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To upgrade or not to upgrade, that is the question

In an era where most IT people roll out Microsoft Windows updates as soon as they are available and Apple users are usually chomping at the bit to get the latest updates on their mobile devices, you’d think the this level of confidence would naturally be reflected in commercial environments. But it just doesn’t seem to apply to financial solutions.

Maybe it’s the cautious nature of many finance directors that makes them a bit wary of upgrading their financial accounting systems.

I am constantly asked by customers to list the reasons why they should upgrade to SunSystems v6. My instinct is to respond by asking them “why shouldn’t you?” Of course I understand the fear of risk and the pragmatic attitude that says “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But in fact there are almost always good business reasons and benefits to making the change – if SunSystems  couldn’t be improved on, then Infor  wouldn’t invest in enhancing and updating it. It’s a case of going from “good” to “better”.

A key driver to upgrade at the moment is the recent changes to underlying technology platforms by Microsoft. IT people understand the reasoning for this, because they are concerned about trying to manage non-supported technologies such as Windows Server 2003 and SQL 2000. But for finance managers, this isn’t well understood, and therefore not a priority. They often feel indignant and as though they’re being held to ransom. Their sense is that they’re being forced to upgrade trusted business applications just because Microsoft has pulled the plug on underlying supporting technologies.

(To be fair to Microsoft, they generally support their software for up to ten years, so it’s not unreasonable to expect to upgrade your related business applications at least once or twice during this timeframe.)

Technology aside, we cannot ignore Infor’s enthusiastic evangelism of their new software enhancements for SunSystems. I admit, I was a bit sceptical when Infor first started to release information about these planned developments. But here we are some two years later, and I’ve revised my view, because in my opinion, Infor have actually delivered on their ambitions.

Having worked with SunSystems for far more years than I would care to remember (and yes I admit, there is a small part of me that does miss the MS-DOS simplicity of SunSystems v4), there are many improvements to SunSystems v6 that you just can’t ignore. Decision makers in both technology and business functions really do need to take a hard look and consider the benefits they could bring to their organisation.

SunSystems’ core strength has always been in its simple single ledger design, flexible multi-dimensional analysis and multi-currency transactional processing. Infor hasn’t changed  this – they have wisely used it as a foundation to improve upon.

Putting myself back into my old shoes as a Management Accountant, I begin to see some really useful possibilities. What if I could automatically be alerted when a new chart of account code or analysis code was added to the ledgers? Even better, what if I could electronically approve it before any transactions were posted to the new code?  Or what if I could be notified of transactions being posted to the dreaded black hole of a suspense account – always a regrettably necessary evil for those spurious transactions that could never quite be accounted for at the time, and which then became a laborious month-end (or more likely year-end) task to rectify. Or could I perhaps see a simple view of the remaining budget available for a particular expense line and cost centre before electronically approving the ledger transaction posting? I feel quietly elated as I begin to realise that the list could be endless and this new upgrade could save me a lot of wasted time, make repetitive tasks easier to handle and cut down on errors and oversights. Working life could become a whole lot less frustrating and stressful.

For management accountants, it truly is a refreshing new concept to be presented with relevant in-context information while working within SunSystems, instead of going to hunt for the information myself.

I remember how irritated I used to feel when a change happened to SunSystems without my knowledge. Perhaps like many accountants, I was a little bit of a control freak – but that’s the nature of the job. However, my perspective would be very different if I could see how the change was going to save me effort and frustration, and improve the accuracy of my work and the information I was working with.

So, to upgrade or not to upgrade? That is the question. As for the answer, perhaps making a concerted effort to understand the user and business benefits and explain them to non-IT stakeholders could make the decision making process a whole lot more rational and informed.

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