Building Rome in a day

The evolution of a city is something that happens pretty organically. Same with accounting systems. It’s something you only realise looking backwards. The system you have now is not the one you started out with. Sure, that initial decision to lay the foundation of your selected platform was a big one. But it takes time for people to move in and start using it. Gradually they work out their own ways of doing things. They customise it to their liking and build around it, adding new and different modules that become an integrated part of the overall environment. People get comfortable. Generations come and go. Traditions are passed on to the point where they become endemic. How do you tear all that down and start again? And how do you do it all in a month?

Romulus took his time. Then again, a new financial year probably wasn’t just around the corner.

That’s how long we gave ourselves to have an entirely new practice management and general ledger system in place. And when I say a month, I mean going from having no real plans at all in late May (other than to explore more options) to using an entirely new suite by 1st July. A new financial year was about to tick over, so it made sense to use that as the changeover date if possible. We knew the schedule would be tight, so just to make sure we kept the pressure at a maximum, someone had the bright idea to blog about the entire experience as we went along! Are we trying to ‘build Rome’ in a day?

Our first week was really about basking in the afterglow of such a monumental decision. Once we’d returned to earth, our second week was spent mapping out what needed to be achieved by 1st July to at least be functional. So last week was the first stage of implementing the plan. We needed to start using Xero.

The best way to get a handle on what really happened during those watershed moments in history is to go back to primary sources. That way you get as close as possible to the action while mitigating the distortion that inevitably comes when looking back through the lens of time and interpretation.

So rather than me tell you about our week, have a look at a small selection of extracts from actual emails sent and received last week. These are some of the conversations we had:

“The Practice Administrator needs to do the following before we go too much further…..
1.     Invite all staff and ensure they are ‘Active’
2.    Review the standard Chart of Accounts in Xero and add or delete accounts as appropriate.”

“Below is a link to the Xero Payroll demo video. We need to set this up pretty soon. How are you placed for time, to both watch it and work out how to bring our data and settings across into our Xero file to be ready for 2nd July?…we might as well try to get as familiar with it as possible before D Day.”

“I think our best bet from the sounds of things is going to be to not bring the debtors into Xero until WFM is set up. …I could imagine there being a lot of duplicates by simply missing a space or whatever in the name if we set them up manually.”

“We currently support the import of transactions using either .OFX (Open Financial Exchange), .QIF (Quicken Interchange Format), or .CSV (Comma Separated Values) data formats. We recommend you use .OFX. If your bank does not support .OFX, then use .QIF or .CSV.”

“I think there are certainly some real pros and cons re the cloud, but security isn’t really one of the cons – well, not a rational one anyway. Relatively speaking, the security comparison is a shellacking in favour of the cloud. It’s really just a perception thing – people ‘feel’ safer with it under the mattress than on the net because they still feel like it’s in their control.”

“What is the purpose of knowing all those traditional accounting firm KPI’s? What do you do with this information? How does it help you run the business? How do they help you improve the business? How many of them are ‘because that’s the way we have always done it’?”

“KoolAid or Red Cordial at the end…?” 

OK, so it isn’t the Magna Carta (what do you think – Kool-aid or red cordial? These are the burning issues…) But hopefully it provides some unobstructed insight into the daily challenges of the building process.

The Magna Carta: written around the same time as our old accounting software.

In a nutshell, last week involved coming to grips with the snowballing implications of having the ‘bare essentials’ in place, and making sure those things happen. Because our existing methods have developed over many years – our system has been ‘lived in’ for over a decade – everything is connected and intertwined. A change here has implications over there. The reality is that we won’t be able to do it all by 1st July. But we probably don’t need to.

You can’t replicate traditions. Instead, you break the ground in a new area, let people move in and settle down, and over time a new way of living begins to evolve. We won’t have an entire eco-system ready to go by 1st July, but no new initiative starts at that point. What we are leaving behind wasn’t built in a day. This won’t be either.

So far, so good.

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