Looking Behind the Accounting Curtain: The Accounting Team and Print MIS in the Big Picture
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Looking Behind the Accounting Curtain: The Accounting Team and Print MIS in the Big Picture

The goal of a print management information system in this global picture is to provide accurate, timely information that can be quickly and easily consolidated and organized.

By Gerald Walsh, Director of Product Marketing and Strategy, EFI Inc.

I’ve often related the process of corporate accounting to that scene in the Wizard of Oz where flashing lights, smoke and a deep voice emulate from behind a mysterious curtain: 'I am the all powerful wizard of the corporate number …'

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  • OK, a little theatrical, yes, but we all tend to assign a certain level of “mystery” to the numbers provided by the accounting team. And, in many cases, the mystery is well founded. Many accounting teams are forced to build their financial statements with less-than-perfect data.

    Work-in-process, job costs, payables, cash flow … all of these, and a hundred other factors, impact our financials. And because these statements are often used as the foundation for many executive decisions, the accounting process’ accuracy can have a significant impact on the overall success of a business.

    By definition, the goal of the financial staff is to “account” for what your business has done. The same trends that have provided new challenges for printing executives — shorter runs, more jobs and new processes — have also increased the complexity of the accounting process. In a typical business, literally tens of thousands of information pieces must be collected, organized, analyzed and presented each month in a format that assists management in the business’ guidance.

    The goal of a print management information system in this global picture is to provide accurate, timely information that can be quickly and easily consolidated and organized. The key to this success is an integrated solution that is accurate and efficient. Some of the key elements that support this level of information intelligence are outlined below.

    Avoid Flying Monkeys: Eliminate Processes That Prevent Information Accuracy and Access
    Avoid anything that can slow or prevent information movement. Hand-written notes and forms, for example, can be difficult to read, and can create isolated islands of information. Poorly conceived computer-based processes can also cost time and money. The double or triple entry of information in disconnected systems can cause a business more than you can possibly imagine — a single requirement for a double entry can result in errors, delays and increased costs by tenfold.

    A good management information system should eliminate this duplicity of process, improving workflow while eliminating overruns. EFI, for example, has focused its efforts on the development of a “globally optimized” process, emphasizing information sharing from creation to delivery. Many accounting teams will tell you they spend a good part of their time searching for and validating information. This use of a single, connected pool of information with the ability to “drilldown” to the underlying detail can greatly improve accuracy and speed.

    Follow the Yellow Brick Road:
    Business Processes Require Good Information and Direction

    When you think of an accountant, do you get this picture of someone hiding behind a desk punching numbers into a calculator? According to Baylor Business, “Today’s accountants are critical members of the management team, using their vast knowledge of business, their communication and people skills, and their well-developed technical accounting skills to add value to the business through improved decision making and support.”

    This type of participation in the business process requires the best possible information. The accounting team must have access to reliable data on jobs, customers, vendors, inventories, and employees. Again, the management system’s role in this process is critical. Information technology must provide information intelligence.

    The vast quantity of information collected by a print management information system must be organized and presented in a format that supports decision making. Many do this through reports and queries, with the ability to modify them to answer specific questions. Other solutions have incorporated an enterprise information system to organize and present business data in a visual-dashboard format.

    Using graphs and color-coded charts is an excellent way to present information for quick review. In either case, confidence that the information is complete and accurate is critical to the decision-making process. Any process that requires the team to search though filing cabinets, paper piles or stand-alone spreadsheets only hinders the process, and negatively impacts the outcome.

    The Emerald City of Information:Automation, Integration and Accounting
    How can automation on the shop floor impact accounting? Should an accountant even care about things such as JDF, DMI and CIM? Absolutely!

    Any process improvement that provides better information, improves efficiencies, or reduces costs will have a direct impact on the accounting process. Automation on the shop floor can improve communication, workflow efficiencies and capacity utilization. The automated flow of information on the shop floor via JDF-enabled devices and direct-machine interfaces can tighten the work in process and job costing processes. It’s always better when calculations are based on automated data that is reported in real-time.

    Clarke Systems Architectural Signage Systems Wayfinding ADA

    The accounting team should be involved in the acquisition and setup of a shop floor’s information technology. This is critical to the eventual utilization of the collected information. At the same time, the accounting team can be one of the production manager’s strongest allies when trying to justify new equipment, new employees or a new process investment. Any process that provides more accurate information in real-time usually is quantified by the accounting team, by identifying both direct and indirect return on investment.

    We could go on about accounting wizards who look at their desktop workstations and sing the tune, “If you only had a brain.” The bottom line is a good management system can play a significant part in the success of your accounting team.

    Things such as global end-to-end optimization, visual reporting and a centralized database with the ability to drilldown to the foundation detail can make the accounting team’s job easier and its contribution much more meaningful. Just close your eyes, tap your heels together, and say, “There’s nothing like good Print MIS data: There’s nothing like good Print MIS data.”

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