What is Accounting?

One of the questions I asked everyone in our Pre-Course Survey is ‘What is accounting?

We all come into the course with our own ideas about what accounting is. Over the next few months we will have the chance to reflect on what we think accounting actually is.

So at the beginning of the course, what do we think accounting is?

I had a great time reading what you had to say. While riding in the bus through the bush from Yeppoon to university this morning, I placed what you had to say into four categories:

  1. Record-keeping

“Using spreadsheets to record a business’ financial records, income, costs, etc.”

“Recording data/numbers.”

This view is that accounting is about keeping records of a business, for example in an accounting software package. This view sees accounting as limited to ‘keeping the records’, that is to recording transactions of a firm.

26% of people in our course view accounting in this way.

  1. Financial Numbers/Money

“…Accounting involves a lot of numbers …”

“[Accounting] is to do with money and how to use it.”

This view is that accounting is about numbers, maths and those aspects of a business relating to money. This view sees accounting as all about numbers with dollar signs in front of them. Accounting tells us ‘where the money is’.

50% of people in our course view accounting in this way.

  1. Understanding Business

“Accounting is about using information about a firm to help us understand the reality of the firm”

“…using financial statistics to create insight into a [company’s] situation.”

This view is that accounting is all about helping us understand the business, not about the numbers. We use the numbers to help us connect to and understand a business. Accounting is not simply about ‘numbers’, but rather about what the numbers tell us about the ‘business’.

15% of people in our course view accounting in this way.

  1. Help Decision Making

“Accounting helps businesses make decisions.”

“Accounting is a service activity to provide and interpret financial information and assist decision making.”

This view sees accounting as something that supports decision-making. In other words, is focused on what accounting is used for: the making of decisions. It can also tend to focus on just the numbers (rather than what the numbers tell us about the business), as if the numbers themselves can provide the answers to decisions that need to be made. But that does not need to be the case. It can also be a little vague about what decisions accounting may help people to make; but there is a focus on the use of accounting to actually do something … make decisions.

9% of people in our course view accounting in this way.

In our course, we will be able to think about what we think accounting is. In particular, we can consider whether accounting can help, or perhaps hinder, us to better understand what is really going on in our firm.

When we come to the end of our course, in just a few short months, we can then share and reflect again on what we think accounting is … and whether or not our views have changed.

Martin Turner

16 March 2016

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