simplebooklet thumbnail

Switching from Basic to Fund Accounting Guide

The Complete Guide to
Switching from
Basic to Fund
Accounting Software
Chapter 1
Signs You Are Outgrowing Your Basic Accounting System
Chapter 2
Fund Accounting Software Check List
Chapter 3
Who Else at Your City Should Be Included in Your Fund
Accounting Software Search?
Chapter 4
Deciding Between In-House/Installed, the Cloud, or SaaS
Chapter 5
Best Web Sites for Your Fund Accounting Software Search
Chapter 6
The Most Effective Way to Evaluate a Fund Accounting
Chapter 7
Factors that Affect the Cost of Fund Accounting Software
Chapter 8
Tips on Transferring Your Data to a New System
Chapter 9
How Do You Know You are Making the Right Decision?
Signs You Are Outgrowing Your
Basic Accounting System
Is it really time to switch
to a fund accounting software?
Chapter 1
Signs You Are Outgrowing Your Basic Accounting System
Understand the signs to see if it's time for you to move from your basic
accounting software to something that can better handle your fund accounting
Sign #1
Work-arounds are the norm.
You are spending more time 'tricking' your system than simply working with it.
Set aside one whole week where you consciously keep track of how much
time you or your staff spends manipulating your software to handle the way
you need to enter or analyze your data. Are processes such as budget
reports still being prepared in a spreadsheet? Are bank reconciliations taking
you three to four steps when they should really only take one or two? If so,
you and your staff could save significant time by moving to a system that can
handle your needs.
You cannot customize the system to operate in a way that's meaningful to
your city accounting and payroll needs. The longer you work for your city,
the more you realize that your city has its own unique set of needs. For
example, you want to show a special column on your revenue and
expenditure statement, or you want to pay employees out of different
funds but not have to issue two checks. Basic accounting software
packages are made for general business, and therefore, you must make
due with a system not made for municipal accounting. Fund accounting
packages recognize your unique municipal accounting needs allowing you
to customize over time.
Sign #2
You need better customization.
Chapter 1
Signs You Are Outgrowing Your Basic Accounting System
Sign #3
The Software is Not Easy to Use.
Again, for the sake of ease of use, general accounting programs provide a
limited set of reports for you to run. Yet your city may really need to see the
data in your own way. For example, perhaps you want to run a report that
shows the subtotal per item by fund. A fund accounting program will allow
for revisions to be made, and the reports can then be saved for later use, so
you can view the information in a way that your council or auditor prefers.
Sign #4
Reporting is Limited.
Sign #5
There is a Lack of Support.
As with any product available today, a result of paying too little means your
service will be less as well. Many basic accounting programs will defray
service expenses by outsourcing their service to an overseas call center. A
Fund accounting program will provide more complete support services, with
a variety of contact methods, and professional fund accounting support
staff with years of experience.
Look for a fund accounting software that is intuitive, simple to navigate and
easy to use, even for beginners. Make sure the software gives you the tools
you need to take total control of your city's financial management. It's
important to have an accounting software that alleviates stress instead of
adding to it.
Fund Accounting and Payroll
Check List
A check list of fund accounting and payroll software
features to help organize what you really need. Fill in
and present to vendors so you can get a true picture of
whether they can meet your needs.
System Features
Enter Your Needs
Asset Management
Loan Tracking
Number of Funds
Number of Users (Work Stations)
Project Tracking
Years of History
GASB Recommended Format
General Ledger Features
Enter Your Needs
Account Classes
Account Split
Departments within Funds
Audit Trail
Bank Deposit
Bank Reconciliation
Enter Your Needs
Consolidated Reporting
Customizable Reports
Standard Reports
Drill Down/Interactive Reports
Billing and Accounts Receivable
Enter Your Needs
Batch Payments
Payment Editing
Payment Selection
Business License
Fees/Dues Billing
Paying Invoices
Enter Your Needs
1099 Management
ACH Payments
Purchase Orders
Enter Your Needs
Number of Full Time Employees
Number of Part Time Employees
Pay out of multiple funds
Pay out of departments within Funds
Pay Employees Out of Multiple Departments
Time Clock Import
Checks Print on Plain Paper
Customizable Pay Stubs
Direct Deposit
Track/Pay Employee Garnishment
Sick Time Calculations
Vacation/Leave Accrual Tracking
H R Functions
Document Attachment
Track employee training/certification
Ability to print W-2/W-3
Ability to print Quarterly Reports
ACA Reports
New Hire Report
Print Vendor Liability Checks
Who Else at Your City Should be Included
in Your Fund Accounting Search?
Leaving key people out of the fund accounting
software search can lead to disastrous results. Get
ideas about who to include, and what to ask them.
Who Else at Your City Should be Included
in Your Fund Accounting Search?
Since accounting software affects many different departments in your city, it is
wise to include anyone using the system during your search, to some degree.
When applicable to your city, include these decision makers to start a
conversation about their needs in the new system.
Deciding Between In-House/Installed, the
Cloud, or SaaS
Learn more about the differences between in-house,
cloud, and SaaS systems, so you can make the best
decision for your city.
Chapter 4
Deciding Between In-house/Installed, the Cloud, or SAAS
SaaS "Software as a Service" is the
practice of using software that is
accessible via the internet, so there is
no software to install internally. The
software resides on the provider's
server, and you access it with your own
name(s) and password(s). The
upside of using SaaS is there is no need
to perform updates or upgrades, or in
fact perform any software
maintenance, since this is all done by
the provider.
Although the terms, "The Cloud" and "SaaS" are different, the benefits of
using them are similar. The main benefits of both are the time and resource
savings, and the ability to access data remotely.
Cloud Computing or "The Cloud" refers to the practice of having software
applications hosted at a secure location on the internet, rather than at your
own facility. Having applications hosted on The Cloud reduces the need to
keep up and maintain applications and servers, saving the IT person
considerable time and resources. Usually cloud computing is a broad term,
referring to the larger scheme of software setup, rather than just one
Which option is best for your city? It's hard to know the answer without
understanding the difference between these three terms.
Chapter 4
Deciding Between In-house/Installed, the Cloud, or SaaS
In-house Software is, just as it states, software you install on one of your
own servers, which may then be networked to other computers at your
company. Using In-house software typically offers the benefit of more
control and often reduced costs. Again though, keep in mind that you will be
100% responsible for creating and testing your own backups. Installing
updates and upgrades is also up to you. Maintaining current hardware is also
required for your In-house Software to run optimally.
Really the decision whether to use SaaS, Cloud Computing and/or In-house
Software depends on how much control you need, your IT resources
available, and your budget.
Using software in The Cloud, or as a service, has its risks. Your information
may be more vulnerable, since information is stored and transmitted via the
internet. If something goes wrong with the company hosting your data, you
will want to be sure your data is safe. When your data is hosted elsewhere,
there is somebody else besides you in control of backing up your data, so be
sure to check into how they are handling that. Make sure you are
comfortable with the frequency with which they back up your data, and also
the procedures they use. Minimize risk by carefully reviewing the company
you choose, and by making sure they are a trusted partner, rather than an
unfamiliar vendor.
Best Web Sites for Your
Fund Accounting and Payroll
Software Search
The most helpful web resources available for free, to
help you narrow down to a
short list of vendors.
Chapter 5
Best Web Sites for your Accounting Software Search
This is an excellent web site for finding all varieties of business software.
First, you select the type of software you are seeking, and then you narrow
down your search by checking criteria specific to that software. You can
also narrow your search by location, revenue, number of employees and
your budget. Capterra has put great care into making their site user-
friendly and practical for any municipal software search, including
accounting and payroll software. For those of you who prefer to submit
your requirements, you can fill in a form and submit it, and have software
vendors submit their quotes to you—at no cost to you.
This is an excellent web site for your accounting software search. You can go
in and browse software by application (general ledger, payroll, etc.) or by
industry. You can also fill in a quick, three-step questionnaire and/or call to
speak with a software specialist to have vendors receive your information and
contact you. This service is free to software searchers. They do a thorough job
of asking the right questions and finding you appropriate products that fit
your budget and requirements.
Below are some of the most useful web sites for narrowing down your
software search. When you choose to take a huge step in the right
direction, and look at a fund accounting package, these sites
will save you and your team considerable hours of frustration!
The Most Effective Way to Evaluate a
Fund Accounting and Payroll System
Learn how to make the most of your time and reach
the best decision for your city.
Chapter 6
The Most Effective Way to Evaluate a Fund Accounting
and Payroll System
Attend a live demonstration.
Some software companies offer
potential users the opportunity to
join a demonstration of their
software, whether it’s via the
internet or in person. This can be a
beneficial use of your time, since you
can watch an expert navigate
through the system, with the ability
to ask questions along the way. After
all, who is better at showing you the
system than a system expert?
Attending a demonstration is a
must-do for the purchase of any
software system!
View product videos.
Watching a video about your potential software is a good way to get to know
the system and in general, what it has to offer, including some of its features
and the user interface. The downside of product videos is that you can’t
search for the features you are seeking, or see how the product works. It is a
great way to get a general feel for the system, which can be extremely
There are several ways to test out your new system. Being aware of what
is available will help you choose the right method for you and your
Chapter 6
The Most Effective Way to Evaluate a Fund Accounting
and Payroll System
Fully functioning trial software version.
Some software vendors offer a trial version of their software for you to try
out. Some software trials are fully functioning versions of the software, and
others are more limited. The advantage to using a software trial version is
that you can really get a feel for how the system works. However, without
some training or at least familiarity with a software system, it’s nearly
impossible to get a true picture of how the software really works.
In a perfect world, you would have the option to use all three of the above to
make your decision. First, view a product video at the start of your software
search, in order to gain familiarity with the system. After that, attend a live
demonstration to get an idea if that system (how it works and its feature set)
is an appropriate option for you and your city. Using these two options
together can be enough to make your decision, but if you still have questions
after that, installing the trial software version can really help. Just be sure
that when you are in the trial version working, there is somebody at the
software vendor company who is willing to help you along the way and
answer any questions that may arise during your evaluation.
Factors that Affect the Cost of
Fund Accounting and Payroll Software
Get an idea of how much accounting systems cost, and
what variables typically affect the cost of accounting
and payroll software programs.
Chapter 7
Factors that Affect the Cost of Fund Accounting and
Payroll Software
There are two types of customization when it comes to fund accounting and
payroll software. One type is more basic and allows you to customize
components within the software. As systems become more robust, more
customization is offered within the system. The other is ‘open source code’
which allows you (actually, a programmer) to customize the program to
meet your needs. The more customization, the more expensive the software
becomes. This is because more resources are needed to plan for and
implement custom programming for your system. The ongoing support of
customized software takes more time and resources, thus the more your
support will cost.
How do you feel as a customer of the software you use? When you contact
the company for help, do you feel important? Or do you feel lost in a sea of
other customers, trying to get your voice heard? Your fund accounting and
payroll software is only as good as its support team. Maybe you need help
setting up your system, trying to find the most efficient way to do something,
or solving a problem that seems to be taking you a long time on your own.
Your software support team should be able to help you with any of these
issues and more. If you have to spend time waiting and hoping for somebody
to call you back, only to realize they are not experienced enough to help you,
that is wasted time and lost dollars. Opt for support that is experienced and
available within a reasonable amount of time. Yes the price tag may be more,
but in the end you will save money and keep things running smoothly.
As with any important purchase you make, many factors should be
considered when purchasing fund accounting software. Every detail and
feature costs money to develop, distribute, support and maintain. Instead of
focusing on price, be sure that the software you choose can handle
your city's specific needs and help you support your community for years to
Tips on Transferring Your Data to a New System
Transferring data from your old system to your new
one may help you get up and running faster. Learn
about ways to improve the data transfer process and
get the data you need to start out.
Chapter 8
Tips on Transferring Your Data to a New System
Which information transfers to the new system?
Which information you can bring from your old system to the new one
depends on what you are able to get out of the old system, and also depends
on how (and IF) that data will fit into your new system. Also, what tools and
or services are available in the new system for you to pull in the data?
Most accounting systems will allow you to pull out a standard set of master
information such as chart of accounts and vendor information. Keep in mind
that you will likely NOT be able to transfer over any of your history when you
are moving to a new program. You may be able to bring in beginning
balances, or you may have to enter that information by hand. Again, this
depends on the capacity of your old and new systems.
Many new systems will provide you with an import wizard, which guides you
along the process of bringing in the master information from your old
system. Before starting the wizard, you will need to be prepared with your
data file, and have it saved somewhere accessible, in the format your new
system requires. This is why it is important to research your export and
import options well ahead of time.
If you are thinking about transferring your data or ‘migrating’ to a new
software system, here are some of the main things to consider.
Chapter 8
Tips on Transferring Your Data to a New System
Transfer data, or start over?
After many years of using a general accounting system, you may find that it
would be more helpful to manually enter your information into the new fund
accounting system, rather than importing it. Entering the data by hand is
time-consuming, but it also allows you to reconsider how you have things
set up, and you can make improvements based on past experience. These
improvements can be beneficial to you and your city for years to come. So
before you decide to import your data, take a closer look at the way you have
your system set up, and see if there’s room for improvement. If so, you
should consider starting in the new system from scratch.
Transfer yourself, or get help from a professional?
Most fund accounting software companies will offer assistance in bringing in
your data to the new system. (Of course, you will still need to provide your
data to them.) Those who can help you with this service are familiar with
their system and can provide expertise and experience you do not have.
Therefore it is highly recommended to use a professional service to help you
bring in your data for you. If there are any issues along the way, a
professional is much more likely to troubleshoot and fix it quickly.
How Do You Know You are Making the
Right Decision?
Ask these questions to help ensure you are choosing
the right system – one that can handle the needs of
your city for years to come.
How Do You Know You are Making the Right Decision?
Did we do a good job of finding out which fund accounting systems are
Did we include all the decision makers, to the extent they need to be
Did we create and use a detailed list of the features needed in a fund
accounting system?
Did we get a demo and test the software sufficiently?
Does this system provide strong value, for the money we are paying?
Does the company provide excellent customer support?
If you answered ‘yes’ to all of the above questions, you should feel confident
in making the decision to purchase the new system.
When your search is done and you and your team are ready to present
to council for approval, answer these questions.
CenterPoint Fund Accounting and Payroll
Handles the Needs of Those Municipalites
Outgrowing General Accounting Software
Sign up for your own
personal demo
of CenterPoint Fund
Accounting and
Payroll Today.
The City of Cleveland has truly enjoyed working with
the phenomenal team that makes up CSA support as
part of our transition to using CenterPoint.
CenterPoint is easy to use, customizable to your
City’s needs and has improved our efficiency
dramatically. We would not hesitate to recommend
CenterPoint and CSA support to municipalities that are
in the market for fund accounting and/or payroll
software. We absolutely love it!
Dominique Green, City Clerk ,City of Cleveland
Free Demo