How many times have you heard “This software is so simple, you won’t even need an accountant” or “All the menus are just like Windows 98. You won’t have any problem learning this system.” Here’s a good one - “Why waste the time and money on training. This system is very user friendly.”
Let us give you a bit of advice – if anyone trying to sell you a software system uses any of the preceding statements or a variation or those statements show them the door. AT worst, they aren't being truthful and at best they probably don't know what they are talking about. A knowledgeable vendor will tell you the truth – any major software system you purchase will require training.
Let’s look at some case studies, but before we do, let’s make something very clear. This article is not intended to criticize or endorse any software product; we are not getting compensated for by anyone for our opinions. Every product has its strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, individual needs govern which program is best for you.
A Quickbooks Case Study
Suzy Samuels runs a florist shop. It’s a relatively simple store with the normal sales and cost of sales, a few employees and the normal expenses of a small florist.
Because Suzy’s computer system tied into her vendors, controlled her inventory and her cash drawer, Suzy really didn’t need a very complicated accounting system. In fact, QuickBooks was a more than adequate system for her needs, but she didn’t know much about accounting.
She purchased the QuickBooks system and started using it. Things ran smoothly for the first year. Sure, the accountants at year-end had to make some adjustments and correct a few errors, but nothing big.
When it came time to prepare the tax return the next year, Suzy dutifully made a copy of her data files and sent them to the accountants. When they started to prepare the return, the accountants noticed the beginning numbers according to Quickbooks didn’t agree with the prior year’s return.
Puzzled, the accountants spent a day at Suzy’s office going through all the prior year accounts. At the end of the day, the accountants found that checks shown as outstanding in the prior year were now missing. When asked Suzy said, “Oh yeah. I had to void those checks and issue new ones, so I just deleted them from the system.”
Suzy didn’t realize that when she “deleted” a transaction, it was as if the transaction never occurred. What she should have done was use the software’s check voiding options, but she didn’t know about them. Training would have cost her $300 to $400 and she would have known about this feature. The cost of correcting the error was eventually $1,500 in increased accounting fees.
An MAS90 Case Study
MAS90 is what would be called a mid-range accounting system. It doesn’t cost $100,000 for a typical installation, nor does it cost $500.
Frank Butterfield runs a $20 million manufacturing company in Manhattan, Kansas. He chose the MAS 90 Client Server program because 1) it would do everything he needed done, except for a few things that could be added through some customization and 2) the consultant told him he wouldn’t need to send his people to a training class.
He didn’t know about the advice we gave in paragraph two of this article. So far, it has cost him an additional $20,000 in corrective action with a new consultant and taken him a year longer to implement the system than anticipated. Did we forget to mention the system is still not working right?
Again, the software is very good and definitely meets Frank’s needs. It’s just that nobody at the company knew how to operate it until now and the learning has just begun.
A Wolfepak Case Study
Wolfepak is a software system used in the oil & gas industry. It doesn’t have a fancy Windows interface and looks more or less like an old DOS program – but it works well.
His service bureau told Bill that it would be going out of business on January 31, 1999 in late November 1998. In that time frame, Bill would have to choose a software package and get the ten companies he owned up and running on the system.
Bill and his accounting department searched for and found Wolfepak within a month and the CPA they worked with began working with Bill’s people and Wolfepak to get the system running. Once the data had been transferred, Bill sent his entire accounting department to training.
The conversion went off without a hitch and Bill couldn’t be more pleased with the software. He is, in fact, a good referral source.
In the QuickBooks and MAS90 case studies, a lack of knowledge cost the companies big bucks. Too often, when evaluating accounting software programs, customers will usually look at only two things: One, how much the new software will cost, including transferring old data, and, two, how much it will cost for new equipment.
Often the sticker shock on these two items will prompt an inexperienced software vendor to claim the buyer doesn’t need to invest heavily in training. Naturally, this sounds good to the buyer – until after the software is in house and the buyer is so frustrated, they are ready to go back to the old system.
But the truth is, any reputable vendor or consultant will tell you to get the most training you can. Many times, when all costs are taken into account, the training costs exceed the cost of the software. In the Wolfepak case study, the training costs (including travel and salary costs) were equal to or a little in excess of the cost of the software. However, the company now has better information in a shorter time frame and is ultimately saving money due to the efficiencies it was able to generate.
So what’s the best way to train your personnel? That depends.
First, you need to decide what personnel will need training. Generally that is everyone to some extent.
Then you need to determine what training options are available. Can you get someone to come on-site to train your people, or is all the training done at the software vendor’s training facility? Even if you can get on-site training, is it better to send some or all of your people out of the office so they won’t be distracted? Perhaps you can send a few key users to training and have them train the remaining users.
This is something only you can answer after a careful consideration of the following:
- How many people will need some form of training. If you have a 100 person staff, it may be more efficient to bring someone on-site or send a few key users to training.
- Costs for on-site versus off-site training. Never make this the sole criteria. You always get what you pay for, so pay for the best alternative and expect the best results.
- What level of personnel are needed to keep the business running while you are implementing a new system and training your personnel. The software vendor will appreciate you being able to pay their bills. If you go out of business because everyone is in Ohio at a training seminar, you’ve accomplished nothing.
As with all things in business, and life, successful implementation of a change requires careful planning and knowledgeable people to carry the ball. Provide your people with the right training and you will reap dividends you didn’t even expect.
If you are thinking of making a change to your systems, give us a call. We can help you evaluate your alternatives and enhance your chances for success. That is, after all, what we are here for.
Have a very Happy New Year!