It’s easy to avoid switching to a new finance system when the transition process seems like a mammoth task to both prepare for and implement. However, with the financial landscape continuing to change rapidly, adopting an accounting system that will empower your team to meet these changing demands will bring significant benefits. Preparing to change finance systems can feel like a daunting challenge to undertake when you don’t even know where to begin. To help make your preparation as seamless and stress-free as possible, we’ve created a 10-step preparation roadmap that will set you and your team up for success and leave you feeling excited rather than uneasy about your transformation journey.
- Get your finance team on board
A crucial first step in your transition journey, bringing your finance team on board at the beginning of the process has several key benefits and ensures everyone is aligned. We recommend explaining the need for change with your team and asking them to engage with the process. Ask your team members to help out during the research and implementation phase — collaboration is a great way to distribute resources more evenly and ensure that one person doesn’t carry the weight of the entire process on their shoulders.
- Identify stakeholders and their needs
When it comes to your finance system, different stakeholders have different needs so it’s important to take some time in the early stages to identify what tools and solutions are required from your new finance system. Consider approaching this step by surveying user groups in order to establish what their current frustrations are, what they need from a finance system, and in what format they would prefer to receive training — this could be in person, through handouts, or by watching online videos. This is a great opportunity for all of your team’s frustrations to be heard and identified and can act as a huge boost for morale when active steps are taken to respond to both their needs and their challenges.
- Start preparing your opening balances
In many cases, data migration is the most time-consuming part of switching finance systems and can be infinitely more challenging if your data is currently unorganised and scattered across departments. Organising your financial data now and preparing your opening balances ahead of time will help you get ahead of the curve when it comes to transferring it over to your new system later. Cleansing and sorting your data and preparing your opening balances in advance will save you and your partner a significant amount of time further down. You’ll save yourself the time, stress, and energy of searching for the data you need during implementation itself and your partner will be able to format and template it for you to avoid any delays at later stages.
- Clarify and communicate your requirements
Clear communication with your finance solution partner is the key to a smooth and seamless integration. In order to accurately articulate what your finance system requirements are to your partner, it’s vital to spend some time yourself really clarifying what your requirements are. We suggest taking some time to assess your survey results from Step 2 to establish your initial requirements and then ordering them in terms of priority. For example, you could categorise them into ‘non negotiables’, ‘needed,’ and ‘nice to have.’ Once you are clear on what your requirements are, communicate these to your partner so that they can advise you on which software, tools, or add-ons would be best suited for your needs.
- Set aside proper time
As with many processes, timing is everything. Once you’re clear on what you need from your new system, you have to allocate enough time for the project and implement it at an appropriate time. During this step, it’s important to have a good overview of what your team needs in addition to current projects or seasonal demands. For example, it wouldn’t be practical or efficient to plan the User Acceptance Testing phase at a time when many team members are away on holiday. To get the most out of your new system, you’ll need to dedicate an adequate amount of time in phases such as discovery, training, and testing. Setting aside this dedicated time for training and learning will help your team adopt the new system and be better equipped at handling any teething problems that might crop up.
When it comes to planning timings, your delivery partner can be your greatest asset if you come prepared. During your initial meetings with your partner, make sure you bring all your annual leave and term dates to let your partner know as soon as possible about any expected absences. Having your diaries prepared when you meet your partner means they can advise you on any resources that you might need to avoid problems down the line
- Book in key meetings and training early
With a busy finance team with conflicting schedules, finding a convenient time that everyone can attend meetings and training can be a challenge, particularly at busier times of the year. To ensure everyone is aligned, book key meetings and training sessions into diaries earlier rather than later. This is especially important if your new finance system is due to go live at the start of a financial year or new term, or equally if the project falls over the summer holidays. Quieter periods like the summer holidays could potentially be the best time for you to implement the new system, but still requires planning around other projects and staff absences. Similarly, senior leadership or board meetings may be required in order to get the initial sign off on the project, so adding this to the agenda early is essential to avoid any delays. The main takeaway from this step is to understand which stakeholders are key and provide them with the information they need early in order to keep the process on track.
- Pitch it as something to be celebrated
Although choosing the right partner should help make the transition smooth and seamless, changing finance systems is still a major task and will take dedicated work from you and your team. Approach this task positively and remember to position it as something that should be celebrated as a huge step-forward for your team. This step is often easy to forget but is important for morale since big change can often bring about teething issues and difficulties.
When hiccups and frustrations do occur, approaching the change as something to be celebrated will help highlight the positive impact and lasting change that it will have in the long run. A great example of this is considering that short-term bumps along the road will be worthwhile when your new finance system automates nearly every time-consuming manual process, and your team will finally be able to ditch endless spreadsheets and complete the monthly close in substantially less time. In fact, Sage Intacct for Education users report that they have slashed their monthly close by up to 66% — something that is worth celebrating.
- Build Feedback into the Process
Building feedback into your implementation process from the off-set ensures that the transition always remains on-track and that you and your integration partner remain aligned. Communication really is the key to building a finance system perfectly suited to your organisation’s needs so we suggest having key review points throughout the project. During these dedicated review points you can give feedback to your partner on any teething issues or preempt any challenges that might delay the progress of the project. The right partner will be receptive to your feedback and guide you through any concerns or challenges along the way.
- Ask your partner for help when needed
While having an implementation partner is a huge help during the transition process, there will still be times when you or your team require additional support. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your partner for help when issues or concerns do arise — the sooner you reach out, the sooner you can get the support you need. For example, if you’re struggling to get the information or data that they need from you, letting them know early may mean that they can work on something else in the meantime, instead of holding the whole project up. A good implementation partner will be able to offer additional support when needed, guide you in the right direction, and ensure you’re engaging early in the project. Don’t hesitate to ask them for their expertise — in most situations they have seen similar issues before and will be happy to help resolve it.
- Book support for guidance in the early days and beyond
The final step in this process is one that your future self and team will thank you for. Booking a support package will help to guide you and your team through the early days of your new system but will also provide you with a safety net for any future issues. We know how painful it can be when your service provider doesn’t help you during difficult times. That’s why we always suggest checking out your partner’s dedicated support services. Support services will help you get the most out of your new system, navigate new updates and features and show you how to use them. Importantly, they’ll also stand by you during any times of need and won’t leave you waiting days on end just to get a response. Make sure that support for your project doesn't end once the system is complete, as that's just the beginning for your users. Here at ION we give all our customers 3 months of support services for free to guide them through the early stages, including support for you first month end using the new system.