Making the switch from DOS

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Going from DOS to Windows-based accounting system
You’ve had the kickoff meeting with staff and consultants. The initial schedule that covers every moment of time involved in the conversion is in place. All accounting coding schemes from your new chart of accounts to vendor, customer, inventory and employee IDs have been redesigned. The server, workstations and software has just been installed. What could go wrong?
Sunstone Financial Group, Inc., a company that provides fund accounting and administration along with shareholder servicing, distribution, marketing and advertising support to investment companies, mutual funds and their advisers, recently made the switch to Solomon IV for Windows and is currently in the process of running parallel. The company is dealing with some typical situations that commonly occur during a transition to a new financial software application.
Sunstone controller Christine Mortensen had the following experience after returning from vacation:
“I waited until late Friday to call in and get my messages. One after another was about the problems they had with one of the servers going down and the domino effect it had on the Solomon IV users. Keep backups. Keep daily backups. The data was all there. It really wasn’t so much of a problem. But you don’t know that at the time it is happening.
“Time constraints are placed on everyone. No matter how realistic you think you are, you aren’t. That is stressful and draining on you and your staff. It’s also a shock to know that other system errors – like the server crashing, totally unrelated to your financial software application – still interferes with your processing time. Teach as many users as you can similar functions. And do what I did – take a vacation in the middle of it all. It puts everything in the proper perspective.”
Truthfully, you should expect nothing less then a ride on a bucking bronco.
System, software
& staff troubles
Training begins and instantly, as anticipated, some staff members are reluctant at the extra work hours needed in running parallel. Performing some job functions is bad enough one time through, but having to do it twice is a nightmare. There’s operating system trouble. Workstations or servers crash, and no one seems to know why. That may cause software trouble. You and your staff are bothered by the unexpected errors that never occurred during the smoothly executed demos.
Some users are slower than others. Or, it seems they missed everything covered in the training sessions, causing additional software problems and incorrect data entry. This takes additional staff time to correct. Consider using a Buddy System. If you pair employees together, slower with faster learners, you will increase the learning curve for all and come up to speed quicker.
Communication through formal and informal meetings will also improve workflow. Consider purchasing customized procedure manuals to reinforce training. Manuals also ensure quality retraining if turnover occurs.
Software support & documentation
Know where your software support is coming from – directly from the vendor or from your consultant – and who specifically has been assigned to handle your account. Designate the most knowledgeable employees as system record keepers. You should keep a detailed log of software arrors, documenting how they occurred and at what moment in processing. It’s helpful to paste error screens into Word documents so that you can print and fax them, if requested, to your support person. When resolutions are delivered, log them as well. Share these problems and resolutions with all involved in similar job functions. What one employee learns through trial and error can be an important lesson for all.
Data pumping &
report generating
The initial focus in bringing your system to life will be data entry, pumping information into each of the financial modules, and matching account information against your old system during the parallel run. Beyond matching the general ledger, you’ll want to see the reports which display the information completed in data entry. Bring sample reports to the training sessions. Analyze those reports at the front-end to determine the exact information you are looking for. Your consultant will be able to demonstrate where those reports reside in the new system and can walk you through how to customize existing reports if they need to be modified to meet your specific requirements.
Positive attitude
The most important area that can make or break the use of the new system is holding onto a positive attitude during initial training and solo runs. Understand that the problems you encounter weigh heavily on your employees who may be easily influenced and in a vulnerable frame of mind at this early stage of using the system. You cannot gain total functionality within a week or two; the struggle typically ranges from three to six months. It takes a number of cycles of using the system before you and your staff know the best way to maximize its potential.
Going live
Determine the appropriate moment in time to run live. Clearly, you’ll want to be positive that the parallel systems are balancing, that checks and invoices are printing correctly, that the financial statements are complete and accurate. Once the decision’s been made, ask your consultants to be on site to address any problems quickly. I recommend that, shortly after going live, you retrain your users again. Training after going live pulls everything together.
Over time, each user will gain a broader-based background of the available functionality of this software. Financial application software built to run in Windows brings a new world of possibilities if you are up to the challenge. Stay educated, keep informed and congratulate yourself and your staff for a job well done.
June 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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