By Adam Bluemner
Adam Bluemner is the Project Specialist Manager for www.FindAccountingSoftware.com, a service providing free software selection assistance. Over the last decade Adam has spoken with over 10,000 companies, helping them achieve business success through intelligent software investment. Adam writes extensively on ERP and business software.
What's the part of your job you enjoy the most? I can tell you mine. But first let me ask you this: Have you had a time where you faced a slew of challenges, but just making one great decision completely changed things for the better? As you think about that, let me explain that my favorite part of my job helping companies find great software is that I get to be a part of that process every day. When a business software decision is done correctly, it not only can be, but it will be transformative.
How much of our daily work these days takes place within the software systems we use? Quite a bit of course. Having capable and intuitive tools is a game changer. The effects are felt not only qualitatively in ease of use and the ability to overcome challenges, but quantitatively in increased efficiency and ultimately overall profitability.
Software is a specific kind of business tool, though. It's no accident that business software options are referred to as software "systems." There is a certain level of complexity to contend with. Software isn't a tool that you just pick up and start using. It is a tool whose benefits rely on proper configuration and user training.
Here's another reality related to purchasing software: A solution that costs more than the problem it solves is no solution at all. So in order to make a good decision the educated buyer should be looking at all costs critically. One cost that often sticks out is the cost related to having a software provider assist with implementation and set-up. When a buyer looks at a software proposal, it's only natural to wonder do I really need to pay 20, 30 or 50 percent of the overall costs to have the software provider work with me to help set this up? It's a good question! After all, accessing professional implementation assistance is a significant cost. It raises the question: Is it worth it? In order to answer that question, let's take a look at a number of the benefits of working with your provider to have your software professionally implemented.
5 Benefits of Getting Assistance with Your Software Implementation
Time savings related to converting existing data.
New software means bringing over existing data. Manually doing a conversion can be extremely time consuming. Think about payroll software, for instance. Just to start, you need to set up all the employee data (name, address, bank account for direct deposit, social security number, benefits, other deductions, etc.). And, typically, you also need to load in pre-existing payment histories in order to stay on top of overall tax liabilities. That's just scratching the surface of the data set-up required for one application.
There are two important time related questions you'll want to consider before handling your own records set-up. First, do you have the time to take someone off of other duties to do a week or maybe even several weeks of data entry? Second, are you able to handle the opportunity cost of that person not working on their normal responsibilities? Often the answer to those questions is no. Even if you do have the resources to facilitate the data set-up, though, it may be more cost effective to simply outsource it. Software providers have lots of experience (and often even software utilities) that can help them more efficiently handle getting your data established. Working with your provider to understand what's all involved in your data set-up, can help you determine if you should outsource the data transfer to the provider completely or maybe just rely on remote assistance for help with the more difficult points.
Time savings related to configuring your software.
Importing your existing data is important, but it's really only half the battle. There's also a process of configuring your system to meet your needs. What kind of configuration will you need to do? Let's take a look at the payroll example, again. You'll need to handle configurations related to setting period end dates, payroll cycle times, deduction options, direct deposit set-up, basic check template design, and so on. Of course, these are things that you can do internally. But, again do you have the time and how much more quickly could a provider handle these configuration tasks? Again, often times the best approach is to work in concert with the provider, so you learn your configuration options, while also getting help to make configuration a less tedious task.
An underrated benefit of working with a provider is that you get another set of eyes on the processes your software supports. It's also not just any set of eyes, but someone who understands the full capabilities of the software and has seen first-hand how many other companies have gotten the most out of it. Can certain tasks be successfully batched? Are there approval points in processes that will help you catch errors and get more control? Can certain workflows be optimized for efficiency? Working with a provider to implement software gives you an opportunity to get answers to these questions that are coming from a place of experience and expertise.
Software doesn't exist in a vacuum. And, it's very common that data from one system will need to get passed into another at some point. Even something that intuitively feels like it is somewhat standalone (like a payroll system) can have a number of integration points (for example, with a general ledger, time and attendance, or HR system). Setting up your systems to pass data seamlessly is critical to creating on-going efficiencies, in terms of avoiding the necessity of manually re-entering data on a continuous basis.
What kind of risk can be reduced by ensuring proper software configuration and set-up? All kinds, as it turns out. Returning again to our payroll example, having a provider offer assistance with the import of your data can not only be a time-saver, it can help to ensure you are starting from a baseline that will allow you to accurately calculate your payroll tax liabilities. What about employee satisfaction? What's the net effect on employee satisfaction, if there are errors in their paychecks? Also, the quality of your data has a profound effect on the quality of your financial decision-making. Knowing you have taken the right steps to have clean reliable data means having the confidence to make the right business decisions based on accurate info.