Friday, 29 February 2008

Where Have You Been All My Life?

Sometimes my job can be so gratifying. One of the accounting staff came into my temporary office today saying those immortal words, "Where have you been all my life? I have just entered a stack of wire transfers. In our old system that would have taken me all afternoon."

As part of the training for the new system, we had come up with a way for the wire transfers to be entered in one transaction which created an invoice and payment in Accounts Payable as well as updating the General Ledger and Bank Reconciliation file using Microsoft Great Plains' Quick Cheques. The solution will also work in any currency and the staff member can even override the exchange rate on the fly.

But the important part isn't the "gee whiz" of new technology, it's that this staff member now has an afternoon available for higher value activities because she no longer has to do all the mechanical tasks associated with the old system. Makes you think how much your old system is costing in terms of lost productivity, doesn't it?

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Accounting Software Consultants - Get Agile!

Agile Software Development has been around since the mid 90's and is gaining acceptance. If you implement mid-range packaged accounting software, like Microsoft Dynamics, you really need to look at this methodology. It is characterized by:

  • Customer satisfaction by rapid, continuous delivery of useful software
  • Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months)
  • Working software is the principal measure of progress
  • Even late changes in requirements are welcomed
  • Close, daily cooperation between business people and developers
  • Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication
  • Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
  • Simplicity
  • Self-organizing teams
  • Regular adaptation to changing circumstances
The reality is that however detailed they may be, specifications documents never deal with all of the actual requirements. For example, it is a very rare spec that includes how to handle data entry errors, yet these are an important part of every system. What you really need is a process that puts the customer, the implementer and the developer at the same table, each constantly helping the others understand the requirements on the one hand and the system capabilities / limitations on the other.

I would argue that this approach should extend to training as well. Classroom training set up in a generic, simple company with prepackaged exercises that always work has a limited usefulness in my experience. It is more useful for clients to deal with their own system and learn to solve their own problems. For example, one of my clients does an international consolidation of numerous subsidiaries. Instead of designing a training course around the consolidation, I chose one subsidiary and converted it in a test environment. Then I sat with the two analysts and we did one together. As we finished each step, one of the analysts took a screen capture and annotated it in Word for our documentation. Finally, the analysts each did their own companies, with me available for questions. As we hit setup, data and security issues, we solved them together. The analysts came away with a better understanding of the configuration of their system than they would have had it been a pre-packaged demo that ran perfectly.

What do you think?

Saturday, 23 February 2008

X-Treme Accounting - A Little Fun

OK, I was having a little fun with the idea of an XBox game for accountants, but it has a serious side to it as well. You will find it here.

In another posting, I sent an open letter to comment on Mayor of Toronto, David Miller's musings on saving money by combining the IT departments of the Toronto Police, the Toronto Transit Commission and City Hall.

Just a little accounting humour to warm up the cold days of February!

Accountants Helping Clients with Technology

AccountingWeb just published the results of a survey by their British counterpart that should be read by Canadian accountants interested in technology.

While in spirit accountants might like to get involved with e-business, the reality of their current knowledge and workload means that only a small minority are able to help clients take advantage of new technology opportunities.

E-Commerce is no longer new or bleeding edge technology. Many main stream large companies depend on web traffic for a significant part of their revenues. Accountants have an important role to play in this area: adding their business savvy to the technological solution. Let me give you an example. A former client was building an internet portal which would serve as the middle man between customer and manufacturers. Their goal was to provide a streamlined, 24/7 service in exchange for a small fee added to each transaction. Our company was engaged to import the resulting transactions into the accounting system. The implementer, an accountant, asked the key question, what happens if the customer wants to cancel the order. Simple, replied the technology consultant, we just reverse the whole transaction. Does that mean that the company gives up its transaction fee? asked the implementer. Certainly not! replied the client and a major system rewrite was initiated.

Information Technology is like any other specialty for accountants. It requires a large investment of time to gain the specialized knowledge and you have to keep renewing it. But it's worth it!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

New Blogger at AccountingWeb

I'm now officially a member of the blogging crew at AccountingWeb. You can find my first post at on sales analysis using Excel Pivot Charts.

AccountingWeb is targeted at the American accounting market, so I will continue with this blog so that I have a place to post about Canadian issues.