Converting to a New Software Program?

It is inevitable that you will be faced with the difficult decision to change software programs some day.  When that time comes you can expect that you are headed for a rocky journey to get to the other side.  It seems like such a simple thing to stop using one program and start using another.  However, it is much like moving from one residence to another.  It would be simple if you just left everything behind and moved into a fully furnished new HGTV house, but even if you did accomplish this somehow, the truth is it would take some time to find where everything was.  Now on the other hand, if you decided to bring all of your stuff with you on the move you would have to pack, move, unpack, rearrange, buy things to make the new space look good and take time to learn about your new environment.  Moving software programs is similar, but much more complicated.  Here are the basic steps:

  1. Make the decision to move
  2. Select the new program
  3. Install and configure the new program
  4. Learn how to use the software efficiently
  5. Reap the benefits of the new environment

Seems easy enough to click through those five steps, but one important element is skipped. . . what about the stuff you left behind?  Shouldn’t it be as easy as copying documents or pictures to a storage device?  Well let’s think about that for a moment.  Your data might be pristine and perfect.  In other words, it might be saved exactly as the software manufacturer intended it to be.  It might be closed out, tied up and perfectly organized.  If that is the case, I would love to see it, because in 28 years of consulting I have yet to find anyone’s data perfectly organized. .  . even mine for our company.  What I have seen has often given me nightmares.  Here is a mixture of actual conversations with clients who were switching accounting programs:

Consultant:  So what is this information in the “custom fields” area.  It looks strange to me.

Client:  Well, when the Bank Rec was off we put the difference in there.  Oh and we store the % of revenue that the person is entitled to and the year in there too, so the first three digits are the year and the last 5 are the percentage.  Then we put the difference on the Bank Rec right after that in the same field.  You can convert that right?

Consultant:  Have you completed all of your Bank Reconciliations?

Client: Oh yes, all the way through 2009 when the difference was too big to fit in the custom field.  After that we have done them on paper.

Consultant:  What is the $358,423.50 number in retainers dated 2002 through today?

Client:  Those aren’t retainers.   We earned the money, we just never billed it out.

Yes, and the more creative the use of the previous software program is, the more nightmares we have.  So what are the real psychological steps involved in changing programs.

Stage 1 – The Love Affair – This occurs after you make the decision that your old program has to be replaced, and the new program is just perfect.  It meets all of your needs, and it is going to solve all of your pain points.  It is a short lived euphoria.

Stage 2 – Conversion is Hell -This is when you realize that your are going to face a black-out period where you can’t use your old data.  Your old data suddenly looks kind of messy.  You find out there will be clean-up.  You learn that some data is not worth converting.  Now you  know converting data is much like the translation of Hieroglyphic Writing to English.

Stage 3 – Learning to Navigate –  This stage begins when you realize that the software looked easy during the demo, because the person who was showing it knew all of the keystrokes, but now you and your staff have to be the pilots.

Stage 4 – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – This is when you doubt that there is any improvement at all in the new system and you are certain that your old program was much better than the new program.  You consider jumping ship and turning back.

Stage 5 – Recovery – This generally occurs within 60 to 90 days after a major conversion.  Suddenly the training pays off, the data looks better and you almost feel at home.   Once you get to the turning point you start to see a return on investment, and you remember why you left the old program.

Stage 6 – Success – Finally, you see the return on investment and reap the benefits of your software purchase as well as the time investment.  Welcome to your new home!  You made it!

Although it is a struggle, it is worth it to move your business forward with new software and new efficiency.

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