Moving to a New Accounting System

The art and science of application migration

♫ Start movin’ on, movin’ on I feel on a roll since you’ve been gone... ♫

Moving to a New Accounting System

♫ Start movin’ on, movin’ on
I feel on a roll since you’ve been gone...

— Music and Lyrics by Ed Sheeran, A. Dessner, recorded by Ed Sheeran.

One of the hardest decisions a law firm may have to make is to move from their existing accounting system to a new one. Time and circumstances change and firms can outgrow their systems, the developers may change how the application works, the costs of maintaining a legacy system may become prohibitive, hardware that hosts the application may become outdated — there are many reasons for a firm to consider moving on. But for sure this is not a decision to be taken lightly. There is the whole process of how to select a new system to consider. That decision will be unique to each firm, as there is “no one size fits all” solution. But all firms, once the new application is selected, must go through a similar conversion process. Here is an overview of some of the points to consider.

Clean Your Data: Chances are your data dates back years, possibly decades. There is an expression GIGO that applies. It stands for “Garbage in, Garbage Out.” You will be relying on someone to migrate your old data to the new system and that involves trying to achieve as good an overlap between the old system and the new one. But if data has been improperly entered, is “dirty” or imperfect, this will cause no end of grief when trying to move it into the new system. Take time to clean up the data fields that will be moved to speed up the conversion process and reduce headaches.

Set a Deadline: There are many decision points inherent in any conversion process: investigate, determine alternatives, evaluate fit, decide on one product, negotiate the purchase, negotiate support, negotiate training, set date to start conversion, set testing date, set cut-over date, evaluate the process and determine takeaways for future projects. While these deadline dates need to be flexible, they also need to reasonably stay on schedule to keep the entire process moving forward successfully.

Get Buy In: Acquiring the best fitting software may be pointless unless everyone in the firm buys into the project, commits to using the new system and works to achieve the same goals. Passive aggressive behaviours, sabotage or simply working around the system all reduce the likelihood of a successful launch. Your new system may incorporate features not found on the earlier system that will benefit the whole firm if adopted by all. Be aware of the potential barriers and actively plan to overcome them.

Work with Your Developer and Conversion Team: Chances are that a conversion expert will be brought in to make the conversion easier, faster and orderly. Their experience gained from prior conversions make these people worth their salt. Listen to them, bring them into the process and follow their advice…chances are this will save you headaches and grief down the road.

Go Slow: Putting your foot on the accelerator is probably not the best thing to do. Slow and steady wins the race rather than being rushed and potentially having to go back and correct things that were not well understood at the time.

Train, Train, Train: The new system represents a different way of doing things. Processes must be unlearned and new ones taught. Patience is a virtue, unfortunately in a high-pressure law firm, it may also be scarce. Put the time into training to bring people with you and reduce the errors that may occur when people try to figure it out themselves.

Managerial Oversight: Lastly, invest in managerial oversight. Your insight into the firm cannot be matched by any outside advisor. Work with your team to ensure that the best decisions are being made at each point in the process.

After all, once the conversion is over and you are moving down the highway with your new system humming, you will say that you feel on a roll since the old system is gone.

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