Your organization has decided to purchase software. After making sure senior management is on board, you can use these tips to select and implement the software effectively.
Determine an implementation budget. To properly develop a budget, a full requirements analysis — a comprehensive list of what business users require of the software — should be performed. Understanding how well the standard functionality of the solution meets your requirements, and how much configuration or customization will be needed in addition to the standard functionality, will drive the selection of the software and the amount of resources required to complete the implementation.
Consider how to integrate the software. If the new software needs to communicate with your other applications or systems, an integration may be necessary. For example, do you need the information from your new time-and-expense application to flow directly into your accounting system? If so, you may need an integration to handle that data flow. This could mean additional professional services, a separate software purchase, or both. Failing to gain a clear understanding of your integration requirements can lead to unexpected costs and missed project due dates, so be sure you understand the exact path of communication between the new solution and your other programs.
Choose who will perform the implementation. Do you have the expertise to perform the entire implementation yourself? If not, will you engage the software vendor or a third-party consultant to implement the software? Alternatively, will you use a combination of those three options? Understanding your capabilities and limitations, and supplementing as necessary, is key to keeping the implementation on track.
Involve the users from the outset. To ensure the software meets the intended business objective, it's imperative that users be involved throughout the process, including selecting the software. If the application is particularly complex, you should consider assigning one or preferably more team members (who would use the software) to the implementation full time until the project is complete. Keep in mind that the implementation is a partnership between IT and business users, with business users driving the ultimate setup. User training should likely occur before the implementation to help provide a successful launch and make sure users get the most out of the product.
Plan for post go-live training, support, and maintenance. After you go live with your new software, additional user training and support will sometimes be needed. Depending on factors such as how complex the solution is and how often you experience user turnover, you may need to be continually training and making technical support available to users. In addition, consider what resources will be needed to maintain the software and whose responsibility it will be to do so. To determine the solution's total cost of ownership, it will be necessary to understand the cost of ongoing training and support as well as maintenance.
— By Fred E. Duyck, CPA, the CFO of Tryon Solutions Inc. in Raleigh, N.C. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor, at Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com or 919-402-2112.