ERP Accounting Software

A laptop on a desk in a work setting
Are you considering an upgrade to your current ERP application for your financials? In our overview of enterprise accounting software, we will discuss the four tiers of software, how to know when it’s time to upgrade and tips for a successful implementation.

Are you considering an upgrade to your current ERP accounting system? In our overview of enterprise accounting software, we will discuss the four tiers of ERP for financials and how to know when it’s time to upgrade, along with some tips for a successful ERP implementation.

Tier 1 Accounting Software

Tier 1 software includes products such as SAP 4/HANA, Workday, Oracle products, and some Infor products. These are big software applications, and they require quite a bit of maintenance. But they’re worth it, they can handle tons of transactions as well as the requirements you need for complex federal regulatory reporting.

Tier 2 Accounting Software

Tier 2 software products do what the Tier 3 and Tier 4 applications do, but they usually have a wider breadth across the business, and they have deeper functionality. These include products such as NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and Acumatica. A larger mid-sized company can run on the Tier 2 platform.

Tier 3 Accounting Software

Tier 3 enterprise accounting software do well with accounting needs, but they can also handle other areas of an organization. These types of programs have accounting packages that can scale up to handle multi-company requirements, plus have features to manage currency, inventory, manufacturing, and services. Sage 100 is a good example of a Tier 3 product.

Tier 4 Accounting Software

Tier 4 software includes applications like Quickbooks, Sage 50, MYOB, Xero, and Accounting Seed. These are traditional products that are good for smaller businesses. These programs can do basic accounting well, but companies often grow out of them as they find the need to do more complex steps such as period closings or deep financial reporting.

Other Types of Enterprise Accounting Software

These four tiers are the core enterprise resource planning applications — where you create transactions and run a company’s books. There are additional products that are used for other areas of accounting, such as a specialized billing application or professional service automation set up for a company to track expenses and invoicing for services. There is also FP&A (financial planning and analysis), as well as financial report software — which could be discussed as a topic of its own.

How to Know When to Update Your Enterprise Accounting Software

Figure out what you need.

The most important thing to know before updating your enterprise accounting software is to figure out what you need before you go to the market. Do this prior to looking at other things such as budget or the size of your company. Focus on what your organization requires, then do the research to understand what applications are available and what they can do.

Determine if it will benefit you in the short-term.

Before you update your ERP accounting software you must ask yourself if the business is going to benefit in the short-term from the new application. An accounting software implementation is stressful on employees and they need to see the light at the end of the tunnel — which would be more efficiency or better processes.

Can you support a new application?

When we work with clients who are thinking of updating their accounting applications, one thing we will advise is that they ask themselves a few questions, including:

  • Is the new software the right thing for their organization?
  • Will it be best for the people that are currently in the company?
  • Do they have the manpower to support a new application and get through the implementation?

Will sticking with the current software be more stressful for staff?

Look at where you are as an organization when deciding on whether to do an implementation. If you know that big expansion is coming, then it could make more sense to change now. Sticking with your current software may be more stressful. In these cases, you may decide to do the implementation right away.

Is your staff going through massive effort to pull data?

Look at the people down in the trenches at your organization. Are they having to do extreme measures to pull data from one program and put it into spreadsheets or Excel? Does the billing department go to an application to see collections information, but then must check their email to know the last time they talked to a customer? Even if you make your people a small percent more efficient, an update could be worth the effort. Programs like Excel and Quickbooks have amazing functionality and are great — until they’re not. Know when to spot that your organization has outgrown your current software.

If there isn’t a clear consensus, don’t make a change.

This is the most important piece of advice we ever give our clients. If you don’t have the consensus of everyone on updating your enterprise accounting software, don’t do the implementation. This agreement doesn’t have to be with every person in the company, but the key people in the organization must be on the same page before you make the switch. Also, don’t make an update because other companies are updating their software. If you don’t need to change anything, don’t.

Tips for a Smooth Implementation

If you have looked at the needs of your organization and determined you should update your accounting software, there are several steps you can take to help ensure a smooth implementation.

Focus on the basics

Some new ERP accounting systems can do a lot of things, they can practically make your bed for you. Focus on the basics first and wait for later to set up all the bells and whistles.

Hire an expert consultant

An experienced advisor will help get things done faster and achieve a better outcome. Get a consultant who understands your industry as well as the application you have chosen.

Have an inside champion

Every implementation project needs someone within your organization that owns it. They will be the go-to person who will see the project to the end. This may not be the CFO but should be a strong project manager who can harness the resources necessary to get it done.

ERP Advisors Group has helped clients in many industries to update their enterprise accounting software. If you are considering an implementation, contact us today for a consultation.

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Narrator: This is The ERP Advisor.

Today's episode: Overview of Enterprise Accounting Software.

Juliette Welch: Shawn Windle is one of our speakers for today. Shawn is the Founder and Managing Principal of ERP Advisors Group based in Denver, Colorado. Hi Shawn.

Shawn Windle: Hey.

Juliette: Lew Visscher is our guest joining us today. Lew spent a decade in public accounting and then went on to become CFO of five different companies most recently being Catalyst Repository Systems, a legal tech company that was recently acquired by OpenText. Lew is the man behind the wildly popular Lew’s List, a 12,000-member list for finance and accounting professional job opportunities. Hi Lew.

Lew Visscher: Hello. Oh man.

Juliette: Oh my gosh, Lew, look at this photo that's up on the screen.

Lew: Yeah, that's a blast from the past there.

Juliette: Oh my gosh I think that's what you looked like during your ERP implementation. Is that right?

Lew: Yeah, you needed to have a little bit of that through that process.

Juliette: Yeah, right. Oh my gosh, I love that.

So, on today's webinar, we're going to discuss how to get what you really want out of your enterprise accounting software. We're going to share examples of different configurations for different circumstances. So, Shawn, Lew, thank you for joining me today. I appreciate it.

Shawn: Absolutely, thank you.

Juliette: Yeah, okay we have a lot to cover today, I mean an overview — it's a lot.

But as we all know too well, the topic of enterprise accounting software can be a little bit overwhelming, but with the right guidance, advice, and help, we can simplify it a little bit more and have it be a little bit easier to confront.

So, with that, Shawn, I'm going to start with you.

Kind of to frame today's conversation, why don't we start by discussing some of the different types of enterprise accounting software and how they're used. Can you speak to us about that?

Shawn: Yeah, I definitely can, and it isn't as simple as you would think. So, it's — yeah, I'm thinking through all these options while my dog is trying to join us here — but there's a simple way to do it. Let's start with that and then I'll get a little bit more into some of the specialized software.

But basically, you have four tiers of accounting software. It's a little bit different than what most people talk about, but we've seen that there's four.

We'll start off with the lower end, which is the Tier 4, which are applications like QuickBooks or Sage 50, MYOB, Xero, Accounting Seed, like there's these traditional apps that a lot of folks use as they're smaller, and then they kind of outgrow them, and they do accounting — core accounting — but can you do period closes and can you do really deep financial reporting? Yeah, kind of. But then as soon as you start getting outside of accounting, they start to not do so well. That's Tier 4.

Tier 3 is a little bit bigger application that does pretty good in accounting, but then also maybe another area like Sage 100 — I was just talking to a former client this morning that has a several-hundred-million-dollar business that's running on Sage 100.

Juliette: Oh wow.

Shawn: Yeah. I mean we've got QuickBooks clients that are in the six, seven, eight digits sometimes. So, Tier 3 is more like a like a good accounting package and maybe even deals with multi-company and a little bit more — maybe a little bit of currency, but then it also deals with inventory or manufacturing or services or something else.

Then the Tier 2s are bigger. They do what the Tier 4s and 3s do, but they usually have a deeper or wider breadth across the business, and they have deeper functionality. So, like at NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, Acumatica kind of floats in there, too, where you can have a bigger company that's running, it's still mid-sized company that's running on that platform.

And then there's the Tier 1s. Those are the big SAP 4/HANA, Workday, Oracle products kind of fit up there, there's some Infor products that are up there. These are big software applications. And they require a ton of maintenance, and but they're worth it because there's tons and tons of transactions, or there's really deep requirements that you need for very complex federal regulatory reporting or something, or some real deep stuff that these big guys do.

So, there's Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, and Tier 4.

That's the types of accounting — core enterprise resource planning — where we're tracking all these transactions so we can create the books.

I don't want to put everybody to sleep, but that's — but then I think that another presentation on tools other than Excel to use for financial reporting. And that financial reporting area is interesting, too. I think Lew will talk a little bit about recurring revenue, and some of those things, I'm sure. But there's other apps out there that are used for other areas of accounting. Like I said, maybe billing — we need a specialized billing app or there might be a professional service automation for the way we do time and expense and invoicing for services firm. Then there's also reporting software which is a whole topic in and of itself. And then there's consolidation and FP&A — financial planning and analysis.

So, the most important thing from all of that if anybody remembers anything I need you to remember this: figure out what you need before you go to market and start talking to all these people because you could be talking to BlackLine, Concur, and OneStream, which probably doesn't mean a lot to a lot of folks on the call, but that's what happens. “I need accounting software and I'm going to go out there.” Those three companies offer something totally different, so key thing is that you're really focused on what you want and need and do the research to understand.

But that's some of the pieces and parts of the market.

Juliette: So, this is just — kind of a simple question, I think — there are so many factors to consider about how to approach what kind of enterprise software you need. Do you consider your size number one, or is it really just the needs of your company?

Shawn: Oh, that's a great question.

I would say the needs come first and then — I mean definitely budget is a huge part of it, but we have smaller organizations that spend more on software and then we have larger organizations that spend little, so it just depends. Start with what you need and then usually in that category you'll find different levels of applications that you can figure out.

Juliette: And that'll lead you to the four tiers — like which one you should approach?

Shawn: That's exactly right.

Juliette: So, Lew, let me ask you about your project. From what I understand — what I've heard through the years — you've had a fairly complex accounting setup at your last company. What can you tell us about the unique needs that you had for your software?

Lew: Yeah, thank you and thanks to ERP for having me today.

It's — I don't know how unique or complex it was.

I'll frame it just a little bit. We were on — so it was a legal technology company which I would say was a cross between a tech-enabled services business and a software as a service business — so yes, we had some recurring revenue, but we also had monthly revenue that was based on volume and those kinds of things. So, one of the complexities was how do we get all the different inputs into the new system and therefore be able to create an invoice, because we had multiple operational systems that needed to be pulled from in order to get into our system.

But to back up, we were on Peachtree. And while Peachtree did pretty good, we knew we were going to outgrow it, and the real reason we made the change wasn't because we couldn't limp along, but it was because we knew we had to be able to scale as we grew. And that was our primary focus for the change.

We were about $45 million in revenue when we sold. We were probably obviously a little less than that when we implemented NetSuite in 2017. And we were doing probably 500 to 700 invoices a month.

So, we spent a lot of time dealing with getting the different systems to talk to the NetSuite system. I mean, NetSuite for all intents and purposes does pretty good job of all the basics. And we'll talk a little bit more about what we focused on and why we focused on some of the basics maybe a little bit later.

Juliette: Yeah, sure.

Yeah, so, Shawn, you touched on this just briefly in the beginning, and we have seen this from first-hand experience but when there are so many excellent enterprise tools available for different organizations, why do we find that many accounting teams continue to still rely on Excel?

Shawn: Oh man, that's — well, Excel is America's — I think — the world’s greatest accounting system. I mean, if you look at the number of users of Excel and how many financial statements — I don't know, Lew, you've lived it, we've just been on the consulting side. But man, when you have to get your financials done, you dump them into Excel and you bang it out, right? I mean, I'm curious, Lew, to hear your thought on that actually.

Lew: Yeah, I was going to say everybody used that tool.

It was the IT was the de facto standard almost everywhere. I don't care if you were a small company or a big company and if you were a big company, you dumped your system into it and that's how you manipulated the data.

Even if you look at Adaptive Planning or Vena or other tools — and I'm only familiar with those two —they're really just fancy versions of Excel in my view, and so Excel has always been kind of the basis for those things and frankly, Excel works. So, it’s got some amazing functionality if you know how to use it.

Shawn: Yeah, I think what we've seen from when companies — like if we take the example that Lew gave between Vena and Adaptive, you know, some of the other, more prevalent FP&A tools that would be out there based on your question is it does kind of depend on what app you're currently on.

So, NetSuite has NetSuite planning and budgeting or there's the Oracle products or Microsoft you hear a lot about a package called Solver that's out there that does FP&A and then there's also Planful and if you look at Gartner's Magic Quadrant for — I think they call it Cloud FP&A apps — we just did this for several clients — you'll see some other apps out there, but those are some of the prevalent apps.

But, I think, yeah, I mean, Lew, even last year we saw this with clients where, on the forecasting side, building a forecast and some fancy schmancy tool —maybe the big guys need it, although they're usually in Excel like you said — but, in reality, they've been viewed as nice to haves, but I'll tell you what last year we — great example — we had a software client that had to do like eight different plans. There was one in March of 2019 or 2020 April 2020. By then they’re reducing what they think their revenue is going to be, so, like, “Wow, do we have to like fire a bunch of people? I don't want to fire a bunch of people like whoa.”

So, these tools really help people to be able to create a scenario to keep a little bit of the emotion out of the business decision. And then being able to look at different scenarios to say, “Okay, what really is the right way to approach these changes in the market? And that's — I really think this, you know FP&A Forecasting Planning Software, you also hear called Enterprise Performance Management, Oracle uses that term or Corporate Performance Management, I think OneStream calls their stuff CPM —there's some other vendors.

But I think that that was really telling me, Lew, where I saw these FP&A apps all the sudden like wow this really matters. Even doing the six-plus-six forecast — six months of actuals plus six of forecast —yeah, you can do it in Excel, but I was really surprised to see that last year. Did you talk to any folks that ran through anything similar like that, Lew?

Lew: I didn’t. We had Excel for a model. I was at Catalyst for 16-17 years and I created it and it became kind of a bastardized version of Excel and all of a sudden we said, “Look, we have to change this because it would take somebody forever to get through and change it for assumptions.” And we ultimately said, “We've got to get something that integrates better with —" and we chose NetSuite obviously back in ‘17, but we needed to have something that integrated with that better to match up with the thing, and so we ended up going with Vena, which is a whole different story. Those tools, I think, can do a pretty good job for companies depending on all the facts and again, based on your needs — I mean if you’re reforecasting every month or have a rolling forecast or reforecasting every quarter and have a big discipline around tracking budget to actual and you are able to do that, I think a great planning system or tool can be very helpful.

Shawn: I think — and Juliette with exactly with what Lew said is how I would give you the succinct answer is when you start to get into some of these complex requirements where there is also a reality of a person who built the model and we had an association here in Denver a couple years ago that we helped through that process — that gentleman had built out an unbelievable forecast — but there was just concern about him retiring or winning the lottery. We don't wish our clients in buses anymore, it's lotteries.

So, moving into an app, like Lew talked about, can help for others to get some exposure to it, too. So, QuickBooks and Excel, there's these little indicators that we look for that are around pain. And it's pain today, and as you grow, again, just like Lew said, that more forecasts that we see this in the future. That's really what drives towards the “Okay, we got to get out of Excel.”

Years ago — one last thing and then we can move on — I was thinking of an analogy for Excel and the only analogy I could come up with was a — the ladies on the team may like this more. I have to be careful especially nowadays. But it's this guy that you rely on and he’s always great guy, he's always there for me, I can do anything, he comes in, and he's great — except when he doesn’t.

My wife says this with me about house projects, although I'm getting better. But things blow up and the Excel formulas break, or the spreadsheet gets corrupted, or we rolled over the old one and now we don't have the new one, so there's a lot of reliance, but when the problems start to happen, that's when it's like no. You don't have to go through those problems with Excel.

There are other options. There's going to be some investment to get into them, but just know there's other options and I think people kind of innately know CFO’s and controllers know like, “Okay, we've kind of outgrown these.” So, that's usually when they're done with Excel.

Juliette: Well, like Lew said, Excel works. It does what it needs to do. But sometimes you need to grow and evolve to have something more sophisticated that —

Shawn: Did you hear that from my wife about me? Is that what you're saying? Just kidding.

Juliette: Never.

Shawn: But you're right, that's it.

Juliette: Yes, so, Lew, that leads me to my next question.

You had a bit of an unconventional ERP implementation. What lessons did you learn that you can share with the people joining us today that might help them on their journey?

Lew: Yeah, it was unconventional in the fact that it went very quickly from the time we signed a contract with NetSuite, which I think was early December, and we went live effectively January 1 — now that was live a little bit later — so it's very fast.

I think four things we did through that process and, think we're a little, as you said, unconventional, and they were fairly risky, and we got lucky.

But one of the things is we focused on the basics. We didn't — these systems can do a lot of things. I mean these new accounting systems and ERP systems can do almost make your bed in the morning or something. I mean they are amazing, but we focused on the basics of our business which was invoicing customers, paying vendors, paying employees, getting simple balance sheets and income statements out of the system once we got the records in there. We focused on those rather than every bell and whistle that these things can do to help our business, we said, “We’ll go after those later.” So, that was one.

Two is: I made a decision to have my folks not — they basically stopped their day job. For example, they didn't get invoices out, they didn't get vendors paid — and we stopped that for three to four weeks. I just felt like if I was going to have my people do their day jobs and this implementation. I was going to kill them and especially over the holidays and so a bit risky, but we just kind of stopped. And not all businesses can do that. We were fortunate enough to be able to do that. So that was the second thing.

And then I made a decision to not go parallel as well. So, a lot of people go and try to run all their transactions through their old system and then put them in the new system and then make sure everything syncs up and matches up and it all looks okay. We stopped December 31st effectively with the old system and went live with the new on January 1. Kind of a cold Turkey kind of concept and so we did that.

I think the fourth, which is also probably the most important is: we did hire an expert consultant that knew NetSuite, that knew how it worked, and how we could modify it and what was important and was able to kind of lead us and guide us through the process throughout the way. I mean, some people probably think they could do it without one, but I think that was key.

So, that that was the four things we did.

And you know, knock on wood, we were successful it. It worked, but it didn't come without a lot of effort and some risk.

Juliette: Right. Well, we had a question come in that asked, “Did you convert any data during that process?”

Lew: Very little, very little. It was almost all — I mean some customer data that we took over, so we didn't have to input all of that data for all of our customers and vendors.

Juliette: Yeah, because that's a huge part of implementing new software is data migration.

Lew: Yep.

Juliette: Yeah, so, Lew, let me ask you, again, as CFO, what do you wish you had known about the selection and implementation process before starting? Because hindsight is 20/20, of course, right?

Lew: Yeah, I was kind of thinking about this question.

It's kind of an off-the-wall answer, but I kind of wish so — we sold the business January 2019 and by October 2019 they scrapped NetSuite and we went to their system. I mean, you know, and it's kind of a sad thing you saw all this effort and getting this all up and then they go, “Oh, we don't really want that.”

And that's just part of life.

So, had I known we'd have sold two years later and hadn't gone through all that effort, I probably would have said, well, let's just stick with Peachtree and strong arm it through. But that's where hindsight’s 20/20 as well.

You know, I think enterprise systems and software — I mean change, just change is scary for people, and they're scared that if they embark and make a decision as a CFO or top financial person to make a change and it doesn't work or it fails, they're next on the line. And guess what? Today it's working and yeah, I've got some issues and stuff, but I also know I need to do something different for the future and I think surrounding yourself with both good people internally and externally that can help you through that process will help that go.

So, maybe don't be too scared about the whole thing. Maybe what I mean — we were nervous. I was probably kind of a turd through that whole thing. You know, going with based on attitude of getting this thing done but we did so.

Juliette: Yeah, it's definitely a lot of pressure and a huge commitment for your employees. But then also financially. It's a big commitment and what you do and make that choice it better work. Isn't that what you always say, Shawn?

Shawn: Absolutely. Now I think I think, Lew, what I saw too during that time was it — I think your leadership really helped the team to have the confidence that this is the right way to go.

I mean that that is — there’s a couple factors that I think led specifically, as I observed your implementation, that you kind of cleared the way for the team to say, “Okay, I bought us all this time. Now let's get it done and let's focus on the really important task to get into the app and then we can grow with it over time.”

So, some of our clients on — at a year end is a good time to go live, too, because you don't have transactional data through the year necessarily that you need to do to be able to drill in. You can just go on into the next year, but you can bring balances and other things over, but there's evolutionary steps you have to take on these implementations, and I think doing that first implementation fast — there's a lot of benefit, because it does get everybody over the fear of can we do this or not? No, we just did it. “Whoa, yeah, we did.” Now, let's use this system now that we can see it and work with it and understand a little bit better. So, I think that's definitely a best practice.

I think we did a white paper or something on Big Bang versus a phased approach for ERPs, and that was our whole point was just get into it, and then you can grow with it over time.

But there is one more thing, Lew, that I wanted to say because we're in five different companies right now because they are private-equity-backed. And either — well four, I just talked to somebody this morning who's not a client yet — but where they're either the private equity firm is saying — or they know there's going to be a transition soon. And so, do we go through a system change or not? Or, you have been through a transition recently and going through the change because the PE, the new owners, want to do that.

So, there's all these considerations that go in around timing, and it's so funny you can go either way. Like the current firm — the current owners — say, “No, no, we don't want to go through the effort or the risk.” Well, but then when you get bought you will get discounted. Your price will be lower when a more sophisticated private equity firm or whoever hires us to come in and do diligence on a target. And we're like, “Oh yeah, they're their systems are old, and they don't know that you know they don't know they don't have details into transactions and data. We're going to have to put that new system in play.”

And if it's going to cost this much, you know the discounts going to be at least twice that. So, there is some considerations on those acquisitions. But I think fundamentally what we advise our clients — I know we talked a little bit about this, Lew, when you were looking, too — was, is it really the right thing for this organization? The people that are here — do we have the firepower to support a new app and get through it and muscle through it like you said and not be too much of turds as we go through, like you said, Lew — but is the business really going to benefit in the short term? Because if it's not, it's a lot of pain for people to go through and not see that there's a light at the tunnel. That tunnel needs to end in a matter of weeks, not just months, definitely not years.

So, we're in a company right now that was recently acquired by private equity and the private equity firms asked us to come in and take a look and determine if they should go. And when we were talking to the operator on Monday, we would have said, “No, don't change. It's not right for your organization.” But then we talked to the equity firm and we understand their goals and their right in alignment with what the operator wants to do. And then it's like, oh, we kind of need to do this now because it's only going to get more stressful and we're only growing where regions are — we’re growing throughout the world and there's all these other things that come into play.

But I will tell you, Juliette, especially to your question — well we had another comment last week or two weeks ago, right? Actually, had to say this was very awkward, but I said you are not going to change unless everybody — all of the key stakeholders — agree to do it. Like if there's one thing that I would say from this whole session, probably from all of the calls we have ever done over five years, the most important thing I can communicate is: if there's not clear consensus on the final decision, do not change, because just like Lew said, you're going to ask people to do things, especially usually around holidays, if it's not Christmas, it's around the 4th of July, and if there's any consideration about, oh, we're not picking the right one — I mean, not everybody but the really key people have to be on the same page before you switch, it's not worth it otherwise.

Juliette: That's right.

Lew: Yeah. I didn't want to send the wrong message there. I would say most private-equity-backed companies should look at the needs of their system as if they are a standalone entity for the foreseeable future.

They should never say, “Oh, I think we're going to get acquired in two years. Therefore, I'm just going to stick it out.” No. I just think that's a wrong approach. I think they should look at it as if it's a going concern business and if the needs of the business require that you need a new ERP system, then you ought to do it regardless unless something is right around the corner or inevitable for some other odd reason, but I would also echo what Shawn says about —I think Shawn has preached this for years, as long as I've known him. Hey, if you don't need to change, don't. Because it's not just something you decide to do, and it happens. It's a lot of effort. It's a lot of cost, not just in dollars but also in just mental and physical anguish with your staff and people and employees and that kind of thing. So, you should make sure you do it — or that you do have the needs to make the change versus just, “Wait. Everybody going to NetSuite” or “Everybody’s getting a new ERP and we're going to get Zing for QuickBooks or something.” QuickBooks does a great job for a lot of companies for a long period of time.

I'd ask a question back, Shawn, do you see some companies maybe try to make a change too early? Like say when they're on QuickBooks or they're on some other accounting and they just go, “Oh, we have to get off this, we have to change now” just because everybody else is doing it?

Shawn: Yeah, I think, I'm trying to think of some good examples.

Well, you know what’s funny is not just with a company that's growing, right? “Hey, we're at 5 million. Oh, QuickBooks is fine 10 million. Yeah, QuickBooks is fine at 20 million. I don't know.”

We have a client up in Loveland that was like that. That was a fast growing startup who decided to go public and we did make the decision to get them into an app that was a little bit bigger, not knowing what was on the horizon, but we knew there was a ton of growth coming, we didn't know how, but from the time we started the project to December, we found out how with these SPAC things and thank goodness we got them into the product that we did. You know, really solid Tier 2 that could support them as a public entity. And they were maybe 15 million when we advised them. So, you know, we're always looking at the horizon a little bit farther out sometimes than our clients are, and also a little bit more in the pain points that they really have today.

So, we have said to clients that changing apps is going to just cause more problems. Don't do it yet. Do it in the future when this happens. Oh okay. But then we also have it on the other side where we've got some organizations that are really big and they've been able to make do with the apps that they have and then we'll come in and we'll just look, we'll just observe what's happening.

We have Global Services firm we're in right now and when we sat down with their collections people of all people of all the business processes, and we watched just the hellacious effort that these people have to go through to pull data from around the enterprise and into spreadsheets and all this manipulation. And okay, when was the last time you contacted the customer? “Let me check my email.” No, no, no, you shouldn't have those problems. You guys are financially stable enough where it is time for systems and that's why clients often hire us, they know that. They know they should do something.

But it's interesting on the other end of that, Lew, where you have a really large organization that either thinks they need to do something and you go in, you're like, “Oh my gosh.” All you have to do is look at the people and look at the guys and the gals that are down in the trenches and look at the amount of effort that they're going through with Excel, but the amount of manual work that they're doing and it just becomes obvious — because if we can make those people even a percent more efficient with either selling more or with cutting costs or — but these people make them more efficient, it becomes a no-brainer decision.

And then alternatively, we had a client up in Louisville three years ago, a pretty large software company that was acquiring other companies and they — the interesting thing is when the new leadership team comes into a business and looks at the business and says, “We're going to have three clients like this right now” and says, “No, we can't run our business on this platform anymore.” And they're willing to put their neck on the line, and fortunately in those instances, for us they're right. There are certain circumstances where the business is floundering from an operational data, what's really happening in the detail levels. And so, these newer folks that are brought in are willing to really risk, basically their jobs to say we have to switch.

ERP advisors help us through this process. We had two really nice implementations on the Infor side with a vendor here in town recently that both projects had new directors of IT, and they both came in and just said, “That’s it, we have to switch.” And I'm like, “You really want to? You want to risk everything on that, right?” “Yes, we do.” “Good then we're in.” And man, really nice projects transform the business in those cases thankfully it was pre-COVID, and they were able to keep their operations running through the whole work-from-home thing so.

You know software and people’s careers can get mixed in, and I mean we try to separate that out, but I think for the listeners, you really do need to be willing to take the right risks. It doesn't have to be scary. Reflect to what Lew said. It's doable, just know what the risks are and then you can manage them appropriately and again, I think Lew’s examples just like — it's classic on how for his organization, for him, and for his team, this is what's going to work, and you made it happen. And then yeah, you get a good NetSuite consultant or a good Microsoft consultant who can do their job and the success is there.

There's this terrible perception in the ERP world, albeit true, that a lot of projects fail and ours don’t. They just they don't have to. There's a lot of good vendors that ensure that's not going to happen.

There's a lot of good apps out there where you're going to get a right fit, but ultimately it comes down to people are listening to this call that just say, “Hey, these are the risk. Here's how I'm going to mitigate it. Get out of my way and let me do my job.” And boom, it happens so.

Juliette: That's right.

Well, you said it perfectly, Shawn, you do your due diligence and you're aware of what you need and what could potentially happen, and you just make it work the best you can.

Shawn: And you have a Margarita machine around at the end of the project or whatever your favorite dish or drink is so that people can celebrate and have a little bit of fun, too. Because that's the other thing, it gets so intense when you're working through data sheets and everything else, you have to have a little fun.

Juliette: Shawn, that leads me to my next question. How can a CFO go about getting what they really want out of their ERP?

Shawn: Well, I'll give you my view, but I'd love to hear what Lew has to say on that one, too.

This is going to sound a little awkward maybe, but it's not your money you're spending on consultants. Here's what I mean, if you were trying to make a decision about something personally, like insurance or a car or a house, or some big complex thing, you're likely to go hire an advisor to help you through that process because it helps get done faster, better outcome and everything else. For our clients, as I view senior accounting people, they're usually pretty conservative. Thankfully, that's why they're hired and put in those jobs. I mean, Lew knows these guys. They're signing on the dotted line that the financial statement is correct. There's no material misstatement at all, and for our public companies, if that's wrong, they go to jail. So, there's a lot at stake as a CFO.

So, that's why — find whether we’re the right resource or somebody else is, I mean, anybody can call us anytime and we will find you the right resource.

But finding really good people that know the product and can help you quickly to get through the concerns or the questions that you have just helps immensely with getting your confidence up on what you're doing and on ensuring you're doing things right from the get-go versus trying to struggle through something on your own.

I mean, that's what I would say Lew, but what do you think from the from the client side?

Lew: Yeah, and you know, there's the basic blocking and tackling from all the accounting. You need to get the financials out. You need to comply with whether your public company got all the FCC and reporting. But I think for us, one of the things which was kind of unique as it related to implementing a new system was all the business information that we were able to glean from the system and actually managing that — because here's what was happening. All our VP's and directors knew we had this new system and that we knew that all this data was going into it. So, they were asking for reports like crazy, right? Like send us this. Well, you send a system that says that we just didn't have the staff or the resources to be able to do this. And so, what we ended up doing was trying to figure out what do you need? Why do you need it? What kind of business decisions or operational decisions are you trying to make with this data and then getting that standard?

I think these ERP systems can be extremely valuable to companies in that regard because they do have a lot of that data and they can help your managers, your VP's, your directors, and staff make better business decisions based on the data that's there so.

We found somebody that was dedicated to do that after we had the thing up and running.

So, that was one of the things about getting more out of an ERP system than just the basics of financing, accounting, and financial reports for your board or public company, whatever.

Juliette: So, Lew, kind of wrap up a little bit for today. Can you share with our listeners what the most important message that you would pass along to CFO's that are considering a change in their accounting systems?

Lew: It's going to be a little bit repetitive.

I'd say it's kind of four things. If you don't need to make a change, don't. But figure that out. Hire somebody or find somebody that can really go through the needs analysis to see if you really need it. And then, I think what was key for us was that having an inside champion, somebody that owned it, and I think every organization needs a person that's the go-to person, the person that owns it and is going to champion it all the way through and I can tell you that probably should not be the CFO in most regards, it should be somebody else. Somebody that's a very good project manager and can harness all the people and resources and departments to get it all done. That was key and then the advisor to help you do that, the consultant also that helps and assists that person, that relationship between those two —your chain inside champion and that consultant is very key and then use that for — you'll find, I believe most people will find if they do make a change and they go through that process, they'll probably use that consultant on an ongoing basis as well, which is what we did.

Juliette: Well, that's great. Well, I think we've come to the end of our time today. But thank you, Lew, for joining us and sharing your experience with us. I appreciate it.

Lew: Yeah, thanks for having me. It's fun.

Juliette: Yes, so thank you Shawn as always for sharing your valuable knowledge with us.

Shawn: Yes, you bet.

Juliette: Alright everyone, thanks for joining us for today's call. We appreciate you taking the time. Please let us know if you have any questions. We're happy to answer. We're happy to help in any way we can. Just reach out. You can call us, email us, whatever it works for you.

Be sure to join us for our next call. Wednesday, March 31st. An introduction to ERP for nonprofits. On this next webinar, we will reveal what we have discovered from working with nonprofit organizations, along with a look at how to find the right ERP for your organization. Please go to our website for more details and to register.

Narrator: ERP Advisors Group is one of the country's top independent enterprise software consulting firms. Advising mid to large sized businesses on selecting and implementing business applications including ERP, CRM, HCM, business intelligence, and other enterprise applications which equate to millions of dollars in software deals each year across many industries.