GENERAL EXPECTATIONS FOR TEAM PROJECT ACCOUNTING INFORMATION SYSTEMS ACCT 4033 Overview Your team will learn about and propose changes to an accounting information system (e.g. accounts payable, general edger) or a system closely related to AIS (e.g., sales, human resources). Your first tasks are to find a willing organization, identify a company contact, and determine which system or sub-system you will examine. Always remember that client confidentiality is an important consideration. Note that successful completion of the following activities is necessary for a well-managed project: Define: Identify project goals and objectives. Plan: Identify and sequence project activities. Organize: Assign work packages (some to individuals, sub-groups, and the entire team). Control: Establish a mechanism to monitor progress against scheduled deliverables. Close: Prepare the report, obtain client acceptance. The finished deliverable output of your project will include a group presentation (about 30 minute in length) and a project notebook consisting of a collection of documentation. The notebook should be organized by a Table of Contents, cite all sources and references used (including trade journals, general business publications, Web pages, and primary sources), and include an executive summary that will serve two purposes. First, it should motivate the reader to read through the entire document, and secondly, it should help busy managers learn of your work when they do not have time to read the entire document. Your executive summary should provide an overview of the entire notebook and highlight a key message, such as actions you are urging that your client take. There is no single format, but one appropriate way to organize an executive summary might be as follows (about one page): Professional assignment. This should answer the following questions: Who are you? What was your assignment? What tasks did your team perform? Purpose of the document (“This report describes our findings and recommendations...”) Results (what your team observed/found) Conclusions (your team’s assessment of the system’s strengths and weaknesses) Recommendations Phase I: Systems Analysis The systems analysis process consists of a number of steps. I highly suggest you use the information discussed in class in combination with chapters to structure your analysis. Following are suggestions or ideas for features that can be completed and documented in your notebook: Provide a written statement of project scope and purpose. Describe the purpose of your project in client-centered terms (NOT “to fulfill course requirements”). State the specific accounting information sub-system you expect to examine (e.g. payroll, inventory, purchasing, MRP, etc.). Describe what you expect of the client (in time and information), what you will deliver to them, and how they will benefit from your work. Develop a work plan for your team with a clear understanding of how each member will contribute to the work of the group, communicate with one another, and ensure a quality product throughout the entire project. Present a feasible schedule of work deliverables and deadlines for the items described below that will be incorporated into your project. Describe specific mechanisms that will ensure that a) the team does not rely excessively on any one individual, b) controversial issues receive adequate discussion of appropriate points of view, c) ongoing work is appropriately reviewed and revised well ahead of due dates, and d) the collective efforts of the team yield a better outcome than individuals working alone. The mechanisms for team communication and coordination should be specific and unambiguous. Discuss the client organization (products, services, etc.). Describe the organization’s history, current size, location, competitors, etc. Include an organization chart showing major reporting relationships. Discuss significant industry trends and competitive/operational challenges1 (e.g., slow growth, new competitors, new regulations, etc.). Provide an analysis of the existing systems. and describe the purpose and key features of the client’s AIS, including how your client’s AIS provides data for managerial decisions. Useful tools for completing this analysis might include flowcharting or data flow diagrams. Describe how this AIS contributes to organizational goals. On the organization chart, show how the department(s) in which this AIS is used relate(s) to the larger organization. Describe the system’s major functions, typical transactions, reports produced, and frequency of transaction and master file updates. Indicate how many transactions this system records, their dollar volume. Discuss whether this particular AIS plays a minor supporting role in this organization or is central to achieving strategic advantage. Take photographs or sketch the setting in which this AIS is used. Describe the computer and network hardware and software used and interfaces with other systems (from which it receives data or sends data). Discuss whether the organization uses reasonably current technology, and show how the components of the system are arranged. Include such details as hardware brand (e.g., IBM, Compaq), processor (Pentium, etc.), operating system (e.g., Windows — include version numbers), database software (e.g. dBASE, DB2, Oracle), network description (LAN, WAN, or both), and network software used (e.g. Novell). Note whether the software was developed in-house or purchased, and describe the contractual relationship with the software vendor. Discuss the overall adequacy of application controls used in this system. Discuss efficiency and effectiveness of the controls (if an operations or information system goal has no plan listed under it on your Control Matrix, why not? Is there an expensive control plan that supports only a single goal? If so, is this appropriate, in your judgment?). Discuss the mix of preventive, detective, and corrective controls. Report your conclusion as to the quality of the set of controls, based on the system’s environment and user needs. Carefully identify all of the key business events that are of importance and that management wishes to monitor, measure, and/or assess. Analyze each of the events to identify the resources and agents involved in order to identify the key entities that should be captured. Identify the relevant attributes for describing each of the entities involved. Determine the necessary relationships between each of the entities identified. Prepare either an entity-relationship diagram or UML class diagram indicating cardinalities. Validate the model with key people in your selected organization. Phase II: Systems Design The systems design process also consists of a number of steps. To structure your design, consider the following suggestions for specific steps that could be documented in your notebook: 1 This will be based on materials provided by the organization, as well as the literature review you planned back in Part 1, as well as your ongoing reading of current periodicals. In my experience, The Wall Street Journal and Business Week are well worth reading regularly, and sometime during the term there is likely to be at least one article related to your topic. Describe the scope of the reengineered system to be designed. Define the database structure (preferably using a relational model) to be implemented. Explain how each of the information needs of the various users of the system can be fulfilled through querying the database structure. (This should include both a written explanation of how tables would be linked and the formal queries that would be used to implement the linkages). Consider how well the system achieves organizational goals, and how it might be incrementally or dramatically re-engineered (by taking advantage of new technologies) to better achieve organizational goals. Note: If you recommend changes in system procedures, prepare a draft of the new procedure(s), and document how the system would change, using a data flow diagram or flow chart. If you recommend a new report, prepare a draft of that report. If you recommend that new hardware or a new software package be purchased, then indicate either a specific product recommendation, or list several viable options. Provide an assessment of the internal control system based on your reengineered accounting system. Summarize you client’s response including their assessment of the accuracy of your documentation and about the usefulness of the report (e.g., do they plan to implement any of your recommendations?). You may write a summary of your team’s discussion with the client contact person or provide a letter written to the team by your client. Be sure to clearly indicate who reviewed your report, and include their phone number and address so that I can contact them subsequently (to thank them for their participation). You must include a copy of the thank-you letter that you sent to the client, signed by one or more team members.