Best Practices for Evaluating and Selecting a Financial Close Software
Information Overload. Everyone has dealt with information overload at some point, and it isn’t fun. Unfortunately, when you’re in the market for a new software product to fulfill a key business need, it usually comes with a great amount of information overload. In today’s highly competitive environment, there are hundreds of software product options out there. In fact, we often hear from clients that once they start to look at different solutions, they all begin to look the same.
With this multitude of options, companies often experience choice fatigue. This brings on the risk of choosing a product that is not the right fit for your company, which could lead to the company abandoning it later down the road. This can cost your company both time and money, leaving you in an even worse position than when you started.
Therefore, when it comes to evaluating a financial close transformation solution and implementation advisor, there are three things that you need to keep in mind:
- Focus on challenges you are facing today. Is this a technology, process, or people-based challenge?
- Focus on your resources and preparation - Align and prioritize your challenges from highest priority to lowest priority, and then focus on who can help you solve these issues. Do you have the necessary internal resources, or do you need an implementation advisor who can help you drive your evaluation process?
- Focus on the bottom line - Obtain all the data points to make your decision. Focus on getting a tailored demo, the best pricing options, and an implementation advisor who can provide tools to accelerate your implementation journey.
FOCUS ON CHALLENGES YOU ARE FACING TODAY
Understand Your Current State Challenges. Focus on the problem at hand and drill into the details of what is making this issue painful for your finance and accounting team. For example, are you able to close your accounts payable subledger in one business day? If the answer is no, assess whether or not this problem is related to the volume of transactions someone needs to match and complete. Alternatively, are the pain points related to accruing your expenses on time? If the answer is yes, then what are the reasons that the accounting team cannot perform accruals on a monthly basis?
Map Out Current State Processes. Talk to different departments and your team to fully understand their obstacles and the process improvements they aspire to bring into the business. For example, are all expenses submitted on time from business operations? If the answer is no, then focus on understanding the different roles and responsibilities throughout the process and uncover any dependencies. Consider what is not working and how it could be improved. By identifying the problems that you want to fix, you can pinpoint business requirements, making it easier to select a technology solution based on features that are relevant and helpful to your situation.
FOCUS ON YOUR RESOURCES AND PREPARATION
Prepare a Prioritization List. This is the point in time where it’s important to identify the challenges you can fix on your own and the challenges that need technology to create efficiencies. For example, having a month-end-close checklist in Excel is a great start, but using an elevated technology solution will allow you and your team to gain visibility, centralization, and standardization to increase efficiency on your month-end-close process.
Once you prioritize your challenges, you can determine what features a technology solution needs to have as part of your selection process. This will allow you to differentiate technology limitations across vendors. For example, a business may need to have multiple bank accounts, but it can be time consuming for the accounting team to reconcile each bank account on a monthly basis. Based on this example, you should evaluate the technology vendors who can automate bank reconciliations.
There are multiple cases where small to mid-sized companies do not have the privilege to focus on other internal projects or spend a lot of time drilling down into process issues or documentation to identify how the process should be completed in the future. This task becomes daunting when you also need to support your accounting operations’ responsibilities. In these situations, accounting firms like Citrin Cooperman help small to mid-sized companies expedite the evaluation process and use the correct accounting tools to identify and document issues and lay out the future state of your business. For example, Citrin Cooperman recently worked with an agriculture company and their small accounting team to successfully identify their challenges, prepare business requirements, and get ready for demos with selected vendors, effectively reducing the amount of time spent by the accounting team on the project.
FOCUS ON THE BOTTOM LINE
Method of Evaluation. Most software solutions offer a personalized demo. Make sure that at this point you have identified the top priorities and must-have features that you want to evaluate. Create a clear list of what you need to see during the demo so you can determine whether the functionality of the platform fits your needs. Ask for customer references and published case studies. Another avenue you can use to evaluate a software solution is social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn where you can find independent references and opinions.
The Business Case for Change. The next step is tying your needs and vision to an expected return on investment. Laying out the process of how your organization operates today, the time required for each process, and the resources required to complete each process will give you a baseline to calculate the ROI and payback. For example, today it takes a team 30 minutes to prepare and complete a bank reconciliation; can the technology solution streamline this process to 15 minutes?
Choosing the Right Implementation Partner. There are many things to evaluate when choosing a financial close transformation solution. Price is often a top priority, but it is not always the most important criteria. It is important to identify an implementation advisor who will have skin in the game, which will ensure your project is successful from day one. When looking for implementation advisors, be sure to ask if they are equipped with accelerators, which are accounting tools used to get your team up and running quickly. Accelerators can help train your team on how the process needs to be prepared and completed while using software. We often see clients delaying their implementations due to the lack of process definition within the company. For example, balance sheet account reconciliation is a critical process that most companies don’t spend a lot of time on, but it requires an additional level of scrutiny when implementing a financial close transformation solution.
As part of this article, we are sharing a sample of a month-end-close checklist to demonstrate the type of tools advisors like Citrin Cooperman can bring to accelerate your implementation journey. Please click on this link to download free sample month-end-close checklist.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SOLUTION
After you have gone through the steps above, the approach to selecting a financial close transformation technology can be applied across vendors. Citrin Cooperman often works closely with software vendor Adra, which provides solutions built for small and mid-sized companies.. Its intuitive design ensures that each product is easy to learn and use. Since the entire suite of solutions is centrally hosted in the cloud, you can take advantage of Adra’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that can be rapidly implemented, has a lower cost than traditional software deployment, and is scalable. Additionally, the three products within the Adra Suite work together to automate and streamline work, improve accuracy, reduce risk, and better manage the detailed processes handled by finance and accounting departments.
Settling for average isn’t good enough when choosing your new software. By making sure you know what your goals are and that the solution you choose will help you achieve those goals, you’ll be on the path to selecting the right solution in no time.
Set a Due Date for a Final Decision. One of the greatest mistakes companies make when they are evaluating software is that they do not have a clear timeline for when a decision needs to be made. There never will be a “right time” or a “slow time.” One of the most important decisions you can make to move your business forward is determining a deadline and sticking to it. Announce your deadline early and communicate it to all stakeholders so that everyone is held accountable. Remember to focus on the long term, not the short term. It’s easy to get caught in the mentality of thinking short-term and choosing the most immediately beneficial option, with little regard to the long-term potential. However, when evaluating SaaS products, it’s important to think in the long term. Paying more upfront and getting a great ROI later down the line is much better than buying a cheap solution and regretting it afterwards.
Remember, every minute you spend running your company with an inefficient system costs you time and money.
With Adra Task Manager, you can enable your remote team by:
Creating Ownership & Accountability: Checklists help make sure everyone on your team understands their role, increasing morale, and avoiding needless confusion
Reducing Risks: Built-in segregation of duties and stronger internal controls mean you can assign work with confidence
Streamlining Your Process: Cut down on the need for time-consuming calls by defining standard management rules and tasks
Visit trintech.com/adra/trintech-citrin-cooperman for more information.
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