Choosing a package

Using the needs assessment and specification, you can now start looking at packages.  Whilst there are many packages on the market, it will be possible to eliminate many of them very quickly. A shortlist of two or three should then be examined more closely.

It is useful to find out other businesses and organisations similar to your own who are using the software.  It is often worthwhile to take up references with existing users as it is possible to find out a lot more than simply by looking at brochures or speaking to the manufacturer or dealer – after all, they have a vested interest in selling their product whether it is suitable or not.

Implementation

A timetable needs to be carefully thought through and agreed.  The changeover to a new system may cause disruption in some areas and you do not want everyone to blame the new system for everything, especially when it is due to lack of human planning.

Testing

If you intend to set up and run the system alone, it is very tempting to switch on and go for it!  However, it is better, to help you to learn the system to set up a dummy organisation and enter some test data.  Alternatively, you can use the services of an external consultant who knows the package well to provide set up and training.

Parallel Running

As part of the implementation plan, you should allow a period of parallel running of the old system alongside the new system.  This is extra work, but does allow the opportunity to check the accuracy of the new system.  It also means that the old system can be used for management information whilst implementation of the new system is ongoing.

System Operational

Having trained appropriate staff, tested and parallel run, you should be ready for the system to be fully operational.   It is useful to write your own operations manual as you go along.  Although the software will have its own manual (some of which are not very user friendly) you will need to write something very simple for people in the business needing to access information occasionally.  This will also be useful for new staff.

Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Don’t skimp on training:  good systems are usually under-utilised and so the real benefits are lost because staff do not know how to use the system properly or to its full extent.
  • Don’t skimp on software:  a cheap but inappropriate package will be a waste of money not a cost saving.  Don’t just buy for today, think about tomorrow.
  • Don’t ask anyone with a vested interest what package you should use:  manufacturers and dealers will obviously recommend what they sell, the auditors will recommend what they use themselves as it makes their life easier, all irrespective of whether it is the right package for you.
  • Don’t rush into setting up a system: think through the whole operation and plan carefully.  It is not necessary to start the new system at the beginning of the financial year; it is not a problem to transfer balances mid-year and it is better to have prepared properly for the changeover.
  • Don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort a new system will require.
  • Don’t forget to set up appropriate controls and checks as part of the system.
  • Don’t forget to set up good paper based systems for controlling what goes into the computer.   Remember GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out)
  • Don’t forget to set up a sensible referencing system so that transactions can be traced from one part of the system to another.  This includes paper as well as computer records
  • Don’t make adjustments to the accounting records or transactions without recording the reason for the entry.  A system of numbered journal vouchers or forms to show the entry, the reason for it and the date should be set up
  • Don’t forget to make regular back-ups of the information on the system
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