Computers in Accounting: For the Brave, a New World

Article excerpt

The advent of the microcomputer in the early 1980s stands as a major turning point in how accountants perform their jobs. To a remarkable degree, green eyeshades have been replaced by green screens, and yellow number two pencils have given way to amber-colored debits and credits driven by computer keyboards and the ubiquitous mouse. This explosion in technology is threatening to some in the industry who are more comfortable with old familiar ways. But computerization has also spawned a variety of new career opportunities for the accounting professional.

On the public side, accounting firms will more and more have a need for individuals with in depth computer knowledge in addition to accounting expertise. These computer specialists will set up and maintain computer networks, install new software and keep abreast of hardware and software trends to ensure that the firm is maximizing its return on technology investment. The rapid increase in the number of tax returns filed electronically and the broader availability of CD-ROM based research services will ensure that computer specialists will play an increasingly important role in every CPA firm in the years ahead.

Meanwhile, on the corporate side, another new niche is being created for the computer accounting specialist. Many corporations use off-the-shelf tax preparation packages but adapt the packages to their specific industry needs. A company in the transportation industry, for example, uses an entirely different apportionment scheme than the standard three factor apportionment most companies use. A computer tax specialist must therefore modify the software to fit this need. The same specialist is probably also responsible for bridging data from the company's mainframe system into the tax package, maintaining the company's computer network, analyzing new software acquisitions, and so on. …