Things to Do For a Successful Software Conversion
The process of installing and training staff on a new construction software system is certainly not a walk in the park. Companies that do so successful begin by getting an understanding of their objectives and how the software fits in to their overall business goals. Once they do this, they can begin to develop and execute a plan that will provide the best match between the software and the organization’s objectives.
This article goes in to some details about several key factors that companies need to keep in mind when they’re trying to successfully implement a new software package. These things should all be discussed and thought through before any implementation begins. Not only will they raise some key questions, but they will also help in developing the best plan for each organization.
Identify Key Individuals
The group or team of employees that are selected to complete the sofware conversion should consist of a leader with layers of support below that have more layers of support below them. If you’re picturing a pyramid in your mind as you read that statement, then you’re on the right track.
Team Leader: This will be the leader of the entire conversion project. This person will likely be the person in the organization with teh most expertise in the area and does not necessarily need to be a company president or C-level executive. This person will also be the primary communicator with the software vendor. They will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the implementation and keeping everything on schedule.
Level Two – Management: Below the project leader in the structure of the team will be managers from every department of yoru company that will be affected by the new software. Their main responsibilities will be ensuring that the new software performs every operation that their department needs it to with no problems.
Level Three – End Users: Below the managers will be a group of end users that are selected to participate in the conversion. Their input may be the most valuable in terms of finding ways to use the software to improve company processes and they will also be responsible for inputting all the data in to the new system.
Other Support: These three levels will also need to get support from other key individuals within the organization who may not need to be permanent members of the conversion team. It is highly important to ensure that every individual or department that will be impacted in some way or another has an opportunity to voice their opinions and ideas or is represented by a member of their department during the implementation.
You may also consider asking your accountant (if you use an outside service) to be a part of the team as a consultant since they will also be affected by the change.
Get Input from Your Vendor
The software vendor that you work with will undoubtedly have the most knowledge about successfully implementing their system. Although this may be your first or second software conversion, they will have gone through the process hundreds or thousands of times and will be able to provide you with some sound advice.
If your vendor offers some sort of conversion or implementation manager, you should strongly consider using their services. Additionally, and information that your vendor can provide, like checklists or similar documents, should also be used.
Keep in mind that some vendors will charge a fee for these additional services. In most cases, the costs are well worth it. You will have to pay an up front fee for the services, but the software will be up and running quicker and you’ll be able to start reaping the cost saving benefits of the new software sooner.
Another bit of advice – ask your vendor for some recommendations for places to order forms, checks, and other materials that you’ll need to get the most from your software since they will know what works the best with their package.
Plan a Timeline
You’ll want to talk with some representatives from the software vendor and get their help in creating a timeline for the software implementation. Start by brainstorming a list of everything that needs to be done (in no particular order) and get some input from the entire conversion team as well as your vendor. When making this list, be as thorough as possible to reduce the risk of unplanned events or problems coming up down the line.
Once the list/brainstorming is complete, you might want to categorize each task the get organized. Things can be categorized as “pre-install,” “testing” and so on. If you’re going to need to upgrade your hardware during the implementation, remember to account for that as well.
Once all your tasks are categorized, you can begin to create a timeline. Use a calendar format and set dates for each milestone. Designate one team member to be responsible for monitoring the progress that you make and ensuring that everything stays on track. If delays occur, the calendar must be updated to reflect the delays and changes.
Finally, make sure you set the all important “Go Live” milestone at the very end!
Move Your Data to the New System
When the time comes to convert your data from your old construction accounting software system to the new one, you have two options – manual conversion and electronic conversion. There will be several factors to consider when deciding which route to go, but the key things to consider is what level of service and support your vendor offers and how much of the old data will be moving to the new system.
Converting Data Manually: There is nothing fancy about manual data conversion and it is exactly what it sounds like – the data is entered in to the new system manually by employees. This is often a good choice for companies that only plan to move a small amount of data.
Obviously, the big concern with manual conversion is the accuracy of the data entry. Companies that decide to use manual data conversion must ensure that there is a solid system in place to verify the accuracy of the data that is transferred.
Converting Data Electronically: The advantage of using technology to convert the data to the new system is that is it much faster and does not involve a lot of human labor. It is the preferred solution, especially for companies with small conversion teams or those that are transferring a lot of data.
Some vendors offer tools that convert the data for you and if they do, you should seriously consider using them, even at a small cost. The vendors will be able to guide you through the conversion and will know what kinds of formats the data must be in to make the conversion successful.
Cleaning Data: The old saying of “garbage in, garbage out” certainly applies here. If the data in your old system is inaccurate, full of errors, etc., then you will want to clean it up before transferring it to the new system. Set aside some time to go through your old data, standardize it, delete duplicates, test its validity, and make any necessary formatting adjustments before transferring it.
Testing: Equally important to cleaning the data is testing it in the new system after the conversion. This should be done before, during, and after all of the data is uploaded to the new software.
The testing of your data after the conversion is complete should be viewed as a “dry run” for the real deal. Have the new software create reports and verify their accuracy against the old system to ensure that everything is running properly.
Companies that are extremely large and have a lot of data to convert should consider hiring temporary help during the data transition period. This will speed the process up without the need to take other individuals away from their normal duties.
Once the new software is installed, all the data is converted, and everything is running smoothly, the final step in the process is to train the end users to properly use the new software. This is arguably the most important step in the new software process. Do not cut any corners here. Even users that have knowledge of the new system need to complete the training to ensure everyone is on the same page.
On-site training through your vendor is generally the best way to do this. Users get experience using the new software in the environment that they will be using it while working with the same data that they will work with every day. Start with the basics and move on only after everyone has grasped the core essentials.
Follow up training sessions are also recommended but can be done using online or phone training sessions. Ongoing training/refreshers should also be mandatory for all employees at regular intervals.
Stay in Touch With Your Vendor
Once the new software is up and running for real, do not end your relationship with your vendor. Keep in touch with them regularly so that when problems arise (they will), you will get the best possible support. Offer to serve as a reference for them for similar companies and make an effort to attend conferences or trade shows in your area where they appear.
The construction accounting software industry is very complex and it will pay off in the long run to have a positive relationship with your vendor. Nurturing an ongoing relationship with them is one of the best ways to ensure the success of your new software.