Evaluating Accounting Software for AE Firms

Posted by Shari Gardner on October 12, 2015

architecture

10 Questions to Ask Every Vendor

Because most AE firms keep their software for 10 years or longer, choosing the right software vendor is an important decision with long term consequences. Therefore, it’s important to look for a partner, not just a software provider.

Your best bet is to look for a company that provides a clear implementation roadmap and value-added services, such as data conversion, process audits, live training and live support. This will position you for an easier transition and greater software adoption in your firm.

Before evaluating your options – first define what success looks like for you:

  • What specific benefits do you want to receive as a result of implementing new software?
  • What processes does your firm have in place now and which are the most cumbersome?
  • How will others be impacted by the new software and what will be required of them?
  • Who needs access to what information and how will the new software help you provide this?

Once you’ve defined what success will look like, there are 10 questions you need to ask every software vendor to make your decision clear.

Q1: How long has your company been in business and how committed are you to the AE industry?

Just because a software company might discount the initial cost of the software package, it doesn’t mean they will be the best choice for a long term alignment with your firm. If a company has only been in the AE industry for a few years or offers software that isn’t specifically designed for architecture and engineering project-based firms, this should be a red flag.

Q2: Is your software designed for project-based firms and is it going to provide me information in real time?

To manage projects efficiently and measure profitability, a project based firm needs to be able to accurately track time, resources and expenses, and attribute them to the appropriate project. Software systems designed to meet the general needs of many types of businesses don’t have the ability to handle all the project variables that project-based firms deal with.

In addition, many software companies claim to have real-time software, but actually require posting or batch processing to access up-to-date information. Here are some questions you can ask to determine if extra steps will be necessary to get real-time information:

Once a time sheet is entered, what is required to process and pay that item through payroll?

  • Once time has been entered against a project, what is required for my project managers to view and analyze that time on their project reports?
  • If all time and expense entries are entered for a given period, what is required for me to view the financial impact of those entries?

Q3: What does your company know about DCAA and FAR accounting compliance for government contractors?

Accounting system compliance is a combination of three key components: your firm’s day-to-day practices, your processes and lastly, the software itself.  When DCAA, or any other Federal audit, reviews an accounting system for compliance with Federal regulations, they usually start with the company’s practices and processes before evaluating the software in use.

If you are planning on working on government contracts, ask your software provider for specific examples of work with FAR, DOT, DCAA, AASHTO or DOD compliances. You are looking for a provider who can make recommendations for best practices for compliance and can articulate how your new accounting software can enforce these processes.

These are three of the ten questions covered in “Evaluating Software for AE Firms. 10 Questions to Ask Every Vendor”.  To access the full list of questions click here.