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Are the client’s records principally :

Bank statements ?

Handwritten ?

A pile of invoices ?

Credit card statements ?

Analysed cash book ?

Bookkeeping software ?

On a spreadsheet or in a CSV file ?

Annotated bank statements ?

Double-entry ledger ?

A bank download (CSV, QIF, OFX) ?

Click on the link for advice on how to process them. These options are roughly in order of frequency.


Explanation

This Intranet contains instructions for accounts clerks on how to process client records in a modern accountancy practice. The aim is to enter the records into our computer system as quickly as possible. In situations where we cannot use optical character recognition, we want to be able to use the next best thing in order to retain the property of graceful degradation. Often that next best thing is actually better than OCR.

Graceful degradation means that when client records fall short of the ideal, then there should only be modest increases in required processing time rather than catastrophic increases. We have a few backup systems to ensure this. OCR itself is a bit of a one-trick pony and a fair weather friend, but all our other systems fill in the gaps.

We are strongly influenced by Frederick Taylor, the American engineer and work-study pioneer, so this website has the informal name “Taylor” and a picture to match. As an example, we have a system where we can enter a date in just two keystrokes rather than the usual nine keystrokes. This sort of thing matters when we are working on an industrial scale. What is called Taylorism has its critics. Perhaps the critics could tell us how many keystrokes it should take to enter a date.

We can give a figurative answer to our question. There is a saying that time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted, and typing in is the reconnaissance phase of accounts preparation. Let’s say for the sake of argument that the appropriate number of keystrokes by this rule is four (we are just taking the geometric mean of two and nine). We won’t turn down a system which takes less than four, but the pressure to invent ever-faster systems has vanished. On the whole, the OCR and other systems that we describe on this website are over the threshold of productivity that we want. We will still continuously improve our systems (“kaizen“), but the heat is off.

David Porthouse & Co are accountants in Carlisle in the North West of England.