Accounting information system
An accounting information system (AIS) is a system that first collects and stores data and then processes it into information used by decision makers (investors, creditors, and managers). This information generated from an AIS can ultimately help decision makers manage organizations more efficiently and strategically. Though an accounting information system can simply be a paper-and-pencil-based manual accounting system, today, the term AIS is most commonly referred to as a complex computer-based system combining the resources and capability of information technology with traditional accounting methods and controls.
Accounting information systems are composed of six main components:
1. People: users who operate on the systems
2. Procedures and instructions: processes involved in collecting, managing and storing the data 3. Data: data that is related to the organization and its business processes 4. Software: application that processes the data
5. Information technology infrastructure: the actual physical devices and systems that allows the AIS to operate and perform its functions 6. Internal controls and security measures: what is implemented to safeguard the data
Initially, accounting information systems were predominantly developed “in-house” as legacy systems. Such solutions were difficult to develop and expensive to maintain. Today, accounting information systems are more commonly sold as prebuilt software packages from vendors such as Microsoft, Sage Group, SAP and Oracle where it is configured and customized to match the organization’s business processes. As the need for connectivity and consolidation between other business systems increased, accounting information systems were merged with larger, more centralized systems known as enterprise resource planning (ERP). Before, with separate applications to manage different business functions, organizations had to develop complex interfaces for the systems to communicate with each other. In ERP, a system such as accounting information system is built as a module integrated into a suite of applications that can include manufacturing, supply chain, human resources. These modules are integrated together and are able to access the same data and execute complex business processes. With the ubiquity of ERP for businesses, the term “accounting information system” has become much less about pure accounting (financial or managerial) and more about tracking processes across all domains of business.  Software architecture of a modern AIS
A modern AIS typically follows a multitier architecture separating the presentation to the user, application processing and data management in distinct layers. The presentation layer manages how the information is displayed to and viewed by functional users of the system (through mobile devices, web browsers or client application). The entire system is backed by a centralized database that stores all of the data. This can include transactional data generated from the core business processes (purchasing, inventory, accounting) or static, master data that is referenced when processing data (employee and customer account records and configuration settings). As transaction occur, the data is collected from the business events and stored into the system’s database where it can be retrieved and processed into information that is useful for making decisions. The application layer retrieves the raw data held in the database layer, processes it based on the configured business logic and passes it onto the presentation layer to display to the users. For example, consider the accounts payable department when processing an invoice. With an accounting information system, an accounts payable clerk enters the invoice, provided by a vendor, into the system where it is then stored in the database. When goods from the vendor are received, a...