Article

The Internet And Its Effects On Accounting Departments

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by David Keller, CPA, CFE - Also by this author

The effect of the internet on accounting departments has created new challenges for many CPA firms and their clients. It has forced dealerships and their CPAs to upgrade their computer systems and software and sometimes even their personnel. All accounting personnel need to be trained to use the internet effectively, whether it is accessing multiple dealership locations, suppliers or financial institutions.

Accounting departments have upgraded their accounting servers to accommodate Microsoft Outlook, Word and Excel. Many departments have had to buy and install network versions of their accounting software. Besides upgrading their software, dealers have upgraded their printers to lasers instead of inkjets, bought network instead of local printers, installed scanners and run network cables to every workstation.

Clients are now able to email accounting information to their CPAs, enabling both the client and the CPA to interact more quickly to review and adjust their accounting records. Examples of emailed files include Excel spreadsheets to help analyze and recap information, text files to import into Excel and other accounting and sales database files.

Many office managers and dealers now access their bank accounts online each day to monitor their cash flow, specifically funding of contracts in transit. They can download cleared deposits and checks from banking software and import directly into accounting software for reconciliation.

Dealerships can email authorization for floor plan and line of credit payments to their lenders or initiate them directly online.

What does all this mean? Can accounting departments and their personnel keep up with these changes? Yes, they can. It starts with training. Many office managers, or other personnel, may need to be trained to understand the basics of new programs and hardware. Some of these may include additional training from local high schools or colleges. Third party vendors or local computer vendors may offer courses or you can learn from someone in your dealership that has more extensive experience. Your accountants can also train personnel to utilize all the features of your accounting software, such as bank reconciliations, memorized transactions, custom reports, and detail general ledgers, to improve the efficiency of the accounting department. Unfortunately during the process of training, it may become necessary to replace employees who are unable or refuse to learn the new job duties.

Using communication software such as PC Anywhere, VPN, VNC and terminal services connections anyone you authorize may access your data from anywhere that has an internet connection. This enables real time analysis of your dealership data with your accounting personnel. The internet also lets you download the data to other software or third party vendors you have authorized to receive your data.

Some dealerships scan documents into PDF or other type of image files and store them on servers. Sending PDF files by email is an efficient and simple way to transmit data without the cost of a long distance phone call used by your fax machine. For the most part, these documents are also easier to read than faxes. They also do not have to be printed, but can be reviewed on the screen and stored electronically by anyone you send them to for future reference.

Paper takes up space. Hard drive space is much cheaper and easier to deal with than storage buildings and attics where papers have been stored in the past. Purging of records based on retention requirements also becomes much easier to manage in electronic format. An easy way to turn your reports into electronic files is to use Adobe Distiller (not Adobe Reader, which only has the ability to read PDF files) or other low cost PDF freeware programs.

Has the internet really improved your accounting department? I hope so. I know it has improved the methods of communication between dealers and their CPA’s. From our side we are now able to log directly into many of our dealership’s computer systems and review their accounting data as requested. We are able to print tax returns and financial statements to a PDF file format and email them to dealers and their lenders with the client’s permission.

The internet has improved the speed at which data can be exchanged between dealers and those that they wish to communicate with. This allows quicker adjustments when necessary to trends and changes within the industry. Frankly, I don’t know how we ever got along without the internet.
 
Vol 3, Issue 5

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