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While computer scientists have been chasing two Holy Grails for decades-voice recognition and simultaneous translation-with varying levels of success, a more profound myth has always animated those who see computers as transforming devices: the idea of the paperless office (A Sellen and R Harper, 2001).
Recent changes in the business environment namely deregulation, privatization, globalization and consequently increased competition, have increased the need for companies to search for new ways to survive and succeed (Spathis and Constantinides, 2004). Innovative information technology offers the required tools for companies to respond effectively and efficiently to these changes. One area in which Information Technology (IT) has had a major influence on companies is in the preparation of financial statements.
Many organizations today use IT at least to maintain the general ledger, and most entities have automated the process of entering transaction totals and adjustments (including journal entries) into the general ledger and preparing financial statements. Gone are the days when auditors could examine manually prepared cash-receipt journals and check registers, trace monthly totals to handwritten entries in the general ledger (noting erasures or changes) and examine manually prepared worksheets combining general ledger accounts for the first pencil draft of the financial statements.
Amber Hotel Mutare (AHM), a member of the African Sun Hotel group, has adopted the use of IT in its preparation of financial statements. Ten years ago, they used the traditional accounting system that is a paper-based or manual system which they have gradually changed with time to the use of automated accounting system. The computerised accounting system has led to the introduction of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software namely SAGE ACCPAC which is now being used by Amber Hotel Mutare.
Though they have made a change from a traditional accounting system to a computerised system, paper remains at the heart of AHM's culture and other companies. Some procedures within the computerised system at one time do need the intervention of paper and hence the complete move to a paperless office is proving to be harder said than done. Every time a paper is used for a banknote is used, an email is printed, the post arrives or a physical newspaper is read at a desk, the paperless ideal disappears back into the mythology it came from.
'Companies have tried, but being genuinely paperless is an expensive thing to even attempt to do,' (Alex Hudson, 2012).
1.3 Problem Statement
The developments in information technologies (IT) have been useful in saving time, money and reducing the costs by accelerating transactions and communication. This, as a result, caused the financial transactions at AHM to be removed from the traditional paper-based activity environment to the computerised environment in the accounting information system (AIS) and therefore, resulted in changes in all processes such as recording, classification, reporting and analysis.
At the same time, this change has also affected such accounting applications as keeping the books, preparing financial statements and tax statements. This research seeks to look at the extent to which IT has integrated on the preparation of financial statements, be it success or failure, and their impact on the future existence of a paperless office.
1.4 Objective of the study
This study seeks to achieve the following objectives;
To determine the extent to which Information Technology has been integrated in the preparation of financial statements.
To determine the strategies being used to achieve a paperless office.
To give a comparison of the manual preparation and computerised preparation of financial statements.
1.5 Research Sub Questions
Is the paperless office achievable?
What are the demerits and merits of going paperless within an organisation?
What are the changes that IT has brought in the preparation of financial statements?
To what extent has IT integration helped firms in the upbringing of financial systems?
The merits and demerits of a manual based approach and a computerised based approach of preparing financial statements?
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study seeks to help the following:
The study will improve the researcher's knowledge on the impact of Information Technology and how it affects the preparation of Financial Statements in the Accounting Department and to evaluate whether a paperless office is achievable or not?
1.6.2 The university;
The research will provide literature for review in future by other students and members of staff who may wish to undertake a research on the same topic, the research will also provide literature on all students and members of staff who want to gain knowledge on the impact of IT integration in the preparation of Financial Statements.
1.6.3 Business entities
This research seeks to provide information that will help business entities to improve on their preparation of financial statements so that it can minimise the risks that are associated with the human error and ways to be more efficient and effective. It will also give information that will help in addressing constraints that firms especially in the accounting department will face in the transformation from paper office to paperless office.
This research seeks to provide the information that will help the employees of Amber Hotel Mutare to have an insight on where IT is taking them, the impact which IT is having on the workplace and the degree to which they will be involved in the revolutionary change from a paper office to a paperless office.
Questionnaire responses are accurate and honest.
Respondents will take the exercise seriously and thus will respond as such.
Respondents have background knowledge of IT developments.
The time at the researcher's disposal to carry out the research is sufficient to carry out the study.
The researcher has access to information he requires to carry out his project.
1.9 Research Methodology
Methodology by definition is the analysis and rationale of using a particular method for a particular research study.
A case study approach will be used because it is a systematic orderly design towards the collection of data using a single entity, Amber Hotel Mutare. A detailed analysis on the paperless office- an investigation into the impact of IT on the preparation of financial statements will be carried out
A case study approach enables easier data collection as the data is within reachable range and allows for critical analysis. It also enables the researcher to have a closer view of characteristics, events and processes. It eliminates the generalisation error which covers a large number of instances, develops analytically and cuts in actual problem solving techniques pertaining to Amber Hotel Mutare. (Remenyi et.al, 2005).
Instruments for Data collection.
The study will be based mainly on primary data to be collected through the use of the following data collection tools:
Questionnaires - these will be designed and hand posted to the respective respondents.
Greater comparability of findings.
Room for clarification and verification of opinions.
Addresses specific research issues as the researcher controls the search design to fit their needs.
It is costly as costs will be incurred in producing the paperwork to carry out the questionnaires.
By the time the research is complete, the data may be out of date.
Low response has to be expected.
1.9.2 Secondary Research
Also known as desk research, secondary research is the most common research method employed in the industry today. It involves processing data that has already been collected by another party. With this form, researcher will consult previous studies and findings such as reports, press articles and previous market research projects in order to come to a conclusion.
The Internet offers more information, which will cover from different angles and environments.
It provides support for future data and an opportunity to examine data from a theoretical perspective.
It is comparatively cheaper in terms of the costs to be incurred by the researcher.
Data used in the analysis may be outdated and therefore return inaccurate results.
Previous studies may not have targeted the exact issue that the current research requires.
The data is historical and is not representative of the future.
1.10 Targeted Population
This study seeks to look at the employees of Amber Hotel Mutare who are responsible for the preparation of financial statements and are involved in the day to day running of the business. According to the employee database there are 40 employees who use accounting systems on a daily basis. Thus the population of the study will be made up of 40 employees. However, there is little information available for the paperless office research hence will obtain some information from countries which are not third world countries.
1.11 Data Presentation and Analysis
Bar charts, tables and pie charts will be used to analyse information contained in the responses from interviews and questionnaires so as to come up with specific conclusions about the impact of IT integration in the preparation of Financial Statements and the extent to which a paperless office is achievable.
1.14 Research Limitations
There is limited literature on paperless office in Zimbabwe. However, the researcher will use related literature from other countries.
Targeted respondents maybe reluctant to hand over much required information, as they do not comprehend the relevance and importance of the study.
Time constraints will be encountered since some of the information has to be obtained from other organisations nationwide.
Target respondents maybe reluctant to disclose some of the information which they regard as sensitive but maybe useful for the research.
The study will focus to organisations in Zimbabwe and it will be carried out in Zimbabwe.
Research interviews, questionnaires and samples will be carried out with employees and management at varying levels.
1.16 Source Referencing
Source referencing will be done according to the, Harvard Style of Referencing.
This Chapter gives a comprehensive summary on how the project is to be outlined and carried out in the respective population as mentioned. More details will be outlined in the project and the problems will be addressed as well as give possible solutions to the mentioned problems linked to the move towards paperless office and the impact IT has had on the preparation of Financial Statements.