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Accounting system quandry: which for your clients?

Thee widespread dissatisfaction among accountants today with software solutions cries out for remedy. Some practices' clients have spent big bucks on systems touted to them as "solutions" which have only turned out to be miserably inadequate.

Accountants are very much aware of the fact that computer capabilities are advancing at light speed while software solutions crawl at turtle-pace. A common complaint by accountants is, "With more and better computer tools available today, why can't they solve the problems of our clients?"

Even if an accountant does find a software package that's right for the client, it's often not compatible with the software used in his or her practice. Virtually every major accounting firm in the U.S. today uses either Lotus, Excel or some other spreadsheet product - yet, must continuously type in data from the client into the spreadsheet. Why? The fault lies in the base upon which most packaged accounting systems are built - their programming language and environment.

Languages that are 3GL-based, the heart of most accounting software packages, also have inherent restrictions which diminish their productivity and limit their adaptability to new environments. Some examples of this given below. * It takes a skilled technical programmer to make the

simplest modifications of applications based on 3GLs. * Because of this technical requirement for making

changes, many suppliers market their products as

"not modifiable packages," limiting the end-user's

flexibility! * Applications which are 3GL-based don't allow for

easy integration of multiple new technologies into

existing products - technologies like Image Processing,

Workstations and Relational Data Base Technologies. * 3GL-based applications often cannot easily share data

with other environments and applications. The end-user

is greatly restricted in coming up with a family

of customized products.

For years, business organizations have struggled with these restrictions because they had to. No one could show them a practical alternative. Plus, they had plowed countless dollars into 3GL-based product lines.

What were they supposed to tell top management: "We bet on the wrong horse?" "Our firm was mistaken?"

With the evolution of 4GL products, you'd think accounting firms would be better off. But that hasn't panned out either for the most part. Developers have just not come up with suitable packages because they're too expensive, too technical in developed application and too limited to particular machines, to operating systems or database environments. Suppliers have tended to focus their efforts on "niche" markets for which their own products are ideally suited.

What accountants must look for as they move forward from 3GL is for a 4GL that solves the inherent 3GL shortcomings, yet enables them to advance. The 4GL technology accountants need must allow for modifications for the client's unique needs, allow instant communication with the accountant's computer and be flexible enough to incorporate new technologies easily as they become available and at an affordable price.

Roger D. Sparks, of Corona del Mar, California, is an independent consultant and former vice president for Concept Omega, of Somerset, New Jersey. He has been installing and supporting computerized accounting systems in the U.S. and abroad for more than 20 years.
COPYRIGHT 1992 National Society of Public Accountants
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Computers & Accountants; software solutions
Author:Sparks, Roger D.
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Date:May 1, 1992
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