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Who Should Evaluate the Financial System That You Procure?

Evaluating Financial SystemsLooking for a new financial system? Since your selection not only affects the long-term success of your company, but also the day-to-day environment of your employees, you will benefit from a team of staff members to evaluate the best system for your business.

Your company may be considering a new financial system for any number of reasons. Perhaps you need processes that are more efficient, better accounting capabilities, or improved reporting. Whatever your reason for procuring a new system, you want to make the best choice for your business, of course.

Since your financial system impacts not only the long-term success of your company, but also the day-to-day work environment of your employees, you will need a team to evaluate the best system. Here is a list of five people, or groups of people, who should be included in the financial system procurement process. They are listed in descending order of whose opinion carries the most weight, but all input is necessary for a well-rounded decision.

1. CEO -- As with all major company decisions, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the one with whom the buck inevitably stops. With this particular decision, the CEO will view the procurement as an asset to the company. He or she will evaluate financial systems in terms of which product or company will align with your organization's overall mission and culture. The CEO will approach the evaluation as part of the overall strategy of your business.

2. COO/CFO -- One or both of these team members will play an important role in the process as well. The Chief Operations Officer (COO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) will be primarily interested in systems that provide the reliability and support your company needs. Since the COO is charged with ensuring your company runs smoothly, he or she will want to be sure your new system is reliable through any challenges that arise. The CFO will want to ensure your company leverages the full value of your system in the maximum use of all of its features. The more sophisticated the software, the more necessary it will become to have access to various methods of training and support.

3. Controller -- The controller will evaluate each system according to your company's control and reporting needs. He or she will check for compatibility with your organization's internal control requirements in addition to whether the product meets management and third party (e.g., DCAA) reporting requirements.

4. CIO/CTO -- The Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO) will be able to answer any questions regarding the technology behind your new system, as well as to address any security concerns your team may have. For example, does your IT department have the capacity to manage one particular system over another, and what measures need to be taken to keep your company's financial data safe?

5. Accounting Staff – The accounting staff members who will engage in daily use of the financial system should weigh in on the usability of a given system. While their collective opinion should not override desired functionality that is sought with a new financial system, these team members will provide value in assessing the day-to-day use of the software. Since those daily or weekly processes to operate the accounting software are key, does feature set available in the software eliminate manual processes efficiently? Is the user documentation adequate to ensure compliance with operating assumptions of the financial system? The accounting staff should review in advance the help content and user documentation available with the system for adequacy.

If your internal team consists of the above staff members, then you should be well positioned to make the right choice about your company's new financial system. As with many organizational decisions, it may be advantageous to bring in an outside advisor to confirm your selection. This person should be knowledgeable about the products available and should round out your selection team with an independent voice in the decision-making process.

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