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Moving to electronic plan submittal and review: Three things to consider

06.14.16

Online banking? Check.
Online shopping? You bet.
Online permit application submittal? What? Actually, yes.


As Americans are becoming more and more accustomed to performing everyday functions online, local governments are evolving and keeping up with the times. This online evolution is coming in the form of implementing modern enterprise applications with electronic workflow and a public-facing portal that allows residents to apply for permits, submit documentation, pay for, and collaborate with local government staff to perform a variety of processes.

One area of recent focus is the online submittal and routing of electronic planning and permit applications, and supporting plans and drawings. This effort is often driven by a desire to expand e-government offerings available to the public, while also realizing internal efficiencies through electronic workflow and simultaneous review, and a reduction in paper usage.

If you were to take a tour of most City or County Building, Planning, or Development Departments, in many instances you would see bins containing rolls of large (24”x36”) scale drawings that support planning (e.g., subdivision, rezoning, etc.) or permit (e.g., new family residential dwelling, accessory building, etc.) documents. With local government agencies receiving hundreds of paper applications each year, the internal driver for moving to an electronic submittal and review environment is evident. Additionally, when it is understood that the applicant develops these documents in a Computer Aided Design (CAD) system prior to printing, and are also required to submit applications in-person during business hours, the need for simplified online processes is even more pressing.

On the surface, moving to an electronic application submittal and review platform may appear pretty straightforward. However, like any major process and technology change there are several major considerations. Here are three that each agency should look at prior to starting an electronic application submittal and review project.

  1. Change to Current Business Processes
    Current processes related to application submittal, completeness review, routing to reviewers, consolidation of review comments, and return of comments and mark-ups to applicants are paper intensive.
    • Are current processes designed around paper submittals?
    • Will reviews be simultaneous or sequential? Should this change?
    • How will electronic copies be distributed to reviewers? How about third-party reviewers?
    • How will comments be consolidated and returned to the applicant?
    • Will plans be submitted online and/or in person via USB/CD?
  2. Change to Current Policies
    Current policies are most likely based on a paper plan set being received, routed, and archived. It is very likely that these policies will require updating with a change to electronic submittal and review.
    • Will plans be required to be submitted electronically? For some case types?
    • Will a hard copy plan set still be required?
    • How will final plans be archived?
    • Will an additional fee be charged to offset equipment and hardware costs?
    • Will the fee schedule incentivize electronic submittals?
    • Will staff be required to perform their mark-ups electronically?
  3. Change to Technology Tools
    Drafting tables, light tables, red pens, and rulers are common tools used to support a paper-based environment. Electronic submittal and review will require a different set of tools.
    • Does your current planning/permitting system have the tools to support an electronic workflow?
    • What software and hardware tools will staff use to complete their review?
    • Will all reviewers be required to complete their reviews electronically?
    • How will revised plans be provided to an applicant (e.g., portal, email, etc.)?
    • How will signatures and stamps be applied to electronic plans?
    • How will resubmittals and multiple versions of plans be managed?

Transitioning to an electronic plan submittal and review environment may seem overwhelming, but when done correctly the benefits can be significant. BerryDunn can assist with answering questions related to transitioning to an electronic plan submittal and review environment. Get more information on how BerryDunn can help your agency navigate this here.

Related Industries

Because we’ve been through this process many times, we’ve learned a few lessons and determined some best practices. Here are some tips to help you promote a positive post go-live experience.

The road to go-live is paved with good intentions. When an organization identifies a need to procure a new or upgraded system, that road can be long. It requires extensive planning, building a business case, defining requirements, procuring the system, testing it, and implementing it. Not to mention preparing your team to start using it. You’ve worked really hard to get to this point, and it feels like you’re about to cross the finish line. Well, grab some Gatorade because you’re not quite there yet. Post go-live is your cool-down, and it’s an important part of the race.

Preparation is key.
If you haven’t built a go-live plan into your overall implementation plan, you may see stress levels rise significantly in the days and weeks leading up to go-live. Like a runner prepares for a big race, a project lead must adequately prepare the team to begin using the new system, while still handling unexpected obstacles.  While there are many questions you should ask as you prepare to go live, you need to gain buy-in on the plan from the beginning and manage it to ensure follow-through.

Have your contract and deliverables handy.
Your system vendor implementation team will look to hand you off to their support team soon after go-live. It is crucial that you review all of the deliverables outlined in your contract to ensure all of the agreed-upon functionality is up and running, and all contracted deliverables have been provided and approved. Don’t transition to support until you’ve had enough time to see the system through significant processes (e.g. payroll, month-end close). In the period immediately after go-live, the vendor implementation team is your best resource to help address these issues, so it’s a good idea to have easy access to them.

Encourage use and feedback.
Functional leads and project champions need to continue communications past go-live to encourage use and provide a mechanism for addressing feedback. Employing change management best practices will go a long way in ensuring you use the system properly — and to its best capabilities.

Plan ahead for expanded use and future issues. 
Because a system implementation can be extremely resource-intensive, it is common to suppress or forgo functionality to implement at a later date (e.g., citizen and vendor self-service). In addition, we sometimes see issues arise during significant operational milestones (e.g., renewal processing, year-end close). Have a plan in place to decide how you will address known and unknown issues that arise.

While there is no silver bullet to solve all of the potential go-live woes, you can promote a smooth transition from a legacy system to a new system by implementing these tips. The time you spend up front will help offset many headaches down the road, promote end-user engagement, and ensure you’re getting the most from your investment.

Article
We're live! Now what?

Read this if your organization operates under the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 93 Replacement of Interbank Offered Rates

Summary

With the global reference rate reform and the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) disappearing at the end of 2021, GASB Statement No. 93 was issued to address the accounting and financial impacts for replacing a reference rate. 

The article below is focused on Hedging Derivative Investments and amendments impacting Statement No. 87, Leases. We have not included guidance related to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate or the Up-Front Payments. 

Background

We have all heard that by the end of 2021, LIBOR will cease to exist in its current form. LIBOR is one of the most commonly used interbank offered rates (IBOR). Now what?

In March 2020, the GASB provided guidance to address the accounting treatment and financial reporting impacts of the replacement of IBORs with other referenced rates while maintaining reliable and comparable information. Statement No. 93 specifically addresses previously issued Statements No. 53, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Derivative Instruments, and No. 87, Leases, to provide updated guidance on how a change to the reference rate impacts the accounting for hedging transactions and leases.  

Here are our analyses of what is changing as well as easy-to-understand and important considerations for your organization as you implement the new standards.

Part 1: Hedging Derivative Instruments

The original guidance under Statement No. 53, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Derivative Instruments, as amended, requires that a government terminate a hedging transaction if the government renegotiates or amends a critical term of a hedging derivative instruction. 

Reference rate is the critical term that differentiates Statement No. 93 from Statement No. 53. The newly issued Statement No. 93 provides an exception that allows for certain hedging instruments to hedge the required accounting termination provisions when the IBOR is replaced with a new reference rate. 

In order words, under Statement No. 53, a modification of the IBOR would have caused the hedging instrument to terminate. However, Statement No. 93 now provides an exception to the termination rules as a result of the end of LIBOR. According to Statement No. 93, the exception is allowable when: 

  1. The hedging derivative instrument is amended or replaced to change the reference rate of the hedging derivative instrument’s variable payment or to add or change fallback provisions related to the reference rate of the variable payment.
  2. The reference rate of the amended or replacement hedging derivative instrument’s variable payment essentially equates to the reference rate of the original hedging derivative instrument’s variable payment by one or both of the following methods:
    • The replacement rate is multiplied by a coefficient or adjusted by addition or subtraction of a constant; the amount of the coefficient or constant is limited to what is necessary to essentially equate the replacement rate and the original rate
    •  An up-front payment is made between the parties; the amount of the payment is limited to what is necessary to essentially equate the replacement rate and the original rate.
  3. If the replacement of the reference rate is effectuated by ending the original hedging derivative instrument and entering into a replacement hedging derivative instrument, those transactions occur on the same date.
  4. Other terms that affect changes in fair values and cash flows in the original and amended or replacement hedging derivative instruments are identical, except for the term changes, as specified in number 1 below, that may be necessary for the replacement of the reference rate.

As noted above, there are term changes that may be necessary for the replacement of the reference rate are limited to the following

  • The frequency with which the rate of the variable payment resets
  • The dates on which the rate resets
  • The methodology for resetting the rate
  • The dates on which periodic payments are made.

Many contracts that will be impacted by LIBOR will be covered under Statement No. 93. The statement was created in order to ease with the transition and not create unnecessary burdens on the organizations. 

Part 2: Leases

Under the original guidance of Statement No. 87 Leases, lease contracts could be amended while the contract was in effect. This was considered a lease modification. In addition, the guidance states that an amendment to the contract during the reporting period would result in a separate lease. Examples of such an amendment included change in price, length, or the underlying asset.  

Included within Statement No. 93, are modifications to the lease standard as it relates to LIBOR. In situations where a contract contains variable payments with an IBOR, an amendment to replace IBOR with another rate by either changing the rate or adding or changing the fallback provisions related to the rate is not considered a lease modification. This modification does not require a separate lease. 

When is Statement No. 93 effective for me?

The removal of LIBOR as an appropriate interest rate is effective for reporting periods ending after June 31, 2021. All other requirements of Statement No. 93 are effective for all reporting periods beginning after June 15, 2022. Early adoption is allowed and encouraged. 

What should I do next? 

We encourage all those that may be impacted by LIBOR—whether with hedging derivative instruments, leases, and/or specific debt arrangements—to review all of their instruments to determine the specific impact on your organization. This process will be time consuming, and may require communication with the organizations with whom you are contracted to modify the terms so that they are agreeable to both parties.

If you would like more information about early adoption, or implementing the new Hedging Derivative Instruments or Leases, please contact Katy Balukas or Grant Ballantyne.
 

Article
The clock is ticking on LIBOR. Now what?

Read this if your organization operates under the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

GASB Statement No. 96 Subscription-Based Information Technology Agreements

Summary

GASB Statement No. 96 defines the term Subscription-Based Information Technology Agreements (SBITA) as “a contract that conveys control of the right to use another party’s (a SBITA vendor’s) information technology (IT) software, alone or in combination with tangible capital assets (the underlying IT assets), as specified in the contract for a period of time in an exchange or exchange-like transaction.”

GASB Statement No. 96 determines when a subscription should be recognized as a right-to-use subscription, and also determines the corresponding liability, capitalization criteria, and required disclosures. 

Why does this matter to your organization?

In 2018, Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Accounting Standards Updated (ASU) 2018-15: Cloud Computing Arrangements for Service Contracts, and we knew it would only be a matter of time when a similar standard would be issued by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). Today, more and more governmental entities are purchasing software in the cloud as opposed to a software that is housed locally on their machine or network. This creates the need for updated guidance in order to improve overall financial reporting, while maintaining consistency and comparability among governmental entities. 

What should you do?

We are going to walk through the steps to determine if a SBITA exists—from identification through how it may be recognized in your financial statements. You can use this step-by-step guide to review each individual subscription-based software to determine if Statement No. 96 applies.

Step 1: Identifying a SBITA

There is one important question to ask yourself when determining if a SBITA exists:

Will this software no longer work/will we no longer be able to log in once the contract term ends?

If your answer is “yes”, it is likely that a SBITA exists.  

Step 2: Determine whether a contract conveys control of the right to use underlying IT assets

According to Statement No. 96, the contract meets the right to use underlying IT assets by:

  • The right to obtain the present service capacity from use of the underlying IT assets as specified in the contract
  • The right to determine the nature and manner of use of the underlying IT assets as specified in the contact

Step 3: Determine the length of the subscription term

The subscription term starts when a governmental entity has a non-cancellable right to use the underlying IT assets. This is the period during which the SBITA vendor does not have the ability to cancel the contract, increase or decrease rates, or change the benefits/terms of the service. The contract language for this period can also include an option for the organization or the SBITA vendor to extend or terminate the contract, if it is reasonably certain that either of these options will be exercised.

Once a subscription term is set, your organization should revisit the term if one or more of the following occurs:

  • The potential option (extend/terminate) is exercised by either the entity or the SBITA vendor 
  • The potential option (extend/terminate) is not exercised by either the government or the SBITA vendor
  • An extension or termination of the SBITA occurs 

If the maximum possible term under the SBITA contract is 12 months or less, including any options to extend, regardless of their possibility of being exercised, an exception for short-term SBITAs has been provided under the statement. Such contracts do not need to be recognized under the Statement and the subscription payments will be recognized as outflows of resources. 

Step 4: Measurement of subscription liability 

The subscription liability is measured at the present value of the subscription payments expected to be made during the previously determined subscription term. The SBITA contract will include specific measures that should be used in determining the liability that could include the following:

  • Fixed payments
  • Variable payments
  • Payments for penalties for termination
  • Contract incentives
  • Any other payments to the SBITA which are included in the contract

The future payments are discounted using the interest rate that the SBITA charges to your organization. The interest rate may be implicit in the contract. If it is not readily determinable, the rate should be estimated using your organization’s incremental borrowing rate. 

Your organization will only need to re-measure the subscription liability is there is a change to the subscription term, change in the estimated amounts of payments, change in the interest rate the SBITA charges to your organization, or contingencies related to variable payments. A change in the discount rate alone would not require a re-measurement. 

Step 5: Measurement of subscription asset

The SBITA asset should be measured at the total of the following:

  • The amount of the initial measurement of the subscription liability (noted in Step 4 above)
  • If applicable, any payments made to the SBITA vendor at the beginning of the subscription term
  • The capitalized initial implementation costs (noted in Step 6 below)

Any SBITA vendor incentives received should be subtracted from the total.

Step 6: Capitalization of other outlays

In addition to the IT asset, Statement No. 96 provides for other outlays associated with the subscription to be capitalized as part of the total subscription asset. When implementing the IT asset, the activities can be divided into three stages: 

  • Preliminary project stage: May include a needs assessment, selection, and planning activities and should be recorded as expenses.
  • Initial implementation stage: May include testing, configuration, installation and other ancillary charges necessary to implemental the IT asset. These costs should be capitalized and included in the subscription asset.
  • Operation and additional implementation stage: May include maintenance and troubleshooting and should be expensed.

Step 7: Amortization

The subscription asset are amortized over the shorter of the subscription terms or the useful life of the underlying IT assets. The amortization of the asset are reported as amortization expense or an outflow of resources. Amortization should commence at the beginning of the subscription term. 

When is this effective?

Statement No. 96 is effective for all fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2022, fiscal and calendar years 2023. Early adoption is allowed and encouraged.

Changes to adopt the pronouncement are applied retroactively by restating previously issued financial statements, if practical, for all fiscal years presented. If restatement is not practical, a cumulative effect of the change can be reported as a restatement to the beginning net position (or fund balance) for the earliest year restated. 

What should you do next? 

With any new GASB Standard comes challenges. We encourage governmental entities to re-review their vendor contracts for software-related items and work with their software vendors to identify any questions or potential issues. While the adoption is not required until fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2022, we recommend that your organization start tracking any new contracts as they are entered o starting now to determine if they meet the requirements of SBITA. We also recommend that your organization tracks all of the outlays associated with the software to determine which costs are associated with the initial implementation stage and can be capitalized. 

What are we seeing with early adoption?

Within the BerryDunn client base, we are aware of at least one governmental organization that will be early adopting. We understand that within component units of state governments, the individual component unit is required to adopt a new standard only when the state determines that they will adopt.

If you are entering into new software contracts that meet the SBITA requirements between now and the required effective date, we would recommend early adoption. If you are interested in early adoption of GASB Statement No. 96, or have any specific questions related to the implementation of the standard, please contact Katy Balukas or Grant Ballantyne

Article
Our take on SBITA: Making accounting for cloud-based software less nebulous

Read this if your organization operates under the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

GASB Statement No. 97, Certain Component Unit Criteria, and Accounting and Financial Reporting for Internal Revenue Code Section 457 Deferred Compensation Plans (GASB 97) addresses specific practice issues that have arisen related to retirement plans. The standard can be roughly divided into two parts, each of which focus on a different aspect of governmental retirement plan accounting. 

Part 1: Component units

Over the years, GASB has wrestled with clarifying exactly what entities should be included in a set of stand-alone financial statements. In general, it defined a financial reporting entity as a stand-alone government and all entities for which it is financially accountable, known as component units. One of the many situations where the government is financially accountable for another entity is where the majority of the entity’s board is appointed by the government. 

GASB 97 clarifies that when the entity has no governing board and the government performs the functions that a board would normally perform, the consideration of consolidation should be the same as if the government appointed a voting majority of a hypothetical governing board. This portion of the standard is consistent with previously issued implementation guides. 

What is new is that GASB 97 creates an exception, allowing defined contribution pension plans, defined contribution OPEB plans, and certain Section 457 plans who do not have a board to be excluded from consideration as a component unit. While GASB believes that it would be appropriate to include them like other entities, they listened to stakeholders who voiced their concerns about the costs of presenting defined contribution plans as component units. Their research showed that most stakeholders do not use information related to defined contribution plans presented as component units of governments, although if the government controls the assets, such information is more valued. GASB decided to balance the costs of preparation with the usefulness of the information.  

Additionally, for the purposes of determining component units, the government is not considered to have a financial burden for defined contribution pension plans and defined contribution OPEB plans that are administered through trusts. 

What should you do? 

First, the intended impact is that there will be fewer defined benefit plans presented as component units. If you currently present a defined benefit plan as a component unit, you may be able to save money by excluding them from the government-wide financial statements. 

Second, if you currently report a defined contribution plan that is administered through a trust as a component unit, you should reassess whether that is still considered a component unit. Remember, even if it is not a component unit, GASB Statement No. 84 Fiduciary Activities may still require it to be included in the financials if the primary government controls the assets. 

When does this apply? 

These changes are effective immediately. 

Part 2: Section 457 plans

Back in 1997 when GASB Statement No. 32 was issued, GASB did not believe it likely that plans established under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 457 would be pension plans because at that time, most Section 457 plans did not have employer contributions. In the more than twenty years that have passed since then, the IRC and characteristics of some of these plans have changed, forcing GASB to reconsider their classification. With the issuance of GASB 97, the board stated that it believes Section 457 plans could indeed be pensions. Therefore, Section 457 plans which fit the definition of a pension trigger the same reporting requirements of any other pension plan. 

What should you do? 

If your governmental organization has an employee benefit plan under Section 457, you should take the following steps: 

First, determine whether the plan is a “pension plan” or not. Pension plans provide retirement income or other postemployment benefits such as death benefits, life insurance, and disability benefits. Pensions do not include postemployment healthcare benefits and termination benefits. 

Despite the common usage of “pension” to mean only defined benefit plans, the statement is clear that the term “pension plan” includes defined contribution plans as well.

If the plan fits this definition, proceed to the next step. If not, this statement does not impact you. 

Second, if your Section 457 plan meets the definition of a pension plan and either issues its own standalone financial statements or is included in the financial statements of another government, those financial statements should include all financial reporting requirements that are relevant to pension plans. 

Generally, this means that GASB Statement No. 68 Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions (GASB 68) and all its related disclosure requirements are applicable, although there are some plans that don’t fall within GASB 68’s scope where GASB Statement No. 73 Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions and Related Assets That Are Not within the Scope of GASB Statement 68, and Amendments to Certain Provisions of GASB Statements 67 and 68 applies instead. The additional requirements will not look the same for all entities; defined benefit and defined contribution plans have different reporting requirements and their footnote disclosures will differ. 

When does this apply? 

The requirements related to Section 457 plans apply to fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2021. Some stakeholders requested that GASB delay the adoption due to COVID-19, but the GASB believes that the adoption date they set provides sufficient time for adoption. 

What else do you need to know? 

If your retirement plan falls within the scope of this pronouncement, you may have new costs to deal with, including potentially having to consult with an actuary to develop a model to prepare the new disclosures if you have a defined benefit pension. Fortunately, the GASB believes that most of the additional disclosures will relate to defined contribution pensions which have simpler note disclosures. 

If you would like more information or have questions about your specific situation, please contact Nathan Dunlap or Grant Ballantyne. We’re here to help.
 

Article
GASB 97: What's new, what to do, and what you need to know

Read this if your organization operates under the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

Along with COVID-19 related accounting changes that require our constant attention, we need to continue to keep our eyes on the changes that routinely emerge from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). Here is a brief overview of what GASB Statement No. 93, Replacement of Interbank Offered Rates, Statement No. 96, Subscription-Based Information Technology Arrangements, and Statement No. 97 Certain Component Unit Criteria, and Accounting and Financial Reporting for Internal Revenue Code Section 457 Deferred Compensation Plans, may mean to you. If you want more detail, we’ve included links to more analyses and in-depth explanation of what you need to know now.

GASB 93

We have all heard that by the end of 2021, LIBOR will cease to exist in its current form. In March 2020, the GASB provided guidance to address the accounting treatment and financial reporting impacts of the replacement of interbank offered rates (IBORs) with other referenced rates, while maintaining reliable and comparable information. Statement No. 93 specifically addresses previously issued Statement Nos. 53 and 87 to provide updated guidance on how a change to the reference rate impacts the accounting for hedging transactions and lease arrangements.  Read more in our article The Clock is Ticking on LIBOR. Now What?

GASB 96

GASB Statement No. 96 defines the term Subscription-Based Information Technology Agreements (SBITA) as “A contract that conveys control of the right to use another party’s (a SBITA vendor’s) information technology (IT) software, alone or in combination with tangible capital assets (the underlying IT assets), as specified in the contract for a period of time in an exchange or exchange-like transaction.”

GASB Statement No. 96 determines when a subscription should be recognized as a right-to-use subscription, and also determines the corresponding liability, capitalization criteria, and required disclosures. Learn why this matters and what you need to do next: Our Take on SBITA: Making Accounting for Cloud-Based Software Less Nebulous.

GASB 97

GASB Statement 97 addresses specific practice issues that have arisen related to retirement plans. The standard is roughly divided into two parts—component units and Section 457 plans—each of which focus on a different aspect of governmental retirement plan accounting. Help your organization gain an understanding of the standard with our article GASB 97: What's new, what to do, and what you need to know.

If you have questions about these pronouncements and what they mean to your organization, please contact Grant Ballantyne.

Article
Update for GASB-governed organizations: Lease accounting, LIBOR transition, SBITA, and Section 457 plans

Read this if your organization, business, or institution has leases and you’ve been eagerly awaiting and planning for the implementation of the new lease standards.

Ready? Set? Not yet. As we have prepared for and experienced delays related to Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Accounting Standards Codification Topic 842, Leases, and Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 87, Leases, we thought the time had finally come for implementation. With the challenges that COVID-19 has brought to everyone, the FASB and GASB recognize the significant impact COVID-19 has had on commercial businesses, state and local governments, and not-for-profits and both have proposed delays in effective dates for various accounting standards, including both lease standards.

But wait, there’s more! In response to feedback FASB received during the comment period for the lease standard, the revenue recognition standard has also been extended. We didn’t see that coming, and expect that many organizations that didn’t opt for early adoption will breathe a collective sigh of relief.

FASB details and a deeper dive

On May 20, 2020, FASB voted to delay the effective date of the lease standard and the revenue recognition standard. A formal Accounting Standards Update (ASU) summarizing these changes will be released early June. Here’s what we know now:

  • Revenue recognition―for entities that have not yet issued financial statements, the effective date of the application of FASB Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 606, Revenue Recognition, has been delayed by 12 months (effective for reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2019). This does not apply to public entities or nonpublic entities that are conduit debt obligors who previously adopted this guidance.
  • Leases―for entities that have not yet adopted the guidance from ASC 842, Leases, the effective date has been extended by 12 months (effective for reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2021).
  • Early adoption of either standard is still allowed.

FASB has also provided clarity on lease concessions that are highlighted in Topic 842. 

We recognize many lessors are making concessions due to the pandemic. Under current guidance in Topics 840 and 842, changes to lease contracts that were not included in the original lease are generally accounted for as lease modifications and, therefore, a separate contract. This would require remeasurement of the new lease contract and related right-of-use asset. 

FASB recognized this issue and has published a FASB Staff Questions and Answers (Q&A) Document, Topic 842 and Topic 840: Accounting for Lease Concessions Related to the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Under this new guidance, if lease concessions are made relating to COVID-19, entities do not need to analyze each contract to determine if a new contract has been entered into, and will have the option to apply, or not to apply, the lease modification provisions of Topics 840 and 842.

GASB details

On May 8, 2020, GASB issued Statement No. 95, Postponement of the Effective Dates of Certain Authoritative Guidance. GASB 95 extends the implementation dates of several pronouncements including:
•    Statement No. 84, Fiduciary Activities―extended by 12 months (effective for reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2019)
•    Statement No. 87, Leases―extended by 18 months (effective for reporting periods beginning after June 15, 2021)

More information

If you have questions, please contact a member of our financial statement audit team. For other COVID-19 related resources, please refer to BerryDunn’s COVID-19 Resources Page.
 

Article
May 2020 accounting standard delay status: GASB and FASB

Read this if you are planning for, or are in the process of implementing a new software solution.

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is more than just another step in the implementation of a software solution. It can verify system functionality, increase the opportunity for a successful project, and create additional training opportunities for your team to adapt to the new software quickly. Independent verification through a structured user acceptance plan is essential for a smooth transition from a development environment to a production environment. 

Verification of functionality

The primary purpose of UAT is to verify that a system is ready to go live. Much of UAT is like performing a pre-flight checklist on an aircraft. Wings... check, engines... check, tires... check. A structured approach to UAT can verify that everything is working prior to rolling out a new software system for everyone to use. 

To hold vendors accountable for their contractual obligations, we recommend an agency test each functional and technical requirement identified in the statement of work portion of their contract. 

It is also recommended that the agency verify the functional and technical requirements that the vendor replied positivity to in the RFP for the system you are implementing. 

Easing the transition to a new software

Operational change management (OCM) is a term that describes a methodology for making the switch to a new software solution. Think of implementing a new software solution like learning a new language. For some employees, the legacy software solution is the only way they know how to do their job. Like learning a new language, changing the way business and learning a new software can be a challenging and scary task. The benefits outweigh the anxiety associated with learning a new language. You can communicate with a broader group of people, and maybe even travel the world! This is also true for learning a new software solution; there are new and exciting ways to perform your job.

Throughout all organizations there will be some employees resistant to change. Getting those employees involved in UAT can help. By involving them in testing the new system and providing feedback prior to implementation, they will feel ownership and be less likely to resist the change. In our experience, some of the most resistant employees, once involved in the process, become the biggest champions of the new system.  

Training and testing for better results

On top of the OCM and verification benefits a structured UAT can accomplish, UAT can be a great training opportunity. An agency needs to be able to perform actions of the tested functionality. For example, if an agency is testing a software’s ability to import a document, then a tester needs to be trained on how to do that task. By performing this task, the tester learns how to login to the software, navigate the software, and perform tasks that the end user will be accomplishing in their daily use of the new software. 

Effective UAT and change management

We have observed agencies that have installed software that was either not fully configured or the final product was not what was expected when the project started. The only way to know that software works how you want is to test it using business-driven scenarios. BerryDunn has developed a UAT process, customizable to each client, which includes a UAT tracking tool. This process and related tool helps to ensure that we inspect each item and develop steps to resolve issues when the software doesn’t function as expected. 

We also incorporate change management into all aspects of a project and find that the UAT process is the optimal time to do so. Following established and proven approaches for change management during UAT is another opportunity to optimize implementation of a new software solution. 

By building a structured approach to UAT, you can enjoy additional benefits, as additional training and OCM benefits can make the difference between forming a positive or a negative reaction to the new software. By conducting a structured and thorough UAT, you can help your users gain confidence in the process, and increase adoption of the new software. 

Please contact the team if you have specific questions relating to your specific needs, or to see how we can help your agency validate the new system’s functionality and reduce resistance to the software. We’re here to help.   
 

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User Acceptance Testing: A plan for successful software implementation