Systems Accountant


#1

Systems accountants have come into their own with the advancement of software for accounting so why is there littel known about them and why are they left behind in specialist training?
A good description of the work of a systems accountant is: A Systems Accountant analyses financial information needs for organisations by reviewing existing systems and working out the best way to meet those needs through the design of new systems. (The Good Guides, 2007).

They are tasked with providing support to key decision makers and be the interface between the business and technology/systems. (mycareer.com.au, August 2007)

What I was interested in was to see if there was a degree that was targeted at this as my own faculty offers nothing. I have trawled the Internet and can find nothing so wonder why this is? Is it that type of accounting has no Kudos? The need for this type of accounting in my opinion is very high and with the ever complex software that is available I think this area will develop.

It would be good if a systems accountant could outline how they have arrived at this position in their career and why they chose this path.


#2

I am not a systems accountant but I did read the previous post and thought that I would run it past the systems accountant at my company to get his view as to why this was his career path. He is in his mid 30’s.

Interestingly he started in IT. Firstly studying for a degree and then moving in to forensic IT work for one of the big four. Oddly he did not find this work challenging so he moved across in accountancy and trained as an ACCA. Having qualified he was encouraged to combine both skills and found that a system accountant’s work allowed him to do so. The one area where he stressed he could combine IT, forensic and accounting was in SOX. This work has a strong focus on systems and ensuring that they prevent fraud. The IT skills also allow him to be able to support the accounting team when the software needs explanation or there is a new addition. He seems to view the work as a way of combining skills.

When asked if there was any specific training in this area he said that he had been researching this himself and had drawn a blank Not sure how people will be able to enter this type of accountancy if education does not promote it.


#3

Again also I am in no way an IT professional in itself I have become increasingly aware that understanding information technology is a crucial part of an accountant job. I don’t think this is much of a problem for the new accountants who are coming to university now as information technology as part of their day-to-day work but the older generation may well find it a struggle to keep up. I’ve also noted that many companies are recruiting information technology specialists also have some accounting knowledge which may definitely open up options for IT professionals to become specialists in the specific area and I’m guessing demand greater salaries. Has anyone seen any specific degree courses that offer this type of skill set? Or is it a case of completing an extra unit somewhere along the lines? Nice one would be interested in increasing my information technology skills as I think it’s a way that we can set ourselves apart from the older members of the profession who have decades of experience that we cannot compete with.


#4

Stella

There are a number of degrees that combine accountancy and IT but I think it is much more a question of what the IT module(s) incorporate. It is not just a basic knowledge that is required as a Systems Accountant, but much more a question of understanding how the use of IT can be seen to be of value in the smooth running of an accounting system.
On Saturday I was talking to an MBA student who holds a BSc in Computer Systems and Forensics and this would certainly bode well in terms of the area of being a systems accountant, but he brought back into focus the discussion over MBA’s being taken before any business experience is obtained. He is undergoing three modules at present which are organisational behaviour, finance and HR. With no knowledge of finance he is out of his dept, yet if only he could master that the path of being a systems accountant would b open to him as the organisational behaviour element would tie in well. Yes he would need to qualify as an accountant but tat could be done “on the job”. How one trains and the modules that are undertaken will create a good accountant but care must be taken as the place of a Systems Accountant is vital.


#5

I was discussing this particular area with a partner in one of the top 10 practices and it was interesting to see how much emphasis he placed on the need for systems accountants in his are of specialism. He was a senior audit partner but now is in the field of Corporate Governance in which his company now has a separate division. As this area grows the need for businesses to close the door on areas of perceived weakness is paramount. On of these weaknesses is the way in which information is passed internally and the way in which accounting information is distributed and indeed overlaps in many areas. The information can be distorted and thus the channels of information need to be clear and unadulterated and a systems accountant is vital. Add to that the need for good accounting software application and use and it is evident that the systems accountant has a solid future.


#6

I have read all that precedes and feel it important to try and build the full picture of a Systems Accountant.

A Systems Accountant analyses financial information needs for organisations by reviewing existing systems and working out the best way to meet those needs through the design of new systems. They are tasked with providing support to key decision makers and be the interface between the business and technology/systems.
They contribute to the implementation of change processes within the Financial Services department in a period of rapid development and change in Information systems and Technology. This role is predominantly a project oriented role, and centres upon delivering successful information systems which will deliver significant benefits to the organisation.

They may also provide additional services such as budgeting and performance monitoring, furthermore helping to ensure that a business runs in a smooth and efficient manner.

They can be independent business advisers, who help their clients to build and develop their businesses, offering an extensive range of services. (

Other challenges include project management of extensive projects (

Furthermore, Systems Accounting measures, disclosure or provision of assurance about financial information system that helps managers, investors, tax authorities and other decision makers make resource allocation decisions.

From the aforewritten it is clear that there are two areas to be concerned with - systems and accounting. To add to this a Systems Accountant will give strong support to a Business Analyst.

The challenges faced by the Systems Accountant are many and varied and thus this type of role suits somebody with a “grasshopper mind”. No day will ever be the same.

It is form the above difficult to see how one degree will fit there requirements and thus I think that a bachelors and a masters will best suffice.


#7

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.