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Data Integrity, Security and Opportunity Costs Using QuickBooks

While most agree that the data stored in the accounting database has value above and beyond the simple bookkeeping and accounting needs, there are several potential risks or problems with allowing non-bookkeeping personnel to use QuickBooks for their managerial reporting, analysis and decision making needs.

Problems and Risks
The first potential problem is that managers /staff will not use QuickBooks. This is a risk of an opportunity lost. There is a learning curve that users must overcome to create reports QuickBooks. Accounting systems were primarily designed
     1) to perform standard double entry bookkeeping,
     2) to manage financial accounts (bank account, credit card account, payroll tax account, etc.) and
     3) to provide standard companywide financial reports (balance sheet, P & L, etc.).
So, someone with a marketing, sales or an operational background may find it challenging to use financial software.

The second potential issue is also an opportunity loss in that the QuickBooks reporting functionality may not meet the needs of the user. Specifically, the lack of functionality provided for ad hoc as well as periodic reporting. Being primarily and originally designed to fulfill accounting needs, reports from these systems do not provide the type of flexibility demanded by non-bookkeeping personnel. Managers are familiar with the spreadsheet metaphor for reporting and analyzing data. QuickBooks provides tabular reports that are designed to be printed for distribution while managers need to have an ad hoc functionality that, also, can then be printed.

Thirdly, there is the risk of compromising the data integrity of the transactions stored in the accounting systems. Allowing managers to use a system designed to create accounting transaction exposes the data to inadvertent modification or creation of a transaction. Since the accounting system is often used for governmental reporting as well as internal reporting, inadvertent transactions can be very damaging.

Fourth is the risk of purposeful manipulation of the accounting transactions. Giving access staff who are not bookkeepers and financial managers does increase the risk of purposeful manipulation of the accounting system or of the financial accounts. Many stories of embezzlement have been reported as a result of accounting system manipulation.

Minimizing Risks
To minimize such risks, providing analysis and reporting functionality with a system designed to provide Business Intelligence such as Data Explorer Suite: For use with QuickBooks makes lots of sense and minimizes the afore mentioned problems and risks.