Windows accounting - is it worth it? (The CPA & the Computer)by Quigg, H. Daniel
Is Windows the Answer?
Little did I know at the time, but Microsoft was developing and promising a graphical interface for DOS. The long awaited Windows 3.0 product heralded a rise to productivity and ease of use (at least according to Microsoft). Accounting software manufacturers on the whole were slow to embrace Windows as standard claiming it did nothing to improve accounting software. After all, there are so many ways to put a number in. If you make it Helvetica 12 point type, it is still a number.
The user community keeps pushing, however, and accounting software developers slowly acquiesced. Today we are expecting a proliferation of Windows-based accounting solutions. Great Plains recently released the Dynamics product line. Macola, Platinum, Open Systems, Solomon, and State of the Art have all announce Windows-based software. Do Windows- based applications actually improve accounting? I have pondered this question for several years and have gone back and forth on the issue. To the average CPA, there are numerous issues to consider.
* Overhead. Windows adds an element of overhead that can slow an application down. This decrease in performance is highly dependent upon the application and the hardware.
* Additional Hardware Requirements. Windows requires at least four megabytes of RAM to run efficiently. If you will be doing multitasking with multiple windows, the RAM needs expand to at least eight megabytes. Minimum processor requirements would be a 486SX, but expect to use a 486DX to achieve good work station performance. Fortunately, computer and RAM prices have dropped; making the requirements less of a strain on corporate budgets.
* Data Entry. Windows still uses some different keystrokes to accomplish data entry tasks. For example, the <TAB> key is typically used to move from field to field. To use this, a clerk doing data entry with a number pad must use both th right and left hand. More programs such as Dynamics offer the same user the option of using <Enter> to change fields.
* Consistent Design. Windows compliant applications must use the same interface. For example, File and Edit are always the first two options on pull-down menus. Studies have shown that this enables the typical Windows user to know an average of five applications while the average DOS user knows three applications.
* Data Integration. More capability is being added to share information acros Windows applications. Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) allows one Windows applicatio to pass information back and forth to another Windows application. Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) allows a Window application to embed another Window application. For example, in order entry, an estimator could pull up an Excel spreadsheet containing a quoting model and attach it to the order. A commercial screen printer could pull up a graphics package and embed the art image in the service order. The possibilities are endless. The future holds that all Windows applications will be objects that can be launched at will by other Windows applications ensuring the ultimate in productivity.
* Graphics. We've heard tennis star Andre Agassi say, "Image is everything." Putting pizzazz into numbers makes information stand on end and say, "Notice me!" A graph to represent trends can speak volumes in data representation. The Windows graphical engine makes this process significantly easier and more powerful than DOS counterparts.
* Object-Oriented Development. More and more tools are coming out today that can allow, not only programmers, but users to design their own applications. Windows aids in this process by providing a "drag-and- drop" approach to design. This can cut application design time by as much as 50%. It also puts applications into the hands of the user. Dynamics uses a version of its own Dexterity product called the Modifier to make changes to a screen. The Windows version of Solomon will include a subset of Visual Basic. Platinum has come up with its own tool sets in the SeQueL to Platinum products.
* Client/Server Future. Like it or not, the graphical interface is at the forefront of most new client/server development. CPA's will either have to change along with the technology or be left behind.
Windows-based computing has evoked strong emotional reactions on the part of many accountants. The objective CPA should review where the application is most appropriate in a Windows environment and consider the ramifications associated with making it work. Windows is showing up on more and more desktops. CPAs and consultants will be forced to deal with Windows-based products.
The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.
©2009 The New York State Society of CPAs. Legal Notices
Visit the new cpajournal.com.