Accountants ditch Word, Excel to ease reporting

The firm ditched trusty Microsoft Word and Excel formats in favour of a streamlined software to align its account operations

The struggle to produce both annual and half-yearly financial accounts with optimum accuracy and consistency is no easy feat, even more so using only a trusty Word document and Excel spreadsheet, as staff at Leydin Freyer Chartered Accountants well know.

The small to medium sized firm produces approximately 20 sets of accounts per half and full financial year which were, until recently, produced manually using the Microsoft programs.

The company’s IT manager, Campbell Jordan, told Computerworld Australia it became clear the firm needed a product that could produce financial reports for a range of entities, including small proprietary limited companies right up to the publicly-listed companies.

“We were doing it manually on Excel and Word, and that was producing some inconsistent results plus we don’t have a big IT department, which was also producing some problems from a software point of view, so we needed a total solution that would give us consistency,” he said.

According to Jordan, the integration element of having all the information in more than one area was the main culprit in creating account inconsistencies.

The firm’s administration hours are extremely high during the half and full-year reporting periods of December and June, which Jordan said often resulted in staff working “more than full time” on the accounts.

“We were prompted to find new software when we took on some new clients for the December year end, which we had to do within a very short timeframe so the accounts would be out on time,” he said.

Despite considering a number of vendors, Jordan said none gave him quite the output to match the firm’s requirements and decided on CCH’s Financial Reporter software.

“We had been using other CCH products, notably their engagement program in audit, and we knew they were developing this software in conjunction with FRS [financial reporting services] so we contacted them and said could we have a look at it and start on board with them," he said.

"We knew the FRS software and we knew that was the one that gave us the output we were looking for.

“It was really the only one that gave us output that we felt was up to scratch because it’s a fairly technical area and there’s a very diverse range of companies that you have to deal with so you have to be able to deal with the smallest company or some of the larger public companies.”

Implementation, while not overly lengthy, was a technical and involved process, Jordan said, with the product still needing some development before it went out to market.

“One of the challenges that we came up against was getting it to work in our environment which was obviously much less controlled than their very controlled environment,” he said.

“It was sort of a deployment and development process at the same time and we were sort of a test site of what a small to medium firm would go through.

“One of the problems we immediately ran into was the IT environment and the software environment were on different versions of Office and Windows that created environment problems at our end that they hadn’t experienced in their environment and this made them realise they had to make it much more robust for distribution.”

According to Jordan, throughout implementation CCH responded well to any problems encountered with 24-hour, seven-day support.

“It probably took about a month to implement but that included development time as well where we ran it through some of our companies, loaded those up and had a look,” he said.

“Then we started doing the companies live and that’s really where most of the issues came up and was a pretty good testbed to find out where there was problems, where things were done the way we needed them and where they weren’t.”

With the production of its draft June accounts well under way, Jordan said the firm will save on average of a couple of weeks time spent on each account.

“The time is going to be a great saving, plus the accounts will be very consistent and fully compliant, and that was one of the issues we had when doing it manually, you’ve got to go back and check everything you’ve done manually against the accounting standards and the requirements whereas all that is built into this software,” he said.

Looking back, Jordan said much more planning could have taken place with regards to looking at individual clients and their needs.

“I think you’ve got to get the planning right and know your clients and what they’ve got and how they can implement it best.”

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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