Adviser: Upgrade to face future challenges

Less than a third of finance managers working across every size of company plan to upgrade their accounting and financial software systems in the next two years, according to a recent survey carried out on behalf of software supplier SAP.

In a sophisticated market, where most companies have been using accounting packages for many years, this is extraordinary.

I can only assume that too many users have been put off upgrading by scare stories, and an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality.

This is at best short sighted and at worst financially dangerous.

In fact, good software maintenance and free upgrades make regular upgrading the most sensible, simple option for most organisations. If you allow your version of a package software solution to get too far behind the current version, upgrading can be more difficult, essentially because the job becomes bigger.

As a result, when change is forced upon companies, as will be the case with the introduction of the new international financial reporting standard requirements, there is a danger that projects are not properly planned and are seen as a chore rather than a sensible improvement. In short, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Clearly, planning an upgrade programme is not the same operation for a 10,000-user system as it is for a five-user system. Whereas major blue-chip companies may only consider an upgrade to a large Enterprise Resource Planning system every three to five years, most suppliers operate on an 18 to 24 month development cycle. At the other end of the scale, companies supplying entry-level packages may offer new versions once or twice a year for users who want to take advantage of enhancements.

There is no good reason for any organisation to avoid a regular upgrade policy, especially since the software suppliers are only too happy to help and advise, and can ensure you get maximum benefit from the latest version of your software.

To help software users through the upgrade process, the Business Application Software Developers Association (BASDA) has published an online guide to upgrading business and accounting systems. The booklet – Upgrading – Why, When & How – is available to download, free of charge, from the BASDA website (

As well as highlighting the dos and don’ts of the upgrade process, the guide explains how to manage the project from start to finish. It includes advice on testing, dealing with integrated applications and highlights common pitfalls.

In a fast changing business environment, it is naturally hard for many companies to envisage what is round the corner. So it should not be difficult to justify the cost of a system that is flexible enough to meet changing needs.

Put simply, you just do not know what those needs might be, so upgrading is the only cost effective way to keep your system in line with the development of the business.

  • Dennis Keeling is chief executive of BASDA, The Business Application Software Developers Association

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