Accounting Technology and Systems Selection


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This slideshow covers how to go about a system selection process. Procurement of a system and managing vendors is a minefield for unsuspecting staff. This slideshow was created as part of a presentation to the ACCA Accounting professional body.

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  • I work for a mid tier companyBusiness improvement projects through the use of technology.One of the comments in the invitation, I highlighted why is that many technology solutions disappoint and fail to meet the expectations of stakeholders.Why do technological projects fail or disappoint?Errors if approaching your project from a technology viewpointCore General ledger has not radically changed in 15 years – technology has allowed the data held in the accounting system to be leveraged. Therefore finance has control of process and data to the business.Technology – Although I’ve used technology in the title, you will see that this is only a minor part of selection process. I’ve been involved in system selections and have seen the wide variety of methods people/companies use to select and choose a solution. I’ve never seen one where I thought this method really will provide an understanding of what will work the best.
  • Very simple but people fall off this wagon.Our focus therefore needs to be firmly in understanding what success if for you.The focus is on measuring success.
  • This tends to be that executives are just happy to complete the project and protect the company from risk and give little thought as to whether they are better off with the new software.One of the reasons for this is I think the mindset of accountants, attitude to risk and obviously their finance ability e.g ROI. But also what is really important is their understanding of the flow on effect of financial transactions and data through to the general ledger. Ultimately all financial transactions end up in the general ledger. You are always going to be downstream of a software deployment/change whereas they are already at the front end and don’t have to worry about what’s coming in. Finance hate inheriting poorly formed and disconnected transactions.
  • Firstly, you must see that the GL or accounting system is only a part of the solution. As well as handling the transactions, largely the thing most people want is reporting. Beyond that is do you need to increase the reach of your financial processes into the business communities – processes include such as procurement, budgeting and forecasting, timesheets, expenses.Some solutions are more ‘all in one’. In other words it covers an operational area e.g job costing or billing but is linked and integrated with a fairly decent GL. Some, called ‘Best of Breed’. These specialise in that one area e.g financial management. The finance system is therefore the master not the slave.First thing to think about is what you want to incorporate into the solution. Do you have a strong operational requirement which needs a strong level of integration of financial transactions? Some operational processes and systems have focuses outside of the GL e.g a CRM may manage customer interactions and therefore not have a financial implication. Or you may have a complex invoicing system which manages e.g membership so has bank and AR. Issue here is that finance loses some of the control of these financial elements e.g bank account, processing receipts and cash flow and so on.The issue for finance is that in say financial services e.g brokerage, FUM, banking, is that the systems used for the ‘front end’ e.g the customer interaction are what they are designed to work for the customer facing aspects. These systems however do not consider the complexities of multiple entities or intercompany transactions or other coding further downstream that you might need to attach to the transactions in order to derive your management accounts. GL’s for these types of systems are often just ‘bolted on’ e.g ‘just to keep the finance guys happy’.
  • Now getting to the nub of solving your problem.Feels uncomfortable.How do we get an objective that ties all this together?
  • Good but missing the ‘Big Picture’ strategic objectives.E.G effect on internal and external stakeholdersEffect on growth of business.But good because it focuses the design and selection of the system very clearly – this results in being far more likely that you will achieve your objectives than if you hadn’t.
  • Specific pain in Finance (part).Consideration of web based solution.Transaction originated in the business. Goal is to get non accounting people to effectively create the journal straight into your GL. Need to hide accounting as non accounting people.Therefore need strong integration with GL.Goal here is AUTOMATION. Technology and Integration are key. Reduce processing time, reduce checking, automate compliance E.g FBTSolution needed strong integration to general ledger – that was where the processing bottlenecks occurred. Cloud solution didn’t actually resolve what the challenge was. Importance of clarity of the WHY.
  • A good starting point is to consider ‘how do you measure success?’ This gets you to start looking at what you are currently doing now and what you would see as your ‘vision’. Vision is so important, more than specifics, because vision drives all project stakeholders including vendors to an outcome.Start with the most basic e.g saving laboure.g reducing FTE’s. To understand this you have to understand what the finance users are doing and how much time is related to time you expect to be able to automate in a new system. Understand and document your current issues. SO WHAT! What are the pain points e.g takes 2 days to prepare reports – what are the implications of this – e.g information available too late – means go over budget – decisions are delayed – lose a contract.A lot of people get stuck at the very first level of SO WHAT. For instance the outcome desired may be ‘better reporting’. What is the POP? E.g takes too long to prepare for EOM. So what? Retain higher cash balances.
  • To understand this you have to understand what the finance users are doing and how much time is related to time you expect to be able to automate in a new system. E.g double handling, rekeying, processing time e.g sending documents out, processing in a spreadsheet, preparing reports, integration e.g payroll/LOB system. Look at why this processing is required e.g accounting system can’t report – why can’t it. Maybe budget is held in other source, multiple data sources. Where are the complexities.
  • Is the ROI overused?Most of the implementations I get to see, reducing FTE is not even highlighted. Rather they have over time outgrown their systems and are so overladen with double handling and rechecking that it is all they can do to just get the accounts out by the deadline.Understand that it is not all about efficiency and time savings. Hard and Soft savings. Soft savings are almost impossible to quantify. For instance, one of the outcomes of a solution could be better decision making. How do you know how much you could save if you don’t know what the implication of the better decisions are? Another area that is neglected in ROI is COMPLIANCE. Again how can you measure the cost of non compliance? You may have prevented an incident which cost the company millions. But this may not have occurred anyway. It’s hard to measure the benefit of complying but you know instinctively that it will benefit you. It may be in terms of increased revenue e.g you get awarded contracts because you have demonstrated strong compliance and procedures in your business or you may have been fined for accounting irregularities or made yourself open to fraud.For instance, take quality as an example. Let’s say you implement a solution which considerably speeds up your month end management reporting. But let’s say your system did not have good enough controls to check that cost coding data was being entered appropriately. The consequence will be that variances will show up on your month end report that are either not really variances or else hide problems that should have shown up. This could stop preventative courses of action that could have taken place if known about and ultimately cost money.
  • How do you turn the Finance team into a valuable asset, not a lowest cost servant?Finance is accountable for every last cent, but transactional focus & triple checking is not the answer.Finance dept. is often the poor cousin, struggling to get resources or budget allocation for internal initiatives. You’re constantly being asked to do more with less, but how ??
  • If you are vague about your requirements, the vendors will be vague in supplying prices, taking you seriously.How do you manage vendors? One of the common mistakes here is to go to vendors before you have defined your own requirements, success factors, how you measure your success and so on. You may need to go to a vendor to get prices initially. If you give a vague outline of what you need, you will get a vague costing e.g could be 100% out!Also you allow the vendor to set your agenda and take you down the path they want you to go.On the flip side, don’t automatically mistrust the vendors. First, the more complete you are on what outcomes you want and you are clear about them, the greater the control you will have.
  • Mitigation – set the agenda – be clear about your POP’s and implications. Come prepared to discuss your company/business, history. Insist they do not discuss product. Set up the expectation that they will need to demonstrate the particular scenarios that are important to you (not generic). Create an agenda and send.What do you think is the impression that a demo will want to portray? Right…how easy it is. Do you think they will highlight complexities? Hell no. By asking for a demo upfront, you are playing to the tune of the vendor – unless you get a vendor who may actively discourage a demo and seeks to understand first specific concerns and issues.
  • Why is being clear about your own requirements so important? If you go to market without a clear understanding of what you need, the vendors have to set the agenda for you and take you to places you didn’t want to go. It is also invaluable for the vendor to know your objectives because they can address the most relevant aspects of their solution. What tends to happen is that you get stuck in hours of long demos and presentations because the vendor will throw everything they have at you until something sticks. The other danger is that you will conform to the what suits the vendor.Don’t try and trick vendors. Give them as much opportunity as possible to present themselves in the best possible light.Don’t discard vendor – they will make mistakes but still might have the best solution – you might have an inexperienced salesperson. Persist and if necessary ask for them to provide what you need.
  • This is how a vendor qualifies the prospect.Vendor sales qualified lead 4 out of 4Or Marketing Qualified Lead 2 out of 4.
  • This is not a case of getting 3 quotes and taking the one in the middle.If a vendor can clearly demonstrate value, maybe value that you hadn’t even thought off.For example, consider future proofing. If you spend $x today and save $x by choosing solution x over y, but x may be so inflexible that even though it worked for you day 1, things changed so that you had to use workarounds in spreadsheets to get the results you needed and you ended up needing to change again in 2 years.
  • This is not a case of getting 3 quotes and taking the one in the middle.If you can’t get the budget for what you need, it is better to not do the project at all!If a vendor can clearly demonstrate value, maybe value that you hadn’t even thought off.For example, consider future proofing. If you spend $x today and save $x by choosing solution x over y, but x may be so inflexible that even though it worked for you day 1, things changed so that you had to use workarounds in spreadsheets to get the results you needed and you ended up needing to change again in 2 years.
  • Linked in recommendationPlease feel free to link up on linked in and if you feel so inclined, I would appreciate a recommendation of myself and the topic.
  • Accounting Technology and Systems Selection

    1. 1. Accounting Technology and Systems SelectionPhil Taphouse FCCADate: 13th October 2011
    2. 2. Introduction• The ‘Go to Whoa’ of a systems selection project• Business Case and investment analysis• Preparedness to ‘Go to market’• Technology/Solution focus• Insight into the Vendor mindset• Tips to success
    3. 3. What is Success?Getting what you want.
    4. 4. • Greater need for awareness of systems selection in Finance. – Trends for finance to be involved in vendor selection and selection criteria. CFO RESEARCH BRIEFING 2011 THE SENIOR FINANCE TEAM AND CORPORATE PURCHASING DECISIONS• ‘…most companies realized benefits 50% below what they expected…” PANORAMA CONSULTING GROUP 2010 ERP REPORT
    5. 5. Topics• What makes accounting environment complex• Value/Benefits realisation of your solution• Case Studies – Full accounting, credit card• Investment decision – Is the ROI overused?• Business Case – work out WHY you are doing this project – develop a vision.• How to determine your cost/budget.• Defining your requirements – importance - complexities• Why all GL’s are not the same.• Vendor Management
    6. 6. The solution ‘sweet spot’• Operational focus• Services focus• Line of Business focus• ERP ‘All In One’ and Best of Breed plus LOB system. – Financial services, Service, Oil & Gas/NFP, Construction/Distr ibution – Issues of letting the operations guys loose.
    7. 7. Complex Accounting Environments• Oil & Gas – Joint Venture• Property development - Projects• Not For Profits – Projects, allocations• Financial Services – Multi department
    8. 8. Case Study• Mid sized financial services company.• Outgrown MYOB accounts.• Severe spreadsheet overload.• 4 divisions operating finance independently• Diverse operations causing issues.
    9. 9. A ‘Good’ objective:The vision of the project is to determine the most efficient and cost effectivesolution, for implementation, in relation to the XXX’s accounting and managementreporting function.The key objectives of implementing a new solution are to:• Introduce a single source accounting and reporting system, where possible, thatis fit for purpose and can handle core accounting transactions in a uniform andconsistent manner;• Standardise accounting and reporting processes associated with the new ITsolution across all divisions to achieve operational efficiencies;• Improve the automation of data input and streamline transaction processing tohelp reduce time consuming and overly manual processes currently performedwhile greatly improving the integrity and reliability of financial informationreported;• Create additional efficiencies by evaluating the potential to integrate the newsolution with other business systems holding financial information within thebusiness.
    10. 10. Case Study – Credit Cards• Mid sized financial services company,• 50 Corporate credit cards,• Issues – inefficiency, double handling.• Resolution – 2 solutions. Which worked? – Cloud based commoditised solution, – On premise solution.
    11. 11. Value/Benefits Realisation (Or developing your vision).• What outcomes are you seeking? Vision.• Identify your POPs (Point of Pains)? Specific• “So What!” analysis. Root Cause
    12. 12. ROI – Hard• Hard ROI – Labour saving reducing FTEs• Deadly sins of financial inefficiency
    13. 13. ROI - Soft• Intangible ROI – Blunt instrument – Decision making – Compliance – Quality – You don’t know what you don’t know
    14. 14. Finance – a valuable asset? Providing Decision Support Supporting the business Transaction processing Current? To Be
    15. 15. Vendor Management
    16. 16. Sorting out the wheat from the chaff• Treats as a technology sale not a solution.• Why asking for demos sucks!• “Oh Yeah – it can do that…”• Speaks too much about their product (Blah, Blah, Blah).
    17. 17. First meeting with Vendor• Set the agenda.• Be clear about POP’s and Implications.• Insist they do NOT demonstrate product.• Understand if they have industry specific knowledge.
    18. 18. Prospect Qualification• Budget• Authority• Need• Timescale
    19. 19. How much!3 Quotes?Save today,Pay tomorrow!Future proof
    21. 21. Questions. Next Steps?
    22. 22.