Implementing Accounting (ERP) Software

Did you ever think about the process of implementing ERP software or accounting software? From the implementer’s point of view, I mean.
When I was in public accounting, clients brought their tax records to us. Hopefully, they didn’t bring the garbage bag or the box of checks; it was always better when they brought the tax organizer (key word: organizer). With a moderately complex organizer and the tax prep software we had, I could turn out a tax return in record time. Then I could reconcile the income to what was on the organizer, package it all up, and have it ready for review. Total time depended on the complexity of the return and the organization of the information, but it was pretty easy after a while to estimate the amount of time required.
Same thing for changing the oil in my car. And painting the outside of a house.
Enter ERP software.
No business worth its salt would buy ERP software and training without some estimate of the amount of time required to do it. Occasionally, I talk to businesses that have a quote for software and training. How much is the software, I ask. Big number follows. How much is the training? A small number (a few thousand dollars) follows.
“They quoted you two weeks of training, didn’t they?” I ask.
“Yeah, how did you know?”
“Well, it’s one of the lies ERP vendors tell.”
See, ERP software is generally pretty complex. To make it more complex, it’s not possible to grab the software (like grabbing a tax organizer), fill in all the blanks (like the tax software), and produce a finished product. Instead, you have to teach someone to use the software. And you have to help them mold their job to the software. Sometimes the people you’re teaching have learned how to do it by rote. In that case, you have to teach them to do their job at the same time you teach them to use the software.
That isn’t even to mention the fact that people generally don’t like to practice with software (“Just crank it up and let me jump in.”) Businesses don’t seem to realize that the more distance they put between the original conversations about the system and the actual system implementation, the more likely things are to change. I’ve never had a business owner yet tell me, “Yeah, I know, I have really stupid employees…it’s going to take you longer to train them than the normal business.” Nope. Every business owner tells me, “We really have good people here, your job should be a breeze.”
Guess what? An ERP company has control over only three variables: (a) the process they follow, (b) the estimate they choose to make for the cost of implementation and training, and (c) the people they send to do the training.
All the other hundreds of variables are in the hands of the organization implementing the software. It’s hard to estimate a project that is controlled by someone else, and hard to keep it on track as well.
Leave some comments. I’d like your feedback. How would YOU fix this?