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Date Posted: 3/17/2004

Accounting Software: How much do you invest in mastering your accounting software?

 
 
By Anne Stanton, The Norwich Group

Accounting Software is a tool that should make a manager’s life easier, but many companies are finding that the results obtained from their accounting software relative to the amount of money and time that they sink into it is not always equal. Certainly, expensive accounting software can handle some of the most obscure requests, but expensive software does not always equate to instant results, excellent reporting, beautiful financial statements and an immediate elimination of accounting headaches. So why then with the advancements in technology and high costs of new accounting software are companies expectations and needs still not being met?

One of the ways to clarify some of the road blocks companies are running into is to compare the human investment in software to the human investment in other tasks. Take for instance the task of driving a car. To learn to drive a car, not only do you have to take three months worth of classes and practice a certain number of hours, but you are also required to pass a written and a practical exam to prove you have mastered the skills that were taught. In fact, in one state you are even required to drive under a special set of regulations as a beginner driver for the first six months. These types of state regulations protect many of our citizens, but who protects a company from the financial losses that can occur from the poor use or bad implementation of accounting software?

Unfortunately, there is no oversight when it comes to implementing and learning accounting software. Thus, even the most user friendly accounting software packages, if used improperly, can cause major financial losses for a firm in both time and money and for a small business the loss can be particularly painful. Comparably, if we look at a sophisticated accounting software package the losses can be even higher if the accounting department staff does not have the background or ability to be trained properly. In the end, no matter how sophisticated or simple an accounting system may be the ultimate success or failure resides with the people who use the software on a daily basis and how well they know and understand the software. Not everyone in your accounting department is a CPA or a computer guru but with proper and adequate training each person should be capable of learning how to function within the accounting system efficiently.

Training, however, can only take you so far and ultimately there are other factors that will arise that may also impair the success of an accounting system and require additional resources to be successful. So what are businesses suppose to do, particularly small businesses running on tight budgets? Here are a few recommendations:

Develop a high level of communication with the resellers. Resellers are an incredible resource for information on their package of choice and usually know the software better than anyone else including the vendors sometimes.
Understand what the training requirements for the accounting software you choose are prior to installation. This is paramount to success of any systems and will help you gague how much time will be required to adequately get your staff up to speed.
If there is any doubt about how to configure the software, hire a consultant who understands your business, has a background in accounting and preferrably one who knows the software you are implementing so that they can help configure and setup the system to match your business needs.
Our final recommendation is to look for a CPA who has mastered the Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) credential and has experience with accounting software. The CITP credential is an AICPA certification and unlike other credentialing programs the CITP serves as the "bridge" between business and technology. The CITP credential was created to leverage the technically oriented CPA's strategic and general business skills and is just now becoming a highly recognized certification in the marketplace.

Cleaning up a poor install of accounting software can be a nightmare. As business owners you just don’t have the energy to deal with such a mess and run an efficiently well tuned company. Invest today in getting things setup right and if everything is setup, invest in a little extra training for each member of the accounting team. It is worth the investment and will pay off in the long run. Remember software changes daily and it is important to support the accounting department’s interest in keeping up!





About the Author
As president of The Norwich Group (www.thenorwichgroup.com), Anne Stanton has worked with technology and software development companies; accounting firms and organizations, and consultants nationwide for more than 18 years, analyzing and helping businesses of all sizes use their available resources more effectively. She most recently was executive vice president of Commercial Logic, Inc., and is a member of the AICPA’s Top Technologies Committee. Anne Stanton can be reached at astanton@thenorwichgroup.com.
 
 


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