Here at the garden shed, we have recently made the move from Quickbooks/Reckon across to Xero, the popular cloud accounting app that you’ve heard us talk about before. So far we’re very happy with the new platform, mainly due to some of the more innovative features that our old platform didn’t have. (I can also confirm that the tech team are pretty damn excited about never having to do another QuickBooks/Reckon update on our server ever again)All in all it’s been a smooth process, and one with some very valuable lessons that I’d like to share. Best of all, these are lessons that are applicable to many cloud integrations, not simply if you choose to migrate to Xero.
1. What’s your business case?
So what’s your business case for making this change? Perhaps you don’t actually need to be changing accounting systems. Perhaps you would be better off investing a little more in what you already have. Below are four key things to consider when evaluating your business case.
1. Risk. Will you be removing or minimising a key risk from the business by making this change?
2. Costs. Will you be directly reducing costs by making this change?
3. Efficiency. Will the new system allow you to be more efficient (thus reducing costs) by automating some processes or reducing steps required to achieve an outcome?
4. Revenue. Will the new system allow you to increase your income noticeably in some way, such as by allowing you to provide a new product or service?
In our case we had been evaluating the move from Reckon (QuickBooks) across to Xero for some time, but due to some complexities with integrations between other software, hadn’t yet reached the point of committing to the move.
There were numerous benefits that we expected to get from moving to Xero, but the thing that tipped us over the edge was actually more about risk management. Our help desk support ticketing system, ConnectWise (which is at the heart of all our business operations) has built-in integration with QuickBooks, however due to the QuickBooks product being sold and rebranded here in Australia to Reckon, we were concerned that this integration would be broken by some future software update. We weren’t able to get any assurances that this wouldn’t happen and therefore identified this as a significant risk.
Being blind-sided by this would have caused a world of hurt. The direct integration between our main business application and our accounting package saves us a huge amount of time and money. Given that we were considering moving to Xero anyway, this risk assessment was enough to convince us to make the move, especially when combined with some expected improvements in efficiency that Xero promised.
2. Conduct a 360 degree evaluation
A 360 degree evaluation basically means looking at all of the various inputs and outputs of the system you are moving away from to ensure nothing is missed. Here are some of the things that we identified from our 360 degree evaluation for our move from Reckon Accounting to Xero:
Inputs to Reckon Accounts
1. Automatic integration with Connectwise for invoices and expenses
Outputs from Reckon Accounts
1. Purchase orders to suppliers
2. Statements to clients
With this information in hand we were able to get clear on what steps were required to maintain or achieve enhanced functionality on the new system. Specifically we had to ensure that the new platform (Xero) was able to integrate with ConnectWise to at least the same level and that we were able to generate and send purchase orders and statements. We were then able to consider what steps, resources or extra information was required to make each of these steps happen.
3. Invest in automation where possible
There are two parts to this idea of investing in automation. The first is to explore options to automate of the actual migration from the old system to the new one. In our case we used a service called Click2Convert to help move us from Reckon Accounts across to Xero. This gave us a firm timeline, a fixed cost for this component of the project, and also avoided all of the potential headaches associated with human error.
Click2Convert is a very specific service focused on migrating to Xero. For a lot of other cloud integrations and migrations such services likely won’t exist, but there are often other options. For example it’s quite common for software systems to be able to export your data in a universal format, such as a CSV file, which can then be imported into the new system. This alone can help save innumerable hours of human labour.
The second area where automation should be considered is with the new system itself. In our case Xero provides some built-in automation that we expect to substantially reduce our bookkeeping time. Not only that, but Xero has a thriving ecosystem of third-party add-on products to help automate business processes even more.
4. Don’t skip the training
Just because you have infinite faith in the new system that you’re migrating to, and it may have some of the most amazing features in the world, doesn’t mean that the people on your team who need to use the system will automatically know how to do so.
In fact skimping on user training is possibly the number one BEST way to sabotage what otherwise might have been an extremely successful business decision.
In our case we decided on a two-phased approach. Pre-migration, key members of the team did their own self-paced learning from books and various free online resources. This gave us a very rudimentary, but sufficient level of knowledge to at least get started.
Post-migration we had a Xero expert come in and provide some hands-on personalised training on the new system. The benefit of doing it this way was that because we had our own real data and content in the system, we had the opportunity to use the system for a short period, which meant that we were far more prepared to make the most of this personalised training. We had a list of very specific questions that we needed help with, and could work on some real-world examples rather than just hypothetical scenarios with dummy data.
Building off the back of this training we then started creating our documentation for our own internal procedures on the new Xero system. As this knowledge base grows we will have a handy index of all the guides and procedures specific to how our business uses Xero and it will form the basis for training new staff members on how to use Xero.
5. Engage professionals
Professionals can be expensive, I get it. The thing is, sometimes thinking you can get by without professional assistance can cost more than engaging them in the first place would have. One idea is to find the middle ground between getting the professionals in to do the whole job, and doing it yourself.
In our move from Reckon Accounts to Xero, what we did was to engage the professionals to help guide and supervise the process, and then because we already had the internal resources, we did a large part of the leg work ourselves, checking in regularly with the professionals to confirm we were on track.
In our case this worked really well, as we were able to leverage the experts for the true value they provide, while managing our costs by using our internal resources where possible. Knowing that we had access to the professionals if we got stuck also let us move forward a lot quicker, and with more confidence than if we had been flying solo.
By having this expert supervision, we also managed to catch some silly decisions very early on in the piece before they became expensive mistakes.
6. Evaluate timelines
The joke here, of course, is to estimate how long your project will take, then double it. In practice this is sometimes pretty close to the truth of the matter, unfortunately often due to no fault of your own.
With our migration to Xero we had made the decision that we would go live on the new system on the 1st of July, in order to neatly align with the new financial year. This gave us a very hard deadline that we had to meet. It also meant that if the new system wasn’t ready in time we only had two choices:
1. Abandon the project and start the new financial year on Reckon Accounts.
2. Live without an accounting system at all until Xero was ready.
Now I can tell you, neither of those options was overly appealing, so we set aside two months leading up to the 1st of July to get everything done. Early on in the piece we engaged with the relevant external professionals to ensure everyone was on board and get their input on required timeframes. This was particularly important given that the end of financial year period can be extremely busy for exactly those experts whose help we needed.
In the end we were able to successfully go live on Xero for the new financial year. That’s not to say that the entire project was finished and complete though. We still had a fair bit of work to go to tidy up the new system, customise various elements, and of course get ourselves trained up and our documentation updated.
We hope this rundown helps you work through any big changes you are contemplating for your business. We also have a podcast about our move to Xero - feel free to have a listen over at the Small Business Technology Show.
Have you made the move over to Xero? Do you think we missed any points? We'd love to hear about your migration experiences, so drop us a line in the comments below.