How to Upgrade Your Financial Software — and Skills

Financial Software

When was the last time your company upgraded its financial software? When was the last time you upgraded your own software skills?

If it's been more than a few years for your company, your accounting and finance team may not have the best available tools, and that can negatively affect your entire business. If it’s been awhile for your own skills, it could crush your career.

The latest Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance reports that businesses are struggling to keep pace with the rapid changes in financial software — and staffing accordingly.

“No matter the size or complexity of an organization,” says Noel Tiell, division director at Robert Half Finance and Accounting, “strong financial software skills will allow accounting and finance professionals to collect, analyze and report data to internal and external stakeholders.”

The current boom in the tech sector is driving serious changes in many fields, including bookkeeping and financial software. Major leaps forward, with such tools as cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS), mean software solutions are becoming cheaper, faster and more powerful. New players are entering this space all the time, and the heavyweights of accounting software have had to up their game accordingly.

Managers, Supervisors: Take Note

If you supervise an accounting team or own a company, here are four signs you could use a software upgrade:  

Upgrading to a system that automates the reconciliation process offers many benefits.

Noel Tiell


1. Most of your accounts are manually reconciled.

In Robert Half’s Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function, 54 percent of U.S. financial executives surveyed said they still reconcile accounts by hand. Upgrading to a system that automates the reconciliation process offers many benefits, including reduced processing time, higher accuracy and more time for your staff to focus on value-generating projects. 

2. Your team members are over-reliant on Excel.

Excel is a versatile tool and is great for analysis. However, some teams use it for tasks that specialized platforms are designed to handle. For example, budget management deserves a dedicated finance software, while resource tracking is the domain of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Too much reliance on Excel also comes with certain risks: It's difficult to ensure accuracy, and you can suffer serious data loss if someone makes a mistake.  

3. You're not getting the management information you need.

In the era of big data, knowledge really is power. If you have a constant stream of finely granulated business information, you can perform deep analysis, model future scenarios and make practical plans for the future. However, your team isn't generating that information if they're using antiquated finance software or doing everything in Excel. Modern finance software offers powerful new tools for gathering data, while the processing power of the cloud makes it easy and efficient to perform systems-intensive analysis.

4. You’re worried about data security

Financial SoftwareAt a certain point in the finance software’s lifespan, the company will stop issuing patches to fix security vulnerabilities and improve performance. When that happens, the software is technically usable but functionally obsolete — and defenseless against hackers. One solution is to subscribe to cloud-based software, such as QuickBooks Online Plus and Zoho Books, where security patches and upgrades are uploaded automatically. If you’re worried about online services’ ability to keep your data safe, keep your desktop software but install upgrades as soon as they’re released.

Whether you choose to move to the cloud or install an up-to-date, on-premises system, new financial software can reduce costs, increase efficiency and empower you to manage your team effectively.  

Job Seekers, Employees: Take Note

If you’re a career accountant, or you want to be, you should know that in addition to your hard-earned education and on-the-job training, keeping your skills fresh and riding the wave of technology are crucial for a rewarding career. Whether your goal is to fortify your accounting and finance portfolio or make yourself more valuable to your employer, consider mastering the following software. 

1. Excel at Excel.

Regardless for the tendency for companies to rely too heavily on Excel, this financial software is used across businesses, large and small. Little wonder, then, that the Salary Guide lists advanced Excel skills at the top of employers’ in-demand attributes list. Your ability to use pivot tables, write macros and perform H- and V-Lookups will give you an edge in the technology game and add to your marketability.

2. Become an ERP pro.

This business management software, which can include SAP, Oracle, Sage, Great Plains Dynamics and PeopleSoft, is used to collect, manage and interpret a variety of business activities. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is essential for keeping accounting and finance transactions updated, organized and secure.

Robert Half’s Tiell says almost every accounting and finance professional will use this financial software system every day, so being well versed on the ins and outs of ERP is crucial.

3. Demonstrate DBMS dexterity.

Database Management Systems (DBMS) is a software system that uses a standard method to catalog, retrieve and run queries on data. A DBMS is helpful in managing and organizing data, and it provides paths for other programs and professionals to modify and work with data. Some examples of DBMS include Microsoft Access, MySQL, FileMaker, Oracle and FoxPro.

Finance and accounting professionals need to be able to create databases, extract data and search for critical information.

Noel Tiell


“Since crucial data for the company is stored in these systems,” Tiell says, “finance and accounting professionals need to be able to create databases, extract data and search for critical information.”  

In addition to taking advantage of the wealth of resources online, accounting and finance professionals may consider university or technical school coursework for hands-on training in financial software, Tiell says. You may also want to ask your employer about bringing in a value-added reseller, who will visit your office and demonstrate the latest financial software at no cost. Or offer to organize training sessions with expert users within your organization.

Before you know it, your finance career will be headed in a new, dynamic direction.

Looking for other ways to boost your finance career? Check out our free e-Learning program

Tags: Software