Multi-user Software Tool

Multi-user accounting software should provide designated task managers with a tool to see:

  1. Who is using the system
  2. Which files are open

There are obvious reasons for this especially when a process is unable to be performed.  Accounting software written using the bbj programming language facilitates this tool using the Enterprise Manager.  Below are two examples of identifying which users are currently on the system and which files are in use.

emterprise_manager_1    A

(click on pics to get clearer view)

emterprise_manager_2    B

Screenshot A shows the list of users when the BBJ PROCESSES option is highlighted.

Screenshot B shows the list of files open and the BBJ Users who have them open.   Both tasks have an option that allows the Enterprise Manager user to delete or kill the BBJ user process highlighted as well as individual instances of open files.

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Executive Summary Information

A good accounting system should provide for the executives of a business easy-to-digest snapshots of the business. They may be the cash-flow for the day, top 10 customers, top 10 items, among others. See these example snapshots below:

top_10_customers

 

top_10_items

 

daily_stats

 

ar_analysis

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Graphics and Charts

Users of modern accounting systems now expect to see graphical charts embedded in the system. Below is an example of  twelve month sales versus profit for a customer shown in columnar digital format as well as with a line chart. For number crunchers, the columnar look satisfies, but for those who need to see things visually, the graph adds that dimension.

graph_1

 

This next graph shows a selected customer’s year-to-year sales:

graph_2

 

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Drill Downs

Accounting software is no longer text laden and dull looking. With high speed processing, gigabyte measured RAM  and terabyte filled storage capacity, accounting software is presented in slicker fashion. One expects to see spreadsheet features and graphs built into reporting. In this post, we concentrate on drill downs.

One product generates an A/R aging report as a print preview in summary format. In the example below, note that the customer id is colored in blue and underlined to offset it against other pieces of data on the row.

drill_1
When you click the customer id, it  brings up a separate print preview that drills down and shows the supporting
detail (as shown below)

drill_2

This allows the report user to first review the information in summary format eliminating the need to weed through several pages and only then bring up the extra detail on demand.

 

Another facet of drill down is to look at a summary transaction such as in general ledger and click it to drill down to the sub-journal source detail. Take a look at this GL transaction screen:

drill_3

Note that on the fifth row, the figure of -3500.00 is in blue. This indicates it is eligible for detail scrutiny. To do so, one double clicks the field, and a second screen pops up showing the supporting detail (as shown here):

drill_4

In the above example, the summary line indicates cash is withdrawn from the bank due to A/P check writing. The supporting detail indicates the check info.

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Lotted vs Serialized Inventory

An accounting system should accommodate both lotted and
serialized inventory control. Serialized inventory is used most
often when tracking small quantity big ticket items. Examples
are: automobiles, boats, jewelry, etc.

Each item is assigned a unique serial number. It is important than the order maintenance process be able to track the serial number and save it to sales history for possible recall once it is invoiced.

Lotted inventory is more often used where government mandates
the keeping of records of the lot number of the product. This is
especially important when selling food and other perishable items
such as chemicals. It is common to track the expiration dates on
lotted inventory.  There may be several individual pieces of the same inventory number assigned a common lot number.

Some businesses use lot numbers to identify inventory held in
stock for specific customers. This is in an environment where the
customer expects the supplier to warehouse their inventory
until it is needed.

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Prox Terms

It is not unusual for a business to assign Prox Terms for customers. This is the fancy way of saying that you are counting the number of days due from the beginning of the next month instead of from the invoice date.

Examples:

Net 30 Prox on an invoice generated on July 6 is due August 30. If you give the customer Net 30 Regular, then it is due August 5 as there are 31 days in July.

Net 10 Prox means that you are giving the customer 10 days
from the start of the next month. If you invoice the customer on June 30 with a Net 10 Prox, it is due as soon as July 10.

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Affordable Care Act and Payroll

insurance_policy

Due to recent actions by the Federal Government, human resources departments must now also track compliance at both the employee and company level with the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The Payroll module in accounting software facilitates periodic payments to employees, keep track of withholding obligations and taxes and prepare W2s. A side benefit is that hours entered
into an employee’s time ticket may also be able to update a job cost database or vice versa. In effect, killing two birds with one stone.

There is also the human resources side of employee relations. This portion of the database keeps track of incidentals about an employee as well as tracking pay raises, anniversaries, sick and vacation time, etc.
ACA tracking issues are:

1) Is the employee considered eligible for a low-cost health insurance policy?
2) Does the employee have his or her insurance through the company or through a partner’s or spouse’s policy?
3) Has the employee rejected owning insurance and is willing to pay the penalty?
4) Is the company at risk for paying penalties for non-compliance?

Most payroll or even human resource modules in accounting systems do not currently address these issues.  The Federal Government may eventually make it mandatory for businesses to generate specially designed forms and submit quarterly or annually just as they do 941s and W-3s. When this comes to a head, expect that accounting systems will provide this as standard feature. Until then, expect to maintain customized, ancillary data in order to tabulate the required reports.

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Machine Capacity

cnc_grinderMachine Capacity is the knowledge required by a manufacturer to gauge how efficient they are in being able to process orders on (most likely) a daily basis. It is NOT a function in a traditional accounting system but a tool used as a byproduct of setting up bills of material in the manufacturing process.
There are three components that go into figuring daily machine capacity:
1. Capacity in hours
2. Standard number of minutes it takes to make one product unit (or SAM)
3. Average Line efficiency

Let’s say you have three machines and you run them 8 hours a day. That gives a maximum of 24 machine hours.

Let’s also say it takes a normal half hour run to make 30 widgets. That averages out to one minute a widget, or 60 in a full hour.

Finally, let’s say your line efficiency is 75%. Your daily capacity, then, is: 60 widgets an hour x 3 machines = 180 widgets max per hour x 8 hours = 1440 x 75% efficiency = 1080 widgets daily capacity.
This means you can take in orders for 1080 widgets that will allow you to turn it over and bill in a day’s time. If you are taking in orders only for 500 widgets a day, then you are running at half capacity.

Average line efficiency is dependent on the number of machine operators, how many hours they work as opposed to maximum hours available to run the machines, how many pieces are produced and the standard number of minutes it takes to make one unit.

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Windows or Linux?

A fair question to ask when overhauling your company’s computer system is: Do we buy a Windows or a Linux server?

The answer: Depends on your needs.

A Linux server is the popular choice when running web-related applications such as html and php-based websites. More often large-scale web hosting companies promote their linux-based servers as very reliable and they usually are.  Sites that use ASP script programming and .Net languages generally use Windows Servers.

Most web-based open source applications, though, are written in PHP. This usually refers to readily available, non-fee licensed programs that can be taken and enhanced as required. There are many software programming  entities that distribute open source products and charge only for the assistance with installing and tweaking the programs. After all, nobody provides service for free.

Office productivity software such as word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications are designed with the Windows operating system in mind. There are variations of these products that run on Linux but don’t have anywhere near the market share.

In a business where there is not a staff of computer engineers or technicians available to deal with the immediacy of day-to-day issues, it probably makes more sense to stick to a Windows server.

Today’s accounting systems utilize built-in emailing functionality, saving reports and documents to archive folders along with the need for frequently reading and writing to specific files in a designated folder. These are better managed as Windows services than as Linux services.

There are more tech savvy personnel out there who are experienced and readily available to do the necessary forensics in a Windows server environment than in a Linux environment, especially for heavy user-dominated applications. Additional layers of  configuration are required for Windows workstations to communicate with a Linux server as opposed to the more shared history of Windows workstations to Windows servers.

If something needs attention on a website, most users expect that the webmaster’s team of Linux professionals will take care of the problem. But in a wordprocessing or spreadsheet emergency, most users don’t want to deal with and wait for a high level techie. They expect someone in their own workgroup to be able to see what is happening on the server. This is so much easier to do when action on the server looks pretty much like working on one’s own workstation. On a linux box, most often the user must go to a # prompt and enter arcane commands such as grep, ls -l, and chmod.

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Customer File Format

A customer master record in an accounting system should at a minimum contain the following:

id, company name, address1, address2, address3, city, state, zip, phone, fax, contact, terms, taxable, taxing authority, tax exempt id, credit limit, credit hold and sales rep.

Each of the above fields should be assigned a maximum number of characters so that it is easier to plot reporting as well as accesibility and readability outside the system. The id field should be a fixed length capable of accepting alphanumeric characters.

A search on a customer should be available by: id, company name, phone number.   Low cost accounting software solutions such as QuickBooks tend to downplay the need for using a customer id thinking that most users prefer the name lookup. It is better, though, to have an id with a fixed length to make record extraction outside the system easier to coordinate. Low cost solutions, however, tend to discourage accessing data outside the system. Use of a shortened specific customer id makes it easier to link customers to open invoice and sales history records for quicker access on reports and screen inquiries as well as taking up less data storage space as a field in those related records.

Text in some acounting systems are case sensitive. For example, a search on Alpha Baking Company is not the same as ALPHA BAKING COMPANY. There may be only one customer record as such, but the software user may be forced to try variations on mixed case and spelling to find the customer.

A good system should also allow for user defined fields that may be added and reported on.

A business needs to weigh the limitations of low cost software solutions against the need to be flexible with system reporting.

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