff training must be kept.
- The Project Initiation will have agreed the level and amount of on-site attendance required post go live.
- Live running issues are the responsibility of the project staff unless specifically agreed with the helpdesk.
- The helpdesk take over responsibility following the Post Project Review.
Post Accounting System Implementation Project Review
The success of the project must be agreed and signed off with the customer, usually after at least one month end.
The vendor should always confirm with the customer they achieved the objectives as agreed in the Project Initiation.
If you have any questions about how to initiate an accounting system implementation, we recommend our colleagues at FinanSys.co.uk