by Doris M. Cahill
Software selection can be as stressful as purchasing a car, possibly more so. Lots of options, lengthy demos, and an engineering/sales team that says ‘yes’ a lot. To boot, the price tag for job cost accounting software is not cheap. Not to begrudge the value of a solution, but it becomes a marriage of sorts. You buy, and become a customer forever. It makes sense to keep a customer a long time…but the A/E/C industry accomplishes this by building upon relationships, not by implementing contracts. Relationships are simply more fun.
I have been in the field for close to 30 years now, and I am routinely asked my opinion on how to choose accounting software. Let’s first look at how relationships play into this decision. Rather than starting with features or functionality, work on drawing from, and building upon, your relationships.
Easy Steps for Selecting Software:
Call peer firms that have their accounting and job cost act together. Firms that have it together get invoices out fast, and respond to inquiries quickly, politely and fully. Find out what software they use.
Meet with your project managers. The younger colleagues may have jumped a few jobs already. Ask them which firms have practices they envy. Youth, and their ideas, are dynamic and can effect change. Meet with your IT people, they are important for providing login access, security, printing and speed of use.
Understand there are just a few software companies that serve the A/E/C industry. It’s important to note you are not going to get around the price. You add a function, you pay. If you add an employee, you pay. They all discount however. Inquiring at year end, quarter end, or month end – in that order, will get you the best deal.
Deltek Vision or Axium Ajera?
From a straight functionality perspective, I like them both a lot. Thus, either will do just fine as long as you’re not missing a key piece that you ‘must have’ to run the business. You need to look at the infamous Demo. Pick the software that is easiest to use, or most familiar to the users. People often resist and resent change in their jobs. It’s about the people, not the functionality. If a core team can visualize use, you’re on your way.
Get an independent, impartial, professional that implements software for a living to represent your firm during the conversion. It’s way cheaper to make a mistake at choosing a consultant than software. Do not do it yourself, but of course try if you want to!
Many firms have legacy software. Legacy software keeps firms from upgrading and changing to more modern technology. Many mature firms believe they are technically boxed into one path because the old legacy software has their data captive. This is a myth. Job cost data in most legacy software is not captive, thus you can switch.
Both packages are designed to serve the A/E/C industry. Developed and designed to fully integrate the management of time and costs with all the associated operational accounting. Both perform payroll/job costing, invoicing, bill payments and time and expense management. They have extensive, yet different, approaches to management reporting and are prolific in both depth and quantity. Both work to solve interoperability with outside email, MS office, CRM and ACH. Both use modern web based technologies for software access and collaboration.
So Vision or Ajera? Either can be the right answer. Draw from your relationships, beware of that missing feature, and do not get caught up with the fictitious ball and chain notion associated with legacy software. And, yes, hire a consultant for more guidance.
Doris M. Cahill, CPA is the founder of DMC Accounting + Technology