Conversions from one accounting platform to another are inevitable in our profession and can be either be an opportunity or a nuisance.
Rapid changes in technology are happening all around us, and accountants either need to adapt or be left behind. I can say a significant part of our business over the years has been converting companies from QuickBooks’ desktop solutions to Xero’s cloud-accounting platform.
Why has that been a big part of our business? The answer is simple: Because their previous accountant didn’t want to. They wanted to stick with the systems they know instead of the systems their clients want to use. It’s that simple.
Whether your client or prospect wants to convert their entire accounting system or one of the apps used in their workflow to another, the more you are there to support them, the more they will value their relationship with you.
At Basis 365 Accounting, we look at every conversion as an opportunity to amaze our current and new customers. Our ability to provide a painless experience and focus on how great the new process or workflow will be encourages them to continue to look to the future.
In addition, we follow four simple steps to make each conversion seamless:
- Hire a Specialist
We have a full-time person handle almost all conversions. Having a dedicated individual helps ensure consistency across all projects and keeps your accounting team free to keep doing what they do best: delivering financial information on time and accurately.
The conversion specialist’s top goal should be to make the experience as painless as possible. This means they need to have great communication and organizational skills. Finding someone who is tech savvy does not always equate to a great specialist.
If you can’t hire a full-time person, look at your team and try to find an individual who loves tech but also gets things done. If you don’t have this person, then look for a partner company that specializes in these types of projects. We utilized an Australian partner for a few implementations early on, allowing us to get the right solution in place for those customers without having the in-depth knowledge needed in-house.
Overall, this person needs to be patient and focused on the successful completion of the project. Many tech-savvy individuals love to dabble but may struggle to see the project through to completion. The worst case is you get 90 percent of the way done and then struggle to wrap up that final 10 percent. Your customer’s goodwill will go from a 10 to 0 quickly if you let it drag. Finishing on time and successfully is critical, which leads to the next point.
- Scope the Project
Concentrate on the end goal: Why you’re doing what you’re doing. Is your client converting to get to the cloud? Why? Are they converting so they can scale? Why? Think about what success looks like.
Additionally, identify the key players, establish clear roles and map out a timeline with buy-in from your customer. Who will you get data from? Who will verify it? What limitations might there be for you to get what you need and ensure it’s accurate?
Write a plan that answers these questions, sets expectations for communication, outlines the deadlines for you and your client and includes training time. Don’t make assumptions. Communication is critical for a positive experience from both parties.
- Phase, if Needed
There are situations where you can envision an amazing, multi-app accounting solution for a customer. Before you jump into the deep end, stop and think about your team: Are they going to be able to pull all of that off and amaze your customer? For their part, is your client going to be able to deliver on their end? If not, consider phasing. Implement one app at a time versus three or five all at once. This approach can significantly improve your success stories with companies that are not ready for significant simultaneous change.
Remember, this experience is an opportunity. Getting into the trenches with your customer can build a bond that lasts. Alternatively, if you bite off too much, you may come out the other side with one less client than before. Control the process so your conversion project is a success and your customer raves about what you’ve both accomplished.
- Utilize the Right Tools
As I mentioned earlier, timely project completion and communication are critical. To facilitate these, we use a project management application called Redbooth, where a customer is invited to help ensure everyone can see what is being done and what’s next. Clients get frustrated when they don’t know where they are in the process and where they are going. This helps them visualize the “where.”
Find tools to help you succeed. For example, Xero has a QuickBooks conversion service that gets us most of the way there for free. There is some pre- and post-conversion work needed, but they’ve built a tool to support us. Find out what tools exist from the applications you’re converting to and from before you start. Check the marketplace for other data conversion providers who may have built middleware that can help facilitate the conversion. Try to avoid exporting massive spreadsheets, manually manipulating them and then importing them.
Most people love buying things. It’s exciting to get behind the wheel of that new car or fire up that new smartphone.
Your customers are feeling the same way when they decided to switch to a new system. They’re looking forward to the benefits the new solution will bring. Your job is to maintain that excitement throughout the conversion process. Following these steps will help you deliver that experience.
About Rhett Molitor
Rhett Molitor is a cofounder at Basis 365 Accounting, which provides a cloud-based accounting and bookkeeping services for eCommerce, Software, and Service-based businesses.