Earlier this month, I was presenting our SYMPAQ product line to a CPA firm that specializes in government contractor audits and with DCAA compliance. While discussing pricing options, one of their professional staff asked a question that is almost rhetorical in nature, but nevertheless has been asked a thousand times before. That is, "How long does it take, and what will it cost to get your software up and running?" While on the surface this seems to be a fair question, it also a complex one that simply does not have a set answer. So I replied, "I'd need to know more about particular requirements, because the cost varies from one client to the next." "Okay then, can't you just give me a ballpark figure?"
The truth is there is no ballpark figure as such, or at least no more of one than you'd likely get if you were to ask a general contractor to give you an estimate for remodeling your kitchen without first seeing your kitchen, or for putting an addition on your home without seeing your home. At its core, an accounting software package is a database built around a set of business rules and algorithms. And, given the available feature set, how much of the system do you intend to utilize? Is it 100% of the available feature set? Perhaps 75%? An independent research study revealed that 45% of a software systems' features and functions are never used!* This is because there are many variables. For instance, you might process Payroll in-house or you might outsource it to a third-party service bureau. If it is the latter, then obviously the integrated payroll feature set will not be utilized and there are no related costs associated with its implementation.
You should also consider your role in the process and keep the following organizational factors in mind that happen to be beyond the control of your software vendor:
- The amount of your internal accounting staff involvement during the implementation,
- Staff skill level,
- Daily workloads during the time of implementation, affecting the amount of time given to concentrate on the implementation.
Always remember to include your internal staff and their time while preparing your budget, because your vendor works in tandem with your staff and delegates responsibilities to them when practical. You don't want a high-priced consultant doing routine data entry, do you? At the same time, if you would like to have your existing data converted and imported, then be sure to include a budget line item for data transformation.
A software vendor could calculate the average costs of professional services billed to its past several customers and use that as a basis for an estimate, but that would not necessarily yield a meaningful budget figure. The bottom line is that without first conducting a survey to gauge expectations and assigning resources on the front-end of the conversion process, it is just not possible for a software vendor to accurately estimate the time and dollars involved with the goal of getting "up and running".