Document Management System in Accounting

In this article, we seek to identify the tangible business results that a good document management system in accounting could produce. We look first at the kinds of accounting, then at the documents generated in accounting and finally examine how a document management system could produce business results.

What Is Accounting?

We could see three broad pictures of accounting: -Financial Accounting is the recording, classification, summarization, interpretation and communication of financial information about a business. This information is used by investors, lenders and tax officers as well as the managers of the business -Management Accounting involves identification of key business result areas and developing systems to measure, analyze and communicate information (not confined to financial information) that helps managers of the business to make informed business decisions for improving the profitability and growth of the business -Accounting Practice is the provision of accounting related services such as auditing and tax consultancy by professional accountants to their clients. Other terms for accounting, such as cost accounting (part of management accounting), fall under one or other of the above broad classifications.

Documents Generated in Accounting

Financial Accounting: -Sales and Purchase Invoices with supporting shipping and other documents -Different kinds of evidential documents for cash receipts and payments -Documents supporting other kinds of business transactions (like returns of purchased or sold items) -Documents supporting accounting adjustments (like year end accounting of accrued expenses and income) -Contracts, agreements and correspondence that clarify the terms and conditions on the basis of which ofthe above documents have been prepared -Transaction records like Purchase and Sales Registers, Cash and Bank Books and General Journal -Ledgers that classify the transactions under relevant accounts -Accounts lists such as Trial Balance, Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable -Summary results such as Profit & Loss Account, Funds Flow Statement and Balance Sheet -Different kinds of analyses to assess the financial position of the business Management Accounting: -Cost estimates by product, department and cost element -Cost allocation documents that seek to assign cost elements to cost centers, and then to products or services -Cost reports that compare actual costs against original estimates -Analytical reports seeking to identify the reasons for variances between actual costs and estimates -Breakeven analyses to identify Cost-Volume-Profit relationships -Ad hoc analyses highlighting the implications of different business decision alternatives -Other kinds of documents generated by the current practices of product life cycle costing and activity based costing Accounting Practice: -Audit worksheets for each client and accounting year -Audit queries raised and clarifications received from client’s management -Audited accounts and reports thereon -Tax returns supported by computations of taxable income -Documents relating to tax consultancy services -Documents relating to other assignments received from clients -Accounting records relating to the practice itself, similar to those mentioned under Financial Accounting and Management Accounting above, tailored to the special characteristics of accounting practice

Document Management System in Accounting

A good document management system typically results in general benefits like: -More efficient and lower cost storage and retrieval of documents -Limiting access to documents only to authorized persons -Minimizing physical movement of documents. We now look at the specific additional benefits provided by a computerized DMS in different areas of accounting.

Financial Accounting: There was a time when details from original documents were laboriously copied to “books of prime entry” like purchase and sales registers, cashbook and general journal. The transcription process continued with details being copied further into ledgers. Then came the summarization process, additions, extractions, listings, classifications and the final accounts – all done by hand.

Then came computerized accounting and once you entered the data from original documents into the computer database, all the “books” and statements were immediately available. You could print them out, if you wanted, or they could remain in digital format in the computer itself. This was a big change in managing financial accounting documents.

Management Accounting: Just add a few more codes to each document, indicating the cost and other categories it affected, and enter these also into the computer. You could now sort the transactions by these codes and generate management information.

Computers also made it possible to generate extremely elaborate analyses that could not have been made available in a timely manner under manual systems.

Managers could now just sit at their computers and review reports that focused on the particular aspects they are interested in. They could also import information into their own worksheets and process it to analyze aspects not adequately covered by standard reports.

Accounting Practice: The arrival of computers and computerized accounting changed the process of auditing. Audit trails could be specifically programmed. Overall tests for reliability, patterns and trends could highlight problem areas speedily and accurately. Auditors could then focus on these problem spots.

Tax returns could be prepared extremely fast, based on updated tax laws. Reference materials were available on computer media for fast access.

Customer histories were also available in computer databases, improving the quality of work.

Billing for time spent on each assignment could also be made far easier and accurate, and could even be automated to a degree.

Arrival of the Web: With the arrival of universal Internet access and the Web, it was possible to enhance the processes: -Field staff could log in to company databases from anywhere in the world and gather correct and up to date information they need -Accounting practice customers could also similarly log in to their accounts from anywhere, and check their tax returns and other documents securely -Communication and where necessary, collaborative working, could be more effective with the enhanced facilities offered by the Web -Web-based specialist service providers could render services at lower costs than in-house staff in many cases Business Benefits

Speedier processing of routine operations meant that managers and staff now had more time to focus on business result areas. And they could do this in a more meaningful manner based on information generated through elaborate analyses possible with computers. These changes have the potential to increase business volumes.

Improved customer relationships could result with the greater access and support provided to customers.

It was also possible now to reduce costs of operations in different ways, including outsourcing much of the work to specialist service providers.

Greater focus on business result areas, improved customer service and lower costs lead to greater profitability and survivability for a business.

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