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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Use Your Accounting Data for Marketing, Too

by Shel Horowitz

The Family Business Center returned to Yankee Pedlar November 7, to hear two programs from sponsoring organizations. First on the agenda were Michael Leary and James Troiano, from Coopers & Lybrand (as of fall 98 now PricewaterhouseCoopers) Though known for its accounting expertise, the firm also consults on information systems--and this was the focus of the presentation.

Leary and Troiano have a simple thesis: installation of a modern computer system can help not only the accounting department, but also the bottom line. Used effectively, the right computer system can integrate accounting data and make it available throughout the business, whenever and wherever it's needed.

Thus, sales and marketing departments can easily bring up their customer profiles--including the types and frequency of purchases--and customize offers to attract repeat business. For instance, if you order a pizza every Friday and then you skip two weeks, your pizza company's sales and marketing staff will send you some coupons to try to get you back on board. In an integrated system, this happens without re-entering the data. A customer is entered into the computer at the initial contact, and the database is updated with every inquiry, purchase, receipt of payment, customer service interaction, or other interchange.

And everyone in the company with a need to know can access this information, without waiting for it to be processed out by a central computing department. The data is stored centrally, on a "server," but anyone on the network can use his or her own computer as a "client" to retrieve the information. Advantages include the ability not only to use the data beyond traditional accounting functions, but also to increase efficiency because the data only has to be entered once.

A new computer system, says Troiano, should satisfy your information needs, automate tasks that have been done manually, and provide value that competitors with older systems aren't getting. And changing the system affords the opportunity to re-examine and re-engineer other aspects of the business at the same time.

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