Dropping DOS The beast is dead

More and more organizations are discovering that while their current accounting system has served them well, it’s time to put their old system out to pasture.
They hope to extend the boundaries of their financial systems, integrating the accounting department with other critical operational areas.
With the advent of Windows-based open architecture accounting, that can finally become a reality.
Many organizations prefer the reliability of DOS-based accounting products simply because the maturity of those systems means they have relatively few bugs.
The market for DOS-based products is shrinking as software manufacturers focus on Windows-based multi-user, or “open architecture system,” products now.
Hardware capabilities have outpaced the limitations of DOS-based financial software, while new Windows-based multi-user products are harnessing this extra power, exceeding the accounting functionality of their DOS predecessors.
It’s time for change.
The most natural progression your company can take in meeting the demand for change is upgrading to a new financial software package, allowing you the same mobility as your continually progressing corporate mission.
If you want to continue the “built-in” quality of your accounting department and enjoy its effect on your bottom line, you cannot afford to lose the years you already have invested in a staff which knows your operations and can assist in reaching those corporate goals.
If the employees are going to buy into the new system, it is of high importance to get them involved at ground level. Actively present the idea that this is their system, not just yours.
The following outline is helpful in stepping through the search and evaluation process.
? Define the business requirements. This critical first step is often overlooked or under-scrutinized. Decide what the system should accomplish. In surveying all system users, analyze the old system and decide what operational elements should be retained, such as data entry and profile information screens, reports and lists.
A good financial package will allow you the ability to customize the out-of-the-box software to fit your basic needs.
? Determine the data you would like transferred to the new system, such as vendor data, customer files and account history. Many companies are frightened at the thought of switching to a new system because they think it means the loss of historical information. Not true for a quality financial software application.
? Review your business processes to determine if they can be made more efficient. Part of the planning process involves gathering information from the correct internal sources, including all levels of staff and perhaps even customers.
Requesting input from these people will not only provide key information, but will heighten their interest in the project and, ultimately, assist in acceptance.
? Locate potential vendors in accounting and financial management journals. Attend industry trade shows and seminars. Talk to nondirect competitors and consultants who specialize in accounting and financial system solutions. Check out Web sites and use online software search services that can be found on most national bulletin boards or the Internet.
?Issue a Request for Information (RFI). An RFI is a document you prepare that states the basic requirements of your desired system and solicits information from vendors. This document is a derivative of information gathered in Step 1.
Send an RFI to different vendors, asking them to respond by a specified date. This is a relatively quick method of identifying which vendors might meet your needs, as well as identifying unresponsive vendors.
? Evaluate potential systems. Review the information gathered from the RFI to narrow the field of potential vendors. This would be a good time to schedule system demonstrations with the potential vendors.
? Check references. Before you actually view a demonstration, request references from vendors. References should include organizations of similar size that have similar needs to yours. Those organizations should be receiving vendor support and service from the same office where your support and service will be provided. It also helps to have a list of all users in your area. When you contact references, have a checklist of questions.
? When possible, visit the site of current software installations. You’ll gain lots of good information to factor into your decision.
? Check the vendor’s stability. Dun & Bradstreet may provide you with some answer to the vendor’s financial situation. Make it clear to the vendor that you seek a long-term relationship with them and regard this information as critical to your decision-making process.
? View the system demonstrations. Structure the demonstration so that you see the features you are most interested in. Do not let the sales representative control the demonstration by only showing you the bells and whistles. Include staff at the demonstrations.
One of the most beneficial elements in a smooth transition is to have your staff behind the change.
? Request a proposal from the vendor. This document from the vendor outlines what services and products they will provide at what cost. Make sure it is an all-inclusive quote; insist on having an acceptance time period. Do not pay in advance.
Jeffrey Morin is a financial software consultant with SVA Consulting, Inc., an information systems solution provider with offices in Milwaukee, Madison and Rockford.
April 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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