How Computers Are Applied To Accounting Functions
BY WALTER H. HANSHAW Principal, Chicago Office
Adapted from paper presented before the Saint Louis Chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery, Saint Louis—December 1957
THE development of the electronic computer has been hailed as one important factor that will affect business in the latter part of the twentieth century. An array of equipment is available or under development from which business can select combinations that will aid in performing clerical tasks and solve most data-processing problems.
What is still needed is a better understanding by businessmen of the capabilities of electronic computers on the one hand, and an understanding of business needs by engineers designing this equipment,
on the other.
The businessmen often cannot appreciate the problems encountered
by the systems designer nor is he particularly articulate as to his data-processing requirements. He does not expect to need an understanding of the complexities of computer functions. The causes and prevention of equipment failures, the need for long periods of programming, and other technical matters are left to the specialist to solve.
Those concerned with equipment design and developing hardware need to have an understanding of business problems and the business approach to these matters in order to operate most effectively. A greater common understanding of the over-all problems is certainly desirable if costly trial and error is to be avoided and systems are to be most effective.
Therefore, let us take a look at how the businessman proceeds in applying electronic computers to accounting functions and apply these procedures to a particular accounting function in a specific industry. The discussion that follows is a typical approach; however, many variations of it exist.
INITIATING THE EDP PROJECT
Recognition of the need to investigate electronic computers generally comes from the Controller or other members of top management
with data-processing requirements. In some instances it may even come from the Chief Executive. Where this occurs, it is often necessary for the Chief Executive to be unsold to some degree, since he may be expecting too much from electronics.