ICAS project tips

TyJac
TyJac Registered Posts: 42 ? ? ?
Hi, I passed my exams on all modules and now just waiting result for Financial statement which is expected to be marked by next week (6th week).

All I have now to complete my AAT qualification is the ICAS project which I'm studying with Kaplan and opted to do the case study. Today is the start of my project and I received my case study
via LearnPlus today - was given the 'Chic Paint Ltd' case study.

I now have 4 weeks to complete my plan and submit it, however, I felt a bit lost as to how to start.

Could I complete this project alone with just the material provided by Kaplan? (book)

Any tips would be great on how to approach this project.
Emorris15403

Comments

  • Malcolm Green
    Malcolm Green Registered Posts: 105 ? ? ?
    My advice is always to start with the end in mind. For this project you are in the driving seat and from the information provided in the case study you can then select which way you will need to go and what other research and information you will need to help present and back up your recommendations. For example for your cost benefit analysis (CBA) you will need to get some costs for alternative options for the basis of your recommendation such as the cost of different accounting packages etc. The thing to remember is your main aim is to pass all the assessment criteria areas being marked and tick them all off one by one when constructing your report which your final mapping will need to show, hence why you are best placed to start with the end in mind and structure your report around these mapping requirements as this is an artificial situation. The end result being the production of a structured report that demonstrates your case for the recommendations made which can be backed up financially from your CBA and equally show the benefits to the business and the measures that will need to be taken such as training and changes in systems and processes for all this to work.. I have attached for you a copy of the ICAS quick start guide I have been using with students for the 2010 syllabus, which I assume you are on and would also suggest you have a look at all the AAT ICAS resources on the main AAT website: [FONT=&quot][FONT=&quot][URL="mhtml:{A462C575-45CD-451B-8456-5AC9C7BBCD5E}mid://00001389/!x-usc:https://www.aat.org.uk/training/study-support/search"]https://www.aat.org.uk/training/study-support/search[/URL].[/FONT][/FONT] Attachment not found. The hardest part of the ICAS project is starting it and you seem to be on track to getting this on its way. I trust you will find this information of assistance and all the very best with your project.
  • TyJac
    TyJac Registered Posts: 42 ? ? ?
    Thanx for the advice.

    Atm, I'm still deciding which accounting function to base my plan/report on, any advise on how to choose?
    How would you approach the case study, in terms of deciding what is useful?

    Say for example, if I decide to choose the payroll function, does it mean I could neglect information from the case study which doesn't relate to payroll and focus my cost/benefit and recommendation around the payroll function?
  • Malcolm Green
    Malcolm Green Registered Posts: 105 ? ? ?
    The details provided in the case study allow students to go in a number of different directions for their own project report.

    Selecting the way you go yourself is one of the most important first steps and you need to ensure you feel comfortable with this and will be able to build on the additional information you will need to back up you findings.

    If you are looking at going down the payroll route that will be OK and you can then focus your attention in this area.

    You just need to bear in mind if you were to make a recommendation for a change in the payroll package used to say system "X" you will need to establish in your finding how you got to this point and will need to do some type of cost comparison table of other systems.

    Once you have your plan in place and can fill in the gaps with your research and other information needed it is then quite an easy process to pull it all together.

    The hard part you will find is then keeping the report down to around 4000+/- words ,

    If you look at the structure required for the report you can construct a number of the key sections around the information you already have ie background on the business and current position checking as you go along any mapping requirements.

    The main body of the report is built around finding a weakness and making recommendations to correct this taking into account the risk of fraud and any training requirements needed for implementation and backing this up with your CBA.

    I hope this helps.

    .
  • TyJac
    TyJac Registered Posts: 42 ? ? ?
    Do I analyse all the weaknesses that I could find in the case study, or do I only select those weaknesses related to my accounting function that I decide to base my report upon?
    When you say taking into account of the risk of fraud, are you referring to the analysis of the risk of fraud on the current system or the risk of fraud on the recommendations?
    Thank you
  • Malcolm Green
    Malcolm Green Registered Posts: 105 ? ? ?
    Ideally you would be looking for weaknesses in the area you would be basing your report around and from these findings you would then be able to put forward your recommendations to correct these. You should also look to identify the risk of fraud in this area/department and on current performance you could assess the "Risk" ie Low Medium and High and as part of your recommendation mention any improvements that may be needed. So as an example for a payroll function are the systems robust for the recording of overtime and the clocking in/out of staff etc. A useful guide you will find on all of this is the AAT's ICAS guidance document which I have attached a copy for you , as this shows exactly hat the assessor is looking for in your report.mapped. Attachment not found. I trust this information will be of assistance.
  • TyJac
    TyJac Registered Posts: 42 ? ? ?
    When analysing a function in the case study and something is not stated, can that be assumed as a weakness? For example, the use of CCTV for physical internal control.
  • Malcolm Green
    Malcolm Green Registered Posts: 105 ? ? ?
    When working on a case study if as part of your analysis of the function you are not given certain information which you would be expecting to find.

    Then it would be right to consider this as a potential area of weakness and build this into to your report if you think this is relevant and worth covering regarding the area you are looking at..

    In the real world you would carry out an observation of current practices and review of current systems looking for areas of improvement.

    For example with some payroll systems they will be linked to a time clock system for recording start and finish times of employees and may also incorporate a CCTV/Camera function to validate the employee clocking in or out.

    This extra function may be an upgrade option and the benefit of this would be to stop employees clocking in or out for other staff members etc.

    I trust this helps.
  • TyJac
    TyJac Registered Posts: 42 ? ? ?
    In the case study, it only talks about how two payrolls are operated using Sage 50, one for salaried and one for wages. With wages staffs, some are paid via cash and the rest via BACS. Incident happened where the payroll clerk allowed another member of staff to collect another member of staffs pay packet; even though this is against the company's policy. As well as the payroll clerk having access to sage 50, Human resource department also does, in order to maintain employee's records. Sage 50 is not integrated with the main accounting system which is Excel, to enable payroll costs to be automatically transferred. Information need to be posted using journal entries.

    It states nothing about record keeping, so could I highlight that as weakness and recommend using clocking machine?

    Maybe AAT only wanted me to pin-points those weaknesses mentioned in the case study?

    Could u give me some suggestions on the HR having access to sage 50. Thanx
  • Malcolm Green
    Malcolm Green Registered Posts: 105 ? ? ?
    The AAT case study should have enough information contained within it to allow you to go in a number of directions for your report.

    Once you have decided which way you are going you may discover other weakness in this area.

    However these would be secondary to the main weakness you should find from within the main case study.

    The main thing to focus on is that for the case study you are in control of this for the shape of it and its direction, but also you do not need to over complicate things for yourself.

    From the details you have given we are looking at two areas one to do with the policies and practices of the business and the other to do with the systems they operate.

    Weekly pay for (shop floor) none salaried staff is still common place and monthly pay for salaried staff is what you would expect.

    So in light of the recent incident it may be part of your recommendation to look for weekly pay to only now be paid by bank transfer and to stop all cash payments for pay.

    You could then outline the benefits of this for the business and give some CBA examples such as the company would now not need to hold cash and carry the risk of this for weekly payments.

    This change would also save time removing collecting this cash from the bank and removing the potential risk to staff involved in this operation, together with making the systems more robust and help improve the overall efficiency of the department as they would not now be required to make up wage packets and then issue them as and when they are collected.

    Looking at the main accounting functions you say they are using Excel for this and Sage 50 payroll.

    It would seem to make sense for the main accounting functions to be moved to a computerised accounting package such as Sage line 50 etc for the increased functionality and overall efficiency that can be achieved.

    You would need to consider other systems for costs and benefits, but you may end up finding that Sage could be the best solution due to the existing experience they have of working with Sage and for the easier integration that could be achieved.

    As mentioned earlier you would be able to direct this outcome yourself from your own research and findings which would then support these recommendations.

    This has allowed you to identify two clear weaknesses for which you can build your recommendations around.

    The main thing to remember is that these recommendations must be able to be justified and be seen as realistic and you will need to show in your CBA some monetary values for the cost of system upgrades and any comparison costs of other systems you have considered as part of this proposal.

    The risk of fraud and any training will also need to be considered

    I trust this will be of assistance.
  • TyJac
    TyJac Registered Posts: 42 ? ? ?
    Thank you for the great advises, I've now managed to crack on with this project and got my plan approved. I feel confident that I'm able to finish this project by next week.

    However, there is one further issue I wanted to know. If a bank is required to see quarterly statutory accounts and the company failed to present this on time, what are the implications of this in terms of cost? I take it from my case study, this means that the company borrowed a loan, but havent stated the amount.

    I'm struggling to attach a weakness cost for using excel as accounting system. All transactions are recorded in Excel and then manually transferred to ledgers software due to it not being integrated, which caused a major time delay on closing the books and drawing up a trial balance. As a result, meeting with the bank was delayed by 10 days.

    I'm planning to attach a cost for failing to present accounts on time...but at what cost? So far I only managed to attach the cost of time to manually post it and time to correct errors.

    My recommendation is to replace it with sage 50 accounting software.
  • Kelly7
    Kelly7 Registered Posts: 218 ? ? ?
    I've just been informed we need to fill another form out before we start our project which asks how I am going to do my cost benefit analysis.

    I have never done any costing of any sort before, in fact my job is a very basic role in the finance dept so I think I will struggle with this report in general but does anyone got any tips or advice on the costing part? For example, I wont have access to peoples salary details so if I was going to implement a change involving so many hours time of a certain employee am I meant to guess at their pay per hour?

    Thanks in advance.

    Kelly
  • Malcolm Green
    Malcolm Green Registered Posts: 105 ? ? ?
    Hi TyJac,

    In the real world when a company has some form of borrowing it is typical for the lender/bank to make a condition of this loan to be sent a copy monthly/quarterly of the firms management accounts.

    Which is what a well run business should be looking to produce in any event to keep on top of its own operational costs and current state of the business which would be shown in the P & L and Balance sheet information provided.

    That is why the lender would like to see this information as a way of reducing their risk on the loan.

    If these conditions are not honored the lender could ultimately ask for the repayment of the loan, or there could be some type of penalty clause you could make some assumptions on this point if need be such as a charge of between £50 to £100 for failing to comply .

    If you really wanted to find out what these costs or conditions could be you could always pop in to a bank and ask to speak to a business adviser if they could help you with some very basic information on this type of thing for your project.

    For the CBA of moving from Excel to a computerised system such as Sage.

    The weakness you have is as the systems are not integrated means you are limited on the functionality you have available for the production of reports needed by the business for it own operations and information needed by other stakeholders such as the bank etc.

    You also have the issue of information needing to be entered in twice which can also increase the risk of errors being made from cut and pasting of data and the extra time needed for completing all of this work.

    When you start to pull all this together for your CBA you will have the cost of the Sage system and the cost of any training needed on this and the increased functionality and reports that will now be able to be produced easily for the management of the business.

    These changes will then reduce the risk of errors and any penalty charges made to the business.

    You can also make an estimate for the other efficiencies this integrated system will now provide in terms of an increase in accounts processing of X% which could equate to a saving of around X man hours pa/pm based on an average hourly rate of £X


    As long as you look to keep all these costs and estimate realistic you should be OK.

    So for your average hourly rates you could use the national minimum wage rate as the minimum or use a slightly higher rate.

    I trust this will be of help.


    . .


  • Malcolm Green
    Malcolm Green Registered Posts: 105 ? ? ?
    Hi Kelly,

    No big deal on the CBA.

    As long as you put forward information that is realistic to back up your recommendation you will be fine.

    For working out labour costs you need an hourly rate of pay as your starting point.

    So for starters you could look at the national minimum wage scale and use this as your base figure and work with this as it is or put forward a higher rate.

    You could also look at what rate of pay the role you are looking act is currently set at in the job market and take an average.

    For the purposes of the exercise you do not need to do extensive research, just have a rate that is realistic for the role that is why the minimum wage has been set.

    When you start to pull your CBA together you will then be able to indentify all the costs involved with this from your research and also the other benefits which will come as a result of your recommendations such as better customer service fewer errors increased efficiency etc.

    All of these points you can also look to estimate what this would mean in financial terms for the business,

    Finally you will need to allow for any training costs which would be for the staff time lost attending the training together with the actual cost of providing the training such as the managers time if competed in house or the cost of an outside training provider, again realistic estimates for this would be OK.

    I trust this information will be of assistance.

  • Malcolm Green
    Malcolm Green Registered Posts: 105 ? ? ?
    Just to let you know you can now download a full set of presentations and notes form our student revision workshop held on the 5th December which also covered ICAS on our Birmingham branch website; [URL="mhtml:{A462C575-45CD-451B-8456-5AC9C7BBCD5E}mid://00000625/!x-usc:http://www.aatbirmingham.org.uk/"]www.aatbirmingham.org.uk[/URL]

    I trust you will find this information of assistance.
  • Kelly7
    Kelly7 Registered Posts: 218 ? ? ?
    Thanks Malcolm.

    I've just started on 1.3 - Give an overview of the organisation's business and its critical external relationships with stakeholders. My company is a charity so should I be writing things like the companies who give us donations want to know that we are spending their money well or should I be saying something like the relationship with the companies who donate is to give feedback on how their money is being spent and how the different schemes involved with their fund are working. I'm not sure really if I'm meant to be saying why all our stakeholders are interested in how well the company is doing (employees - job security, suppliers - afford to pay their invoices) or something to do with a relationship we have with them all.

    Also, does anyone know if there is anywhere online with an extended explanation of what each of the points are asking as I don't think they are very clear.

    Thanks in advance for any help. I really don't want to be one of the students who level 4 because they are unable to do their ISYS but I am worried that this report is going to be too big for me and that I have not learnt enough to know how to answer each of the points that need to be included in this report.

    Kelly x
  • Kelly7
    Kelly7 Registered Posts: 218 ? ? ?
    Thanks Malcolm.

    I've just started on 1.3 - Give an overview of the organisation's business and its critical external relationships with stakeholders. My company is a charity so should I be writing things like the companies who give us donations want to know that we are spending their money well or should I be saying something like the relationship with the companies who donate is to give feedback on how their money is being spent and how the different schemes involved with their fund are working. I'm not sure really if I'm meant to be saying why all our stakeholders are interested in how well the company is doing (employees - job security, suppliers - afford to pay their invoices) or something to do with a relationship we have with them all.

    Also, does anyone know if there is anywhere online with an extended explanation of what each of the points are asking as I don't think they are very clear.

    Thanks in advance for any help. I really don't want to be one of the students who fail level 4 because they are unable to do their ISYS but I am worried that this report is going to be too big for me and that I have not learnt enough to know how to answer each of the points that need to be included in this report.

    Kelly x
  • Malcolm Green
    Malcolm Green Registered Posts: 105 ? ? ?


    Hi Kelly,

    First of all there is no need to worry about being able to complete the ISYS project.

    You are given up to 5 attempts to complete your project and have this marked as competent by your tutor.

    The average is actually around 2/3 submissions to get it finished depending on your training provider and that is what you need to aim for.

    If you follow the steps in the quick start guide and other project notes you should be well on your way to completing the project.

    Should you not get it quite right, not a problem as your tutor will let you know in your feedback what areas you will need to look at.

    If you have covered off all the basics you will typically find your mapping may not be quite right which will then be an easy fix as you will now know what areas to work on.

    In the project you will be expected to cover a number of areas as part of the assessment process with the main points being covered under your identification of a weakness and your recommendations to overcome this together with your CBA, and not forgetting the inclusion of any training requirements and risk of fraud.

    You will also need to now cover Professional Ethics and Sustainability which can be worked into the case you are putting forward.

    All the other areas are then really a tick box exercise in that you need to cover them off but this will not necessary take up a large part of your total word count.

    The best way I have found to tackle all of this is to just get started on the report which is always the hardest part and go with the flow.

    Once you have something down on paper you can then start to be more critical about it .

    You then just need to see if you can match off all the assessment points being asked of you.

    The assessment guide gives you all the key points being looked for and an example of how these can be demonstrated. .

    For example looking at looking at 1.3 :


    Learners should be able to give an overview of an organisation – identifying the important external relationships it holds. This may include – but is not restricted to – any of the following: customers, suppliers, shareholders, banks, trade organisations, government departments/organisations.

    So in your report you would cover the points about the business being a charity and its structure national /regional etc and include some type of organisation chart as an appendix.

    You could also mention some of your key stakeholders/funders and how the production of company accounts and and other financial statements are useful to them in order to see how the charity is run and also for the identification of funds such as the general fund and restricted funds etc.

    The charities own fund raisers would also make use of this information to help generate new donations and you could close this off with other interested parties such as you have mentioned /employees and suppliers etc.

    If you find you have gone a bit overboard on the words which is typically what students find, not an issue as you can edit them down.

    But do not go straight to the delete button on any of this as it may make a good appendix to help back up a section in your report and also a further back up for your mapping if required.

    I trust this information will be of assistance..

    Kind regards

    Malcolm



  • TyJac
    TyJac Registered Posts: 42 ? ? ?
    I actually worked this project in a backward order, as I find it easier to write the main bodies of the report. This also helped me to somewhat feel as though I pressed forward with the project and near completion in relation to the overall tasks needed to be completed. I just wanted to get the small parts done to get it out the way.

    This is the order of my sections that I worked: Title page, content page, terms of reference, methodology, appendices (bibliography, organisation chart, weaknesses costs, cost benefit analysis), methodology, introduction, recommendations, review.

    Right now I'm due to finish it by tomorrow and submit on thursday.

    Just wondering though, for the word counts do I include the paragraph numbers and the headings? Also it's only words from introduction, review and recommendations, right?
    Also on the front page where I have to write the centre location, I'm a distance learner, so do I write that? Or do I write my city location? (london)

    Thank you
  • Malcolm Green
    Malcolm Green Registered Posts: 105 ? ? ?
    Hi Tyjac

    I think the method you have adopted for tackling your report is the best way to complete this project.

    The hardest part is always starting the project and there is nothing wrong with starting off with a basic outline to help get you on your way.

    Regarding the layout of your sections you have a number of options you can use for this the main point being you must cover the areas that are required.

    For example you can have a separate section for your CBA or you could include this under your recommendations.

    To keep things simple yes for the word count.

    I would start after your contents page which could be with your terms of reference and finish at the end of your recommendations/CBA which will be follwed by your appendices..

    You have a general plus +/- 10% factor to work with under AQ 2010 and I am sure for the sake of a few words you would not have a problem in any event.

    If you find you have a larger overrun number of words than do not go straight to deleting them when you edit the report down, always consider the value of them as another appendix to the report.

    Just for good measure make sure you have graded the risk of fraud ie low medium or high or you could use a scale from 1 to 5.

    For your CBA make sure you are able to show several monetary values in this and if you have had to make assumptions to provide this information that will be fine as long as you keep it realistic.and remember to allow for the cost of any training both in cost of time lost for employees attending the training and the cost of the training itself if completed internally of externally.

    Finally for your title page the main items on this will be your report heading, your name and membership number and i would also include my total word count at the bottom.

    For the center details as a distance learner I would put as an example BPP/Kaplan London.

    All the very best for your submission.
  • Kelly7
    Kelly7 Registered Posts: 218 ? ? ?
    Big thank you Malcolm. I am still worried about this as I have read a lot and think I don't actually know how to answer (argh!) but I'm just going to go through and attempt the bits that I think I can answer and then re-evaluate. If I still can't answer them and really don't know what to put then I guess I will have to give up on it but I have to try.

    Thank you TyJac too, hopefully we will both be ok.

    xx
  • Malcolm Green
    Malcolm Green Registered Posts: 105 ? ? ?
    Hi Kelly,

    I trust you have been able to put your ICAS project to one side and have a really great Christmas!

    When you get back to working on your project in the New year just keep thinking positive about it as it is really nothing to worry about.

    At the end of the day this is just a long essay which has to be laid out in a set way and needs to cover certain points.

    Just look at each section/paragraph and say what you have observed and suggest needs to be changed etc in your project as part of your answer for this.

    I cannot stress enough the importance of the marking guide to help you frame your answers on all of this.

    You will only know how good your answers are once you have submitted them to your tutor.

    I would imagine you will find they will be all OK, that said should you have any issues you will be able to work on these when you get your feedback for the next submission.

    This is no big deal if you have to make any changes as you have several attempts to complete your project and it makes no difference to your results how many submissions you needed to make.

    You only really need to be concerned if you are on you last submission, because if you get this wrong you will have to start your project all over again which is not what you want to do.

    So Have a Happy New Year and just do your best..

    Kind regards

    Malcolm

  • Kelly7
    Kelly7 Registered Posts: 218 ? ? ?
    Thank you again Malcolm. I spent pretty much my whole day yesterday going through the report and probably answered more than I thought I could have but there are still things I don't know, for eg, I don't actually know what my company in partiuclar use the SFP and SOCI for and apparently we don't even produce a cash flow statement (thought we had to by law). Things are awkward at work as there is no time for anything but I will see if my manager can give me some help with some of these points.

    Thanks again and I hope you are having a good Christmas.

    xx
  • sdv
    sdv Registered Posts: 585
    Kelly7 wrote: »
    I don't actually know what my company in partiuclar use the SFP and SOCI for and apparently we don't even produce a cash flow statement (thought we had to by law). Things are awkward at work as there is no time for anything but I will see if my manager can give me some help with some of these points.

    xx


    Just google "what is the purpose of Balance sheet"

    and same for Cash Flow Statement

  • hawke421
    hawke421 Registered Posts: 6
    I've completed a lot of my Chic Paints project but I'm unsure on some of the information which is required. What does it mean when it ask 'do the suppliers impact on the accounting system, what external laws and regulations impact upon their operation and how to start the ethical evaluation
    Emorris15403
  • nayee
    nayee Registered Posts: 4
    Hi There am doing Level 4 and I have chic paints Ltd project can someone please help
    [email protected]
    give me some examples
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