Just Like Buying a Car

By Bill Kennedy - Turnkey: it’s a beautiful word, isn’t it? When used to describe accounting software, it conjures up the image of just turning the key in the ignition, hearing the roar of the engine and driving off into the sunset. It’s a whole sales pitch in a word. The only problem with it is that it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Let’s start with Excel. You buy it, install it and use it, right? It’s the perfect turnkey system. Well, if you ignore user training, that is. Have you ever seen a spreadsheet done by someone who wasn’t properly trained? The formulas are not consistent down the whole column, so you can’t just copy changes down. There are blank rows in the table so you can’t sort it. The formatting is awkward so it doesn’t print well. You get the picture. Excel is only a turnkey system if you ignore training.

But what about QuickBooks, one of the simplest accounting systems on the market? You buy it, install it, get trained on it and use it, right? If you ignore system configuration and internal processes, then yes, Quickbooks qualifies as a turnkey system. Even with a starter system like QuickBooks, designing your chart of accounts is not simple. I have seen accountants take weeks to set up their accounts. The time is well spent. You start with all your reporting requirements, e.g. financial statements for the bank, reports to the owner and tax schedules, and work backwards to figure out which accounts and departments you need. Determining your internal processes can take time as well. You want to be sure that transactions are properly approved and accurately entered. Any processes involving cash need special attention to be sure they are controlled. You also want documents to be stored in such a way that they can be easily retrieved.

Moving up the scale, you find Great Plains (Microsoft Dynamics GP), a package I spent a lot of time implementing. I shuddered when I heard GP described as a turnkey system, because it isn’t even designed that way. It is flexible, which means that it is also complex. In the right hands it can be moulded to fit a wide variety of different businesses. Each module has several set up windows to determine how that module works and how it interacts with other modules. There are third party modules designed to make the main, general purpose package work with specific industries. In addition to training, system configuration and internal processes, you have to spend time testing. Oh, did I mention data conversion? Typically you need to convert at least some of the history from a prior system to the new one. Because the logic behind the two systems is different, the way they store their data is different. Typically newer software stores more data than older systems did, so you need to decide how to fit the old data to the new system.

Navision (Microsoft Dynamics NAV) adds another layer: customization. GP can be customized as well, but NAV was designed for development. NAV gives you basic accounting software and expects you and your Microsoft partner to develop your own system. Whatever the package, once you decide to change the programming, you add the complexity of systems development. You need to create customer specifications, do the programming and test the results exhaustively.

All in all, the image I prefer to use with accounting systems is a marriage. You spend a lot of time first finding the right partner then figuring out how to live together. Only then can you floor the accelerator and drive off into the sunset.

This blog

by Bill Kennedy, CA.IT, PMP - With over 25 years of accounting experience, Bill has a varied background in accounting management and accounting systems implementation, with a focus on the charitable sector. He is also an experienced volunteer board member and fundraiser.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.

44626

Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.

77225

Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

49620

Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

90776
Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.
21534

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".

56868

William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.

82030

Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.

25721

Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

65433

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

35208
Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
104227
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.
26877

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

53794
Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
28795
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.
33153

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.

102180

The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

34458

FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.

113267

Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.

62360

Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

40512
Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.
67540

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.

93639

AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

54716