Best Practices for Evaluating & Selecting New Accounting Software

At Intacct, we understand that choosing new accounting software is a BIG decision. The good news: cloud computing rewrites the rules for rapid deployment, accessibility, simplified maintenance, easy customization, product innovation, and strong security and operations. But you still have to do your homework. The best outcomes typically happen with careful analysis and planning. To help, we've compiled a few best practices for evaluating and selecting a new system.

With all the options on the market, you should start by taking the time to carefully understand your company's needs and fully research the market. Some items to consider before you start the full evaluation process include:

  • Document the issues with your current system. Talk to your departments and to your team and understand their obstacles and the process improvements they aspire to inject into the business.
  • Prepare a top-down strategy. This is the time to figure out what you want to achieve with your new system.
  • Look at the whole business. You need to make sure any new system plays well with others. Factor in how other systems must interact with a new accounting/finance system.
  • Consider all the data you need to achieve business success. You will want a new system that gives you easy access to information, both financial and operational. Look at how a new financial system can help you take advantage of the data generated by your other business applications. As you evaluate systems you can then understand the ways a new system can combine financial and operational data so you can gain new insights into business performance.
  • Document expected improvements and ROI. Naturally, you need to tie your needs and vision to an expected return on investment. Documenting the way your finance organization operates today—your processes, the time required for each process, the resources required to complete each process—will give you a baseline to calculate the ROI and payback moving to a new system can offer.

Once you've completed your up-front analysis and lined up the business support, now it’s time to make that all-important selection decision. A few things to consider as you go through the vendor evaluation process:

  • Whittle down to a short list. No need to survey hundreds of choices. Narrow your options to no more than five vendors (three is ideal).
  • Dig deeper. Attend some vendor webcasts. View the online demos. Then ask for a personalized demo that closely matches the requirements you've defined. Ask for customer references and published case studies. Then tap into your social network—including Facebook and LinkedIn—for independent references and opinions. You can also use sites like Proformative, which provide verified reviews.
  • See how it will work for you. Understand how you can customize the application to meet your specific needs. How will it integrate with your other key applications and databases? What will that cost? Does that functionality already exist out of the box—or will it need to be custom-built? Is the vendor really trying to steer you into a one size fits all "suite"? Or do they support your desire to have the best applications for each of your departments?
  • Run the numbers. Compare the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the systems you are evaluating. Remember that comparing an on-premises system with a cloud-computing system isn't necessarily apples-to-apples. Be sure to factor in the fully loaded costs; most of the cost of cloud-based systems are covered by your monthly or annual subscription fee, while on-premises systems hit you with substantial costs after you've paid for the software license.

If you would like a deeper dive into best practices on selecting a new financial system, I would encourage you to watch our on-demand webinar entitled: Experts Share Best Practices for Selecting Accounting Software. You can also check out our upcoming live webinars.

To stay up to date on the latest info from Intacct, be sure to follow us on all our social media channels, including Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Also... have you joined the Intacct Cloud Accounting group and the CFOInsights group on LinkedIn... they are a great place to network with other people interested in cloud financial applications.