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Why it’s time for tribes to replace legacy accounting systems

Jun 22, 2022

Many tribes reliant on legacy accounting software packages have been reluctant to change to a new system — one packed with modernized, cloud-based features — for similar reasons: They’re comfortable with the current program they use and are hesitant to take on the expense and learning curve that comes with switching to something new. In a nutshell, change is hard.

But in the near future, when their existing systems start to fail, they may realize that waiting to undertake an overhaul wasn’t a good idea. It would benefit tribal leaders now to start planning in a thoughtful, strategic manner about future needs and software capabilities, rather than being forced to act out of sudden desperation.

Here are some considerations that may help move your thinking about replacing a legacy accounting system:

Labor shortages

Think about the staffing level at your tribe. Many are facing severe labor shortages as experienced people retire in large numbers. Do you have an adequate team of people with accounting knowledge and experience employed by your tribe who understand the nuances of your current system?

Access to technical support

How large and accessible is the software support network that serves your tribe? Some software companies have cut their partnership arrangements with service providers. Do you still have easy access to the technical support you need when your provider goes through its own changes?

Partner support channels have been curtailed

Does your software provider still offer third-party support? Some have curtailed those experienced, dedicated relationships, making it harder for customers to have the immediate access to a knowledgeable troubleshooter that they need.

Outdated technology

Has your software evolved with changes in technology? Are you using cloud-based products that allow for flexibility and remote access? Your new hires won’t be impressed if you’re using 1990s technology. Consider the state of your current technology in attracting new accounting and financial team members.

Access to funding for a limited time

Tribes have been beneficiaries of generous levels of federal funds from the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan. This may be a one-in-lifetime opportunity to access funds for accounting software replacement given that, in typical times, tribal members are competing for scarce resources to assist with housing, food and basic necessities. This recent influx of funds provides an opportune moment to take advantage of that funding and move into the next generation of technology.

The pandemic showed in stark terms how severely businesses were disadvantaged without reliable Internet access or the ability to work in a collaborative, remote work environment. With staff counts continuing to be down, the time is right to address these deficiencies with modern, cloud-based solutions. Meanwhile, the recent influx money from federal programs related to the pandemic pose new accounting challenges that could be overwhelming for some understaffed tribes to manage.

To prepare for implementing a new financial solution, you’ll need a strong foundation in your office that includes increasing your staffing, where needed, and making sure you are up to date with your audits and other accounting requirements.

How Wipfli can help

If your tribal community needs support with its digital financial transformation, Wipfli professionals are available to help. Calling upon deep experience with tribal communities, we can assess the pros and cons of your current accounting systems and staffing situation and discuss solutions that will help you meet today’s challenges. Finding the right technology solution will help with your employee recruitment and retention and strategically help you make sound, more sophisticated financial decisions.

Contact us to discuss how transitioning your financial technology for the future which will help you better meet the needs of the people you serve.

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Lindan D. Elliott, CPA, CISA
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