Five Tips to Trim Software Implementation Costs

By Rob Beisswenger, Senior Director Implementations, North America, Wilson Allen

To stay relevant, competitive, and profitable, firms must embrace ongoing technology innovation. This reality is driving many firms to accelerate their transformation journeys by retiring legacy software and adopting new practice management systems.

Landscape transformation is a significant undertaking involving significant time, energy, and resources – not to mention the cost. How can your firm trim cost from its software implementation and still get the greatest value?

Here are some tips on getting your budget just right, based on hands-on experience implementing practice management software for professional services firms worldwide.

1. Review and define project scope and objectives

The first step in controlling cost requires strategic thinking from firm management. It calls for identifying desired areas of improvement, documenting them, and setting goals to achieve them. Surprisingly, many professional services firms overlook this critical early-planning step. If you don’t have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish, you run the risk of scope creep and have a system that doesn’t live up to its potential, which will not deliver improved financial results. You can mitigate these risks by aligning your firm’s objectives with the full scope of your project.

2. Focus on key objectives

Regardless of who leads the software implementation – your internal resources or a third-party service provider – every implementation team needs to understand the project’s objectives. Doing some advanced homework streamlines the effort for all involved. If you’re going into meetings with absolutely no idea what the software can do and what business processes you want to improve, it will take the team that much longer to reach a consensus on what should be accomplished.

It’s important to document what you hope to improve when implementing new software related to four key areas: managing risk, managing assets, increasing revenue, and decreasing costs. These are the areas of operations that keep firm management up at night. Aligning your project with the firm’s business strategy makes good business sense and helps to ensure the greatest ROI.

3. Identify business processes to improve

Your implementation team needs to know what changes to make, what the firm wants to achieve, and how the firm measures success. Focus on identifying in advance which business processes to target for improvement based on what you hope to achieve. Look at your most complex business processes such as work to cash, new business intake, reporting, and payment requests. Typically, we find WIP and A/R leakage in the work-to-cash area, and firm management often only realizes this after the firm has lost inventory. Simple workflows around approval levels based on dollar thresholds can help firm management deal with these situations and help ensure that the firm is doing everything it can to collect its fees and improve performance. A small percentage improvement in any of these metrics has a positive effect on the firm’s business results. Consolidating your management reporting and taking advantage of new software capabilities such as Dashboards can reduce your reliance on printing and distributing reports to management.

4. Identify opportunities for consolidation

There are other areas of improvement that can drastically affect performance. Many global firms have disparate business processes across their international regions of operations. Others have developed management information reports and invoice formats based on regional requirements. Having all business processes and information management reports integrated into one software system typically improves business results across the firm. It may therefore be prioritized as a goal of the project.

Operating one system also addresses common challenges associated with integrating a host of best-of-breed or third-party solutions into the core software environment. Many of the firms we’ve worked with have successfully consolidated software and systems in addition to developing a cohesive master data management strategy. Implementing a strategic data management integration strategy improves implementation time, reduces vendor lock-in and costs, and ultimately improves the data quality and service to your firm.

In summary, identifying all your software customizations in advance based on the project’s objectives will allow you to budget for these project streams accurately and adequately allocate resources to deliver your solutions.

5. Get expert guidance

Unsure of where to begin? Wilson Allen has led planning workshops to help many professional services firms review and define implementation project objectives. The outcome? Once you have your project objectives and scope defined, you can accurately set realistic budgets, implementation timeframes and allocate staff to deliver upon your strategic objectives and business strategy. These projects require a considerable resource commitment, and most firms are not staffed to accommodate the increase in work throughout the implementation. We often find that if you plan your resources upfront and supplement your resources with expert consultants will ultimately allow you to deliver your project artifacts on time and within your budget.