A common problem for the general ledger accountant is the relative degree of effort required to extract information from the general ledger. For example: if someone makes an inquiry regarding the exact nature of the expenses recorded in the “Utilities Expense” account, the accountant reviews the information listed in the general ledger, which probably shows no more than the total amount of accounts payable posted on a given day attributable to the utilities expense account, then goes to the accounts payable register to obtain information about the exact invoices that were charged to utilities, and then pulls the invoices from the filing cabinet in which they reside—all this to answer the simple request, ‘‘Give me the detail for the utilities expense account.” Given the number of steps involved, it is obvious that a number of information requests of this kind (which are especially common right after the financial statements are distributed) can completely overload the general ledger accountant.
What is “Drill-down” System?
The drill-down system allows one to position the cursor on the field on the computer screen for which the user wants to find additional information; the user then presses a button, and the next most detailed level of information appears on the screen. There may be several levels of information to be accessed in this manner, allowing a user to ‘‘drill down” through the various levels until the needed information is obtained.
Though an obvious godsend for anyone who must research detailed information through the general ledger, this is not an easy item to install in an existing computer system. In essence, the computer programming staff (or consultant, if it out-sourced) must redesign large portions of the general ledger programming code so that the field in a high-level screen is automatically linked to a screen that contains more detailed information, requiring a web of cross-indexes to a multitude of screens (which may be located in other software packages) before users have a comprehensive drill-down capability.
This is a major programming project, especially if the drill-down capability is given to a large number of data items, which means that there will be a large number of cross-indexes. This option is virtually impossible to implement if a company is using a third-party software package since any periodic update of the packaged software by the supplier will automatically wipe out all custom programming that the local programming staff has done since the last update was installed.
Good news, I have found many of accounting software have added “drill-down” capability, although some have not yet. To those who at the stage of choosing accounting software or business solution software, you may want to put “Is your product has integrated drill-down capability?” into your question list to be spotted during the meeting with the software developer.
Drill-down capability greatly increases a general ledger accountant’s overall level of efficiency, but it requires either a large amount of internal programming time or the purchase of packaged accounting software that already contains this feature.