We’ve all been there. You’ve identified the need for a new financial system and are now pondering the impact this could have on the Finance Department and your company’s business. The more you and your team think about this, the more questions you have and the inertia of the weight of the decision process becomes a heavy burden that can in some cases lead to cancellation of the entire project.

So, what do top performing organisations consider when setting out to choose a new financial system? We’ve noted a trend amongst our clients in that they all go beyond the mere system functionality approach and instead focus on solving their business challenges and identifying their most confidence-inspiring attributes of the new system. Here are a few examples of questions that they all ask. Please feel free to use it as the basis of your own requirements template:

  • The right technology should be easily accessible to all organisations : Put simply, can this solution work easily within your existing IT infrastructure? If not, does the vendor provide a cost-effective solution to enable it to do so easily?

  • Affordable solutions : Is the solution truly able to come in on budget and are the full project costs well understood. Have you spoken with existing users who can confirm this?

  • Flexible procurement options : Can additional modules be turned on and used as your requirements develop and are the modules designed to easily work together (not acquired technology forced together which never works satisfactorily).

  • No loss of functionality in solution versus scale : Does the product truly scale? Are there limits imposed on the data-crunching capabilities and response times as more data and users are added? Does the vendor offer a service to let you test this?

  • Office of Finance functions in smaller organisations face even greater demands : They cannot afford lengthy, time-consuming implementation projects from a cost or resourcing perspective. The single biggest hurdle to overcome is most often solving the data acquisition problem – a big issue for organisations large and small to consider.

  • Community feel vital : Can the new system involve all stakeholders from day one of the project and engage them. An often-overlooked aspect of a successful implementation project.

  • Non-technical, finance friendly : Finance personnel are already pressed for time and require a new finance system to interface with them in language and processes they know and understand. It should not require them to learn and undertake unfamiliar technical processes forced on them by the system architecture.

  • Self-sufficiency & Agility: How easily will you be able to maintain the system once it is implemented and in use? Does it lend itself to the finance department’s day-to-day user requirements? And when the inevitable time comes to add new infrastructure to your chart of accounts, will you be able to do this simply and quickly in an agile manner, or will you be forced to make-do while your vendor engages you in another lengthy and expensive development process?

  • Rapid implementation : How easy is this going to be and can your vendor demonstrate a track record of high quality implementations completed in a timescale that suits your agenda?

  • Swift realisation of Return on Investment : How easy will this be for you? Will project costs and increases in efficiency be easy to quantify or will they be masked by lengthy hidden implementation and training costs and a lack of user acceptance?

  • Modern technology and deployment options : What underlying technology does the new system use? Is it able to work with the latest IT infrastructures and provide flexible deployment options or is it dependant on older technology that will hinder its use in practice?

By addressing these areas before looking at the functionality of the new system, your project will gain more focus and will be more likely to work for you. 

I’d really appreciate any observations or additions on the above if you have them – just leave your comments below. Additionally, CIMA members can hear my full presentation on this subject at their ‘Introducing New Financial Systems’ event at Stratford City, London, on Tuesday 31st October. I hope to see many of you there.