I initially started as an internal audit clerk while studying part time for a diploma in state accounts and finances. During this period 1980’s the opportunity arose to become an accounting control officer on a new mainframe program used to disseminate the cash accounts of the various retail outlets. The need arose to understand the mainframe programs and all transaction surrounding this. This lead to my interest in accounting packages and lead to being appointed as system accountant of the mainframe and was involved with integration of the cash account mainframe with a new ERP system. Naturally in the 1990’s we moved away from the slow mainframe to daily batch driven automated integration with the ERP system, and then added touch screen terminals. We had two System Accountants at the time one for the ERP system and myself became more involved in the integration between the retail point of sales system and the ERP system ensuring speedy accurate integration.
There after I moved to a new company in 2008 to manage their ERP system. The profession I believe has evolved out of necessity from a paper based accounting practice to that of the automation of accounting profession, over the past 30 years or so, and thus has gone very much undetected from tertiary institutions.
My current role is that of catalyst between the ICT staff, Business and mostly the Finance division, providing system security of the ERP system, data integrity, advise to business on best system practices to ensure correct reporting, providing enhancement requirements to the ICT department, testing and sign-off of enhancements, period closure and integrity analysis, first line support to all ERP users including finance staff and maintenance to UDC tables, etc.
I believe a system accounting section needs not only the system accountant but also a small team of at least two persons (depending on the size of the organization your servicing). One would be responsible for system security reporting to the system manager on any transgression and ensuring the security roles protect the organization from segregation of duty transgressions and the second team member supports the effort to maintain data integrity, UDC tables and is responsible for cleaning old data as result of the ever changing organization.
Most CFO’s still can’t grasp the concept of a system accountant and it could be that as the profession is still in it’s infancy stages that it is not included in their tertiary training. The question raised is often “are you not doing an ICT function?” However very few IT professions have the accounting knowledge to perform the system accountant role.
Having been in the growth of this profession, which was mainly born out of necessity during the evolution of Accounting systems, I’m now faced with the dilemma approaching retirement as to who replaces me as very few of the youngsters have gone through the career growth I have and secondly there is no schooling preparing the youth for this profession.
In my experience the correct person for this type of profession should have an enquiring mind with the inborn ability to spot the difference between two pictures, and should be able to sit down with business and analyze business processes to document them into a requirements document that can be interpreted into a technical specification by ICT development staff. Attention to detail and the analytical capability to almost like a programmer foresee control requirement needed by an enhancement.
I believe those of us in this profession need to band together to ensure the profession is registered and regulated and introduced at tertiary institution else the bulk of us that have developed these skill will soon no longer be part of the working force. The profession is challenging and requires a special skill of being the glue that brings together Business, ICT & Finance. My whole career I had to accept that once all others go home my tasks still need to be completed, as daily closure, sales updating, etc. all take place over night.
It’s a very satisfying profession for those that are willing to give of themselves, but in the 21st century I believe most of the support and monitoring can occur from home and one would only need to be in the office for meetings and enhancement documentation workshops.