1.  Did I train myself?

You need an accounting program so you ask some friends what they use. You hear dreamstimemaximum_29807445the name of a program a couple of times and check it out. The information on the web is a bit light, but you see the demo and look at the quick start training video on the program site and think, “I can do this” or “my assistant can learn this”. The price is right, they say they have 24/7 service and away you go.

For the next several months, billing takes an extra three days to process, you get less billable work done and you have had several heated arguments with your assistant about what the system should be able to do.

You get by with knowing the basics of the program and don’t ever feel like you are getting everything you can from it, but you simply have other things to do.

2.  Do I know what all the features do?

It is the end of the year and you are putting everything together for your CPA. You are trying to get information from the accounting system so you don’t have to type anything in excel this year.

You see the reports tab, click around and find the financial reports, click around some more and find a general ledger report. You smile and think, “Great. This is going to be so much easier this year.” You print the report and realize it doesn’t have things in the right category. You know you spent more on CLE than it shows and payroll is way off.

You realize that you didn’t understand the coding relationships when setting up new accounts so the expenses weren’t coded correctly. Because your meeting is tomorrow with your CPA, you pull out your AP files and open an excel spreadsheet.

3.  Do I do the same things over and over again?

It’s been 6 months and your assistant is still taking a long time finalizing bills. You’ve already reviewed the pre-bills. It should be a slam dunk. You ask him what takes so long.

Your very frustrated assistant tells you that any past due balances don’t show up on the current bills correctly so he has to type this on the last page for the 20 clients who still owe you money. He is putting the bills into Adobe, adding this information, saving them and printing them again.

Not only does this take too much time, your final bills are no longer stored in your accounting system.   You ask him why he is still doing it this way after 6 months and why he didn’t find out how to do it correctly. He asks you when he has had time with the trial preparation and you not wanting him to work OT on non-billable tasks.

Isn’t Automation Great!

My experience has been that we never have time to watch all the videos. If we do, it doesn’t really make sense until you have been using the program for a period of time and understand the terms.

We aren’t experts in all types of work, be it a word processing, accounting or a web designing.   It takes hours to learn how to use a program effectively. It takes many more hours to learn how they all work together.

If you are trying to practice law, you should not be learning software. Now, don’t get me wrong, you should know how to get what you need from your software you just shouldn’t have to train yourself, customize everything and troubleshoot problems.

No software program is easy to customize for your practice and fully understand.

5 Tips for New Software Implementation

1. Get Help. You are not an IT expert, even if you can program your new iPhone.

If your current IT consultant knows the program, great. You don’t, however, want to pay $150+ an hour for someone to learn a new program and implement it in your office.   That is like you, as a real estate lawyer, getting a client who wants a divorce and charging them to learn how to handle their case.   If your IT provider doesn’t know the program, find someone who does.

When you are talking with a software company, ask for a recommendation of someone who is certified or in some way trained in their program. Sometimes they have people in-house you can hire for an extra fee to set your system up. Sometimes they have consultants they train and recommend.

2.  Tell Them What You Need. If you don’t, the program will be set up the way the consultant thinks you should use it.

Take the time to sit with the expert and tell them what you need. Show them your forms or reports or whatever you can to help them customize the system to your needs.   If you can do this before you purchase the software, you should.   You’ll know if the program does what you want it to do or if you’ll need to adjust your expectations.

Get the consultant’s recommendations. They may know how other firms use the program and give you ideas.

However, talk more than you listen. Remember, this is supposed to perform what you need it to.

3.  Beta Test. You need to see it to believe it.

Use the program for a few days before a full roll-out with your own data.  If you have an assistant, have her use it too. There will be things that need to be tweaked. It is nice to get the program as close to what you need as possible before you load all your data.

4.  Get Trained. Get Trained Again.

Get your initial training on the system. Then several weeks or months later, get more training. No matter how good your training and how fast you learn, you won’t absorb everything.   Once you have used the program for a period of time, a couple of cycles or cases, have your trainer come back and show you how to do more advanced functions. Perhaps you’ll want to write your own reports or modify the templates yourself.

Keep a list of questions or a wish list and have it handy when the trainer comes back. You can train remotely. Often training is less expensive if the trainer doesn’t have to come to your office.

5.  Get Written Documentation. A picture is worth a 1,001 clicks.

When hiring someone to help you, ask if you will get written documentation on how to use the program. This is very important. I always leave the person administering the program a tabbed binder of information which includes the training handouts. Three months from now, you won’t remember how to add a new user.

You can give the written information to your permanent IT provider so can help with set-up in the future.

New employees will have training documentation to use.   This documentation, along with your knowledge, may save you from getting an outside trainer.

The bottom line is, spend a bit more time and money up-front to reap the benefits in the long-run. Software should not be a constant frustration. Automation is supposed to enhance your ability to serve your clients and if handled correctly, it will.


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