Whatever process you have in place to invoice your customers and manage their payments, changing solutions is never an inviting prospect. No matter how much time you’ve spent with your current system, you’ve likely established a rhythm to your invoicing procedures. Disrupting that rhythm can slow down productivity and damage workplace morale.
If you’re thinking about upgrading to a better billing system, here are a few things you should do to make the transition easier. You’ll be able to keep processes running smoothly throughout the change, with your clients and vendors likely not even realizing the upgrade is taking place.
Identify Your Needs
Before you make a final decision on a new billing solution, make sure you’re moving to software that fulfills all of your business needs. Identify exactly what you need the software to do and describe it thoroughly to the salesperson. You may find that if you specify the features you need, they’re available as an add-on or customization, even when they aren’t listed as a basic feature.
In addition to determining the solution you need, you should make sure you have the infrastructure in place to support it. Determine the hardware you’ll need to access it, as well as any server support you’ll need if the solution isn’t cloud based. You’ll also need to know what installation procedures will be required if you choose an on-site solution over one that is available in the cloud.
Know the Differences
Before you make the decision to change billing systems, learn as much as possible about the system you have in place. Whether you’re operating off of spreadsheets or a cloud-based accounting tool, document the steps you take to accomplish each task. Then compare that list to the procedures you’ll use with the new solution. You may be able to identify ways to make your new processes easier.
Once you’ve identified the differences between the old system and the new one you’ve chosen, spend time learning as much as possible about the new system. If you have staff, identify the important items you’ll need to review as you train them. Doing so on the front end will help you answer the questions you’ll have once the new software is in daily use.
Choose a Date
Before you can move to the next phase of your move to new billing software, you’ll need to have a date in mind for the changeover. The best thing you can do at the outset is choose a time that will be minimally disruptive to your customers and employees. Almost all businesses are cyclical, so find a time of year that you’re dealing with fewer invoices rolling in on a daily basis. This means fewer customers will be impacted if you make mistakes in your early days with the software. If you have employees handling your billing procedures, it also gives them more time to get up to speed on the new system.
If your business is busy year round, you may not be able to choose a time of year that is most conducive to moving to a new system. Instead, consider a time of the month in which you’ll see the least impact. This may mean avoiding the last day of the month, since most of your invoices are due at that time. Or it may mean avoiding the beginning of the week, since you send most of your invoices on Monday mornings.
Set Up Import Procedures
Once you’re ready to make the move, you’ll need to get your customer data from your old system to the new one. This is usually done through an import option built into the software. It’s important to clarify that you’ll be able to easily import your information before you cut the old system off. You’ll need to move the data over and make sure everything connects and even then, you’ll likely want to keep your old data on standby during the early days with the new software.
If your new software features integrations with other popular software tools, you’ll find the transition goes much more smoothly. You may be able to pull information from sites like Salesforce and Basecamp, as well as set up procedures to make sure when you update contact information in one piece of software, the other piece of software updates, as well. This will save hours of wasted time each year.
Learn the New System
Training is an essential part of smoothing over a transition to any new technology. The more you can learn before the move, the easier it will be once the new system is in place. This may mean setting up a brief training session for your employees, your clients, and anyone else who will be affected by the change. If you’re a one-man shop, your job will be easier because you’ll only have to educate yourself.
In the days leading up to the change, check for any videos or training materials available about the new system. Your new software provider will likely offer a training demo at no extra charge once you’ve signed up. Take advantage of any opportunity you have to learn as much as possible about the new software well in advance of the change date.
Test and Safeguard
Long before the cutover date, you should put time and effort into testing the new system. Will it work with your databases? Will you be able to pick up where you left off or will you have to continue to go back and forth between both systems until you’ve used the new system for a while? The more effort you put into testing in advance of the change, the less likely it will be that you’ll have unpleasant surprises once you only have the new software to use.
During the switch, you’ll need to make sure you have a system in place to support your operations if you should have problems with the new software. You may be required to switch back for a few days while your software provider works through some issues. By having a safety in place, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that you have a backup if things should fall through.
A new billing system can help improve productivity and reduce errors. However, moving from one solution to another can lead to errors and downtime. Ideally you’ll be able to make the switch without your customers ever knowing, but the more you can prepare ahead of time, the better off you’ll be.