Quite often, I find that clients need to change their accounting system. It’s something that I am happy to help with as I know from experience the positive differences an efficient and appropriate system can make. However, like any process of change, it is a delicate task and it needs to be carefully managed. I feel that in 2020 we are suffering from change fatigue – the pandemic has forced us to change our daily lives in so many ways, that now more than ever, businesses need to be sensitive to the emotional side of any change.
I have found that a typical conversion often starts with the finance function disliking their current system as it is inefficient, slow and it doesn’t do what they need or want it to do. After some discussion and research, a decision is made to invest in a new system. Initially, everyone is happy about this and are excited to reap the benefits of the new system, however, this is where the hard work starts. Initial training is undertaken, but in reality, it has limited use as it’s no substitute for doing the real job in the real system. This can lead to frustration as those who are using it regularly soon realise they don’t know how to run the reports they need, things take longer as they don’t know how to do certain tasks and people can feel they are at the bottom of a very steep learning curve. Changing an accounting system will change how people work, how they communicate, and how they make decisions so it is vital not to underestimate the emotional impact this could have.
Eventually, everyone will get to grips with the system and things will improve, but the whole process can be a challenging time for those involved. Below I share my experience of the ideal steps and thoughts on how to make it a smoother transition.
1. Whilst it sounds obvious, make sure you have selected as quiet a time of year as possible.
2. Communicate why the change is necessary. People don’t want change for the sake of change. Explain why the current system needs to be replaced and how, once bedded in, the new system will make everyone’s lives easier and the benefits it will bring to the business.
3. Ensure that all stakeholders are included. Think about which members of staff will be using the system and make sure they are involved in the changeover project. For example, you may need to include people from the Sales and Production teams if the system will be linked to inventory.
4. Test, test, test. Factor in a decent amount of time to be able to test the new system. Ideally, run the same set of transactions through your old and new system at the same time and compare the outcomes to ensure they are accurate.
5. Remember that people don’t typically learn from just a few hours of training and it is vital that people are allowed to play around with a new system so they can get to grips with it. Make sure you factor in enough time to allow for plenty of practice.
6. Ensure you are sensitive to the range of emotions people may feel and be prepared for people to react in different ways from early adopters to laggards who are less comfortable with change. Don’t expect everyone to pick it up at the same pace and so make sure you factor in plenty of time for people to adapt.
Any kind of organisational change can take employees on an emotional rollercoaster and after the year we have had, I feel that, above anything else, emotional understanding needs to be woven through any project.
If you are thinking of changing your accountancy system, you may be interested in reading this article that I wrote about how AI can help businesses and how smart modern-day systems are. For advice and help with changing your accountancy system, please contact me.