For many businesses, selecting the wrong accounting software can be a costly disaster – even if the blunder might not be proven out until several months later. Here are 10 things you should do to help make the right choice:
- Become Knowledgeable Stage
- – Educate
yourself about existing accounting software packages. The Internet can help. Other options include independent seminars, tradeshow exhibition booths as well as newspaper and magazine articles.
- List Stage
– Make a list of all of the products that might meet your needs. Ask your competitors what they use and add these to the list.
- Eliminate the Obvious Poor Choices Stage
– Eliminate overly expensive products and ones that are missing modules or features you need.
- Evaluate Product Features Stage
– Compare a complete list of features you require to the feature set of each product. Rank the remaining software according to your specific needs. Now cut the remaining packages to a number low enough to allow you to do a practical set of demo tests.
- Visit Internet Sites Stage
– Visit the site of each remaining accounting software vendor.
- Brochures and Evaluation Code Stage
– Request the latest brochure and an evaluation copy of the software from each vendor. Their sales representatives will now start calling you, so talk to someone you trust at the respective companies to find the best reseller in your area for the products you’re interested in.
- Dog and Pony Show Stage
– Arrange to see a demonstration of each product. The vendor (and/or its reseller) should be able to do this in about two to four hours. Hit them with your toughest questions at this point. Ask about their availability, installation methodology and their track record for getting systems up and running properly on time. Compile a list of three to five references you can call to check up on their work.
- Hands On Testing Stage
– If you received a demo copy, now is the time to evaluate it.
- Call References Stage
– Call the references supplied by the vendors and ask questions Do you use X Software? When did you install it? Who performed the installation? Did they do a good job and install the system on time? Are you satisfied with the product? What problems have you had with the product? These six questions will flush out any problems with the reseller or the software.
- Decision Stage
– Make your decision now. If you have more than one package left on your list, choose the product that is easiest to use on a day-to-day basis, the product that is built on top of the most promising technology, or the product that offers the strongest reporting.
The apparent winner may reveal itself long before you complete all 10 steps. To be on the safe side, it’s still a good idea to run through all of them. You alone must decide how much effort is warranted to select the best accounting software package to meet your current and future needs.
Alan Salmon, managing director of Alan Salmon & Associates Inc. and vice-president of Canadian operations for K2Enterprises, is the author of the Salmon Series of practical seminars for computer consultants and accountants. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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