Feel the fear and do … nothing? What’s stopping people from switching finance software?

Research has revealed a lot of fear among finance chiefs about the prospect of changing their accounting software.

It’s not surprising that hard-pushed finance departments might be wary of making the decision if they think it means expense and upheaval.

But how do you tell whether it’s time – in the words of Susan Jeffers’s best-selling book – to feel the fear and do it anyway? And is it ever a sensible idea to feel the fear and do nothing?

Feel the fear

The top fears about changing finance systems

Survey results published recently by iplicit painted a picture of finance departments paralysed by the fear of changing their accounting software.

The research showed more than a quarter of financial decision makers would be unlikely or very unlikely to change their finance system in the coming year, even if they knew they could achieve a return on investment in less than 12 months.

The survey of 1,000 UK-based finance professionals identified the main barriers to changing finance systems, which were:

  • Fear of losing historical data and therefore having to run two systems in parallel (cited by 14%).
  • The cost of a “right to use” licence to access old data (12%).
  • Expense (11%).
  • Lack of internal resources (11%).
  • The length of time before seeing a return on investment (9%).
  • Fear it would be too complicated (8%).

Other barriers included a lack of digital skills needed to use the system (7%), lack of leadership buy-in (6%), fear of job losses (5%), lack of organisational buy-in (4%), distraction from day-to-day responsibilities (4%) and not being convinced the pain of change was worth the outcome (2%).

The other side of those fears

Like most fears, most of the concerns cited by finance leaders are not without foundation. In fact, all of them spring from issues that have presented real drawbacks for organisations changing finance systems in the past.

However, most of those concerns do not need to be a problem, as long as you do your research and choose the right system for your organisation.

For example:

  • The question of losing historical data has been a real problem in the past, but the right cloud accounting system can import a read-only version of your data going back several years. This means there is no need to pay your old supplier for “right to use” licences.
  • It’s true that moving to a better system might cost more. But there is no longer a need to jump all the way from entry-level finance software to an expensive and complicated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system designed for large organisations. Instead, it is possible to move to an affordable product for medium-sized organisations, which is likely to pay for itself in saved staff time and other payoffs. And for teams currently using multiple copies of old software, there may not be a large price difference anyway.
  • Although you will need to devote some internal resources to implementing new software, the process may take less time and effort than you think, if you choose the right product.
  • Return on investment can happen within months rather than years if the move frees up substantial amounts of staff time.
  • The new system should not be excessively complicated to use, if you’ve chosen the right product for your organisation.

The risks of putting off a decision

Ignoring the thing you fear is rarely a good strategy.

When it comes to changing finance software, it would be a mistake to think you’re not losing anything by putting off a decision.

Skilled finance people are hard to find and using outdated or entry-level software will only make the organisation less attractive to new talent. It will also make it more likely that the existing team will consider moving on.

There could also be a growing cost from working with old systems that are not up to the job. These systems tend to waste resources by tying staff to tedious manual tasks. Team members will be keying in data or working things out in spreadsheets when they could be released for higher-value work.

But perhaps most importantly, an organisation with inadequate software lacks real-time data.

Good credit control, vigilant cost management and effective business decisions all require an accurate, up-to-date picture of the organisation’s financial position. Without it, leaders can be flying the business blind at a time when nobody can afford to do that.

Taking the first steps

“The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it,” wrote Susan Jeffers in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.

While you wouldn’t want to be too gung-ho about a significant decision like changing accounting software, hesitation can be costly.

It is important to start your research as soon as possible after identifying the need – and to take action rather than wait for the fear to go away.

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