Too often have we seen organisations rush into software procurement ahead of setting the foundations for the solution and project they plan to deliver.  

Buying a new software solution for finance starts much earlier than receiving a demonstration.

Think about what you’re already doing to ensure the next finance project you deliver is set up for success and don’t skip any steps in the process.  

Detailed and thorough preparation for any change project can be the difference between success and failure.

When does the software buying process actually start?

Buying finance software can seem like a huge endeavour.  For a finance team at a mid-sized organisation, for example, the decision to invest in an entirely new finance system should not be taken lightly.

The decision to invest in a software upgrade often results in a significant investment in time, energy, and financing. The whole process may seem a bit overwhelming, but if you are already considering taking the next step in this regard, you may be surprised to know that you have already begun the process.

Long before you start considering a software demo or even before you engage in a full-on internal systems audit, you should explore a few ideas and ask yourself some key basic questions.

Where to start

The first stage of buying software is understanding your needs. If you are considering taking the step to upgrade the systems utilised by your finance team, then you are acknowledging some sort of need for change and that means you already have taken the first step.

It makes sense to take a deeper dive into what has driven you to start thinking about exploring software options. This pain point is a great place to start a systems assessment.

Outlining where your team spends excess time on non-value-add activities and then mapping their individual challenges will often highlight deficiencies in your current systems and help emphasise the gaps that need to be filled. Even without being highly aware of what is best in class or what leading technology can offer, being aware of the gaps you’re looking to close is essential.

Common pain points and questions to ask

It’s important to speak directly to each of your different system “end-users” to help identify the varied challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. You may be surprised with how varied each may be from role to role. It is also commonplace that your team may be so used to completing processes as is. They may not be able to envision how things could be easier. Challenge them to overcome this common speed bump by asking key questions to each team member to help you build a more complete picture:

  • Where do you spend most of your time? This will help you understand better how you are allocating assets.  If this is weighing more towards fewer value-add activities, there is a clear indication of a lack of efficiency. 
  • Which processes are most error-prone? This provides you with an indication of which areas of your finance process present the highest risk of error and which tasks your team is most focused on. If a specific essential process is vulnerable and prone to human error, it is essential that updating this process is afforded a high priority.
  • Is this an efficient use of our time? This really helps you gauge your team’s individual frustrations.  If your team members feel as if they are spending too much time on less important tasks they will burn out.  Automating processes perceived to be less important is essential to retain staff and to free up time for personal growth. 

Once you have highlighted the common pain points that you and your team experience you can start to compile a list of system requirements. Having these elements clear in mind is especially helpful as it focuses your search and eliminates options that do not meet your specific needs.

The common misconception is that the first step in software selection is receiving demonstrations of potential software options that may support your business. However, this can often lead to short-term investments, implementation challenges, and a lack of clear project direction. Instead, if you are able to start with an assessment of the key challenges you face today and if you can take the time to understand and quantify what these challenges mean to your team members, the finance function and the overall organisation, this lays the foundations for a clear focussed project and successful delivery.

In addition to aligning key business requirements and challenges, should be leveraging the lessons learned from the review to achieve buy-in and commitment from stakeholders across the business.  This essential next step in selection is equally key to complete, before reaching out to find suitable software solutions – more to follow on this next week.