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Yearly Archives: 2016
The pros and cons of ERP systems in the cloud
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems like SAP, Oracle, or JD Edwards have been influencing business processes for the last three decades. At one point, however, the market was overly saturated, as corporate-wide systems like ERP were only affordable for large companies. For small and medium enterprises, ERP systems were unaffordable, and the value added (i.e. costs saved) through their use debatable.
With cloud technology in the mix now, ERP systems have moved to the cloud. SAP S/4 HANA, for instance, is an offering that runs on the cloud, seemingly providing the most powerful type of information system to businesses large and small. With all technological advances, though, the grass is not always greener. In his blog post about the pros and cons of cloud ERP, Forrest Burnson gives a comprehensive overview what factors should enter the decision-process when a company starts considering adopting cloud ERP systems.
Do you know what chart type to use in Excel?
In our book, we discuss the history and use of spreadsheets in accounting, chief amongst them Microsoft Excel. Management accountants in particular rely on the graphical depictions of data and information that Excel offers. However, all too often my Excel students in year 2 of their A&F programmes seem to be unsure what kind of chart type is best to illustrate what kind of information. In this blog post by Ryan Dube, he does not only explain when to use the most common chart types, but also provides hands-on examples on how they are to be created. It is highly recommended not only to have a good read, but also apply what he shows in Excel.
Blockchain – a public ledger for all transactions
Bitcoin, the digital currency, has taken the world of financial transactions by storm. Its decentralized nature cuts out the typical financial intermediaries like banks or brokers, and is used directly between the trading parties. As such, it is not only used for purposes like enabling trade and financial transactions in areas where this is not possible, such as some emerging economies; it is not only useful to link people to trade that have not been able to even get a bank account to do so; it has also notoriety as the go-to currency for illegal activities via the Dark Web, such as gun or drug trade.
Foregoing its ambiguous nature, bitcoin can become (or already is) a powerful new financial reflection of trading that is not limited by barriers or financial intermediaries. From an accounting point of view, its decentralized nature begs the question how these are recorded, and how these records can be trusted. The answer is blockchain, a distributed database of of a continuously growing set of records (blocks) that are difficult to be tampered with, and that are clearly identified as to who and when did the transaction. In this blog post by Karlin Lillington, she describes the blockchain idea, and how this system of ledgers might supplant the traditional financial transaction system using financial intermediaries.
The impact of technology on the accounting and bookkeeping profession
In past blog posts, we have often talked about the impact of cloud technologies on businesses, especially small and medium ones. The anytime-anywhere access to information and data, the enabling of the paperless office, the real-time response rates and collaboration possibilities are (to put it simply) almost endless! In this blog post by Nicholas Pasquarosa, he details how accounting firms might change if they themselves move their operations and processes to the cloud. Not only does it support flexibility and speed of operations, but enables a direct link with their customers, especially if they are also “in the cloud”.
Gotta catch them all – how Pokemon Go gets your data
If you thought that people had their eyes glued to their smartphone screens all the time, then you might not have noticed, but Pokemon Go is all the hype right now. This mobile game applies augmented reality to superimpose little virtual creatures on real buildings, streets, even your own living room. So these days, you see people trying to catch them all, even in the Vatican
or a TV studio!
From Nintendo’s point of view, Pokemon Go is not only a very lucrative renewal of a media franchise that was already very successful in the 1990s, but also a way to collect massive amounts of data of the players. The location data alone provides the company with movement patterns that – in some cases – may show exactly when an individual was where at any time during the day. In this blog post by Bernard Marr on Forbes, he clearly warns that although such games may seem harmless, they hide the fact well that users are giving away their data far too easily without much further consideration. George Orwell’s dystopian view of the future in 1984 – Big Brother is watching you – has become a reality by now. With the only difference that Big Brother’s work is cut out for him.
Old-school data security – the floppy disk is alive and kicking
Accountants have an inherent interest in corporate data, and as such, its security and privacy. In our book, we write about the newest technologies, including cloud computing, where we claim that the cloud can provide a measure of security to companies that the companies themselves would be unable to garner. However, not always is the newest technology the only way to go – in this article on BBC Tech, the author explains how the good old floppy disk, in spite of swan songs having been sung for decades by now, is still alive and kicking. Why is that? Why do organisations like the Pentagon or manufacturing companies keep using this seemingly outdated format? In short, the floppy disk has proven age-resistant, nigh impossible to hack (unless it is lost and found by unauthorised third parties), and usually found in systems that are very cumbersome and costly to update.
So it is one thing to appreciate the newest of technologies, but one should never forget or discard the old ones! As accountants, we should not forget that – for some businesses, it might be better to stick with the old.
Spreadsheet news – There are 6 new functions in Excel 2016!
With the fairly new cloud-delivery model, many subscribers of Office 2016 will have received news and updates of their selected products over the last couple of months. One that captured my immediate attention announced 6 new, quite useful functions in Excel 2016. They are:
- TEXTJOIN: joins text strings in a simpler way than the CONCATENATE-function; very useful for address or email lists;
- CONCAT: this replaces the old CONCATENATE function, and works in a similar fashion than its predecessor;
- IFS: this is a great new function, as it helps avoid the need for nested IF-statements that can become quite lenghty;
- SWITCH: provides a similar use to IFS, but works to a different logic. An expression is evaluated against a list of values, and specifies return values specific to each value;
- MAXIFS/MINIFS: the newest additions to the family of COUNTIFS, AVERAGEIFS, and SUMIFS functions; these work similar to MIN and MAX, but can be tied to conditions to be met.
This Office blog post here provides more detail on the new functions, as well as further links to the individual functions.
At the same time, this is a very good example how SaaS models can help update software on an ongoing basis without the need to roll out fully new versions. Of course, this requires a stronger attention by accountants to new developments in their area of expertise.
A big hack
As you may know, hacking is always a threat in information systems. Every few months we hear of one. The latest reported by Reuters is a hack of millions of mail accounts – mainly mail.ru, but some Google and Yahoo accounts.
So what is the one simple step to protect your mail account – change the password regularly 🙂
Accounting graduate, you need IT!
I sometimes get the chance to chat with practitioners and employers, and when the conversation gets to accounting graduates and their IT skills, they more often than not flinch. Poor understanding of IT in general, and of Accounting Informations Systems in particular, is a detriment to an accounting graduates CV. As Megan Lewczyk details in her blog article “Don’t Let the Completeness and Accuracy of System-Generated Reports Be a ‘Leap of Faith“, accountants do not have the luxury of leaving all things IT to the IT staff. As the shepherd of corporate information, an accountant needs to understand, interact with and impact the systems that provide that information, be it for financial or management accounting purposes, be it for auditing or analytics – the accountant should not get relegated to a mere receiver of system output.
What does the cloud actually look like?
When peers refer to “the cloud” in cloud computing, it often seems a vague and intangible concept. It seems “the cloud” is a place somewhere around us, above us, or far away, that does not have shape, size, or touch. However, the cloud is very much tangible, as this blog post by Emily Anne Epstein shows – instead of a fluffy white shape, the cloud is very much made of cables, servers, and housed in entire buildings.