Magazine article The CPA Journal

Choosing Flexible Off-the-Shelf Accounting Software

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Choosing Flexible Off-the-Shelf Accounting Software

Article excerpt

More companies are realizing that on-going process improvement is key to remaining competitive in the 1990s. On-going process improvement is the dedication to continuously fine-tuning the processes that contribute to quality and productivity throughout the organization.

Information management, and accounting systems in particular, are already being influenced by the demands of ongoing change. For example, companies used to change their mainframe accounting packages every seven to 10 years. Later, accounting systems on minicomputers were changed about every five years.

Today, upgrades of high-end, off the-shelf general accounting software are released regularly, with a high percentage of users implementing the upgrades. Some of these programs are strong in customization, so they can be tailored to meet specific industry and organization needs.

As a result of these trends, choosing a general accounting software package depends on more than an organization's size, user base, and operating requirements as they are now. An important factor is how easily the software can be customized and upgraded to meet future needs and future hardware and software developments.

Until quite recently, these goals tended to be mutually exclusive. Software that could be easily customized could not be easily upgraded, and vice versa. But new developments have made it possible to modify source code and easily upgrade accounting software and, more recently, to upgrade software without modifying source code.

The most flexible accounting packages now make it possible for users to add their own processing criteria and data to screens that are logically linked to the processing of the application software, and provide reports based on the combination. They make data accessible for use with other development tools. And, they work with other developers to produce complementary products.

So, what are the characteristics of a flexible, adaptable, and easy-to-customize off-the-shelf general accounting package? Here are some answers:


While there is much disagreement about how to define client/server architecture, there is significant agreement about its benefits. Chief among these is flexibility. Client/server architecture is the most flexible computing architecture yet, because it uses a collection of relatively inexpensive components.

Typical components of a network-based computing system include: workstations, file servers, hard drives, network interface cards, database server software, etc. Changes in configuration can be made in small increments, without replacing a large, expensive, centralized mainframe or minicomputer.

To get the most from client/server architecture, software must be designed to take advantage of this modular design. Accounting software that is "optimized for client/server architecture" strategically divides the workload between the workstation, the central database, and the server to improve system speed and performance.

Client/server architecture also makes it possible and cost-effective to allow different office locations to be linked electronically and to adapt to changes in the physical location of hardware due to office moves and organizational restructuring.

Client/server architecture is scalable because it provides a logical growth path. As the organization grows, more users can be added to the system just by adding more workstations to the network Since each workstation has its own processor, the computing power of the other users is not diluted as significantly as in a shared processor system. …

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