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CPAnalyst
Financial Analysis Software
by Rick Smith (August 1997)

CPAnalyst is an intriguing software package that assists you to quickly generate financial analysis reports and create unique graphs from fiscal data. Annual, quarterly or monthly data that you supply is generated into written analyses and graphical charts. You can even add a verbal summary which can be attached to these multimedia reports.
The requirements from the "side of the box" are a Windows based computer with a 386 processor and 8 megabytes of RAM. However, when I initially tried this program on a 486-33 system with 12 megabytes of RAM, the program seemed quite erratic. The reporting portions of the program did not function properly and unexplainable error messages appeared on screen. Once while the program was running, it ran out of memory and forced me to shut down the system. I was running an MS-DOS window, the calculator, Spin Wizard and the Syquest utilities.

When I used a 486-66 system with 36 megabytes of memory, these problems immediately vanished. A VGA card and monitor capable of 640x480 resolution is also required, but for best viewing, they recommended 1024x768 graphics, but also mentioned that printing is faster using 640x480 graphics. The installation notes claim that in some monitors a 640x480 resolution "may cause the charts to not be entirely viewable" and that if errors occur you may need to "reduce the color depth of your computer monitor to 256 colors or 16 colors". Errors did occur. While entering data, I encountered the message: "An error occurred attempting to draw one of the graphs. Please retry drawing the graph and if this does not work the problem is most likely related to improper screen resolution. You must be running at 800x600 SVGA resolution to use the Analyst". Therefore, after these problems with 640x480, I set the resolution of my video card to 1024x768 in 64K colors.

The package consists of four 3.5" high density diskettes and an eight page black and white manual. To install the software you can type A:\SETUP from a DOS prompt, or use the File Run procedure from within Windows. I could install the program on any hard disk and subdirectory I chose. The default was C:\FINGRAPH. Using a 486-66 computer with 36 megabytes of RAM, running Windows for Workgroups 3.11, the installation of the software to an external parallel port Syquest EZ135 drive took a bit less than eight minutes to install the program.

The installation did not automatically determine which Windows version was running and I had to choose. When the program started to launch, I was faced with warnings from the installation notes text which specified that running Windows 3.X with less than 8 megabytes of memory will require that the Print Manager parameters will need to be changed, but did not give a novice user any directions on how to accomplish this. It also explained how to set the system resources for CPAnalyst and stated that a permanent swap file is more stable than a temporary swap file. During this final phase of installation, I chose all the print options. When the sample data began to print, an error message kept reappearing on the screen, that said the picture was "too big, corrupt or the wrong format". Because of these problems and others that occurred while the program was running, I would strongly suggest using a 486 based system with 36 megabytes of RAM as an absolute minimum if running Windows 3.x. This should be increased for Windows 95. You may be able to run on a smaller system, but the problems that take place can get very annoying.

When the installation is complete, two icons appear, one for the actual program and the other is for a quick permanent reference to the installation note text. Clicking on the "Fingraph Analyst" icon displays an opening screen describing the program. Once that screen is dismissed, the screen consists of six pull down menus and seven buttons.

Data Entry
By choosing a sample company from the pull down menu, you can easily run the sample results, but I'll explain how to analyze real company data. The multi-company version manages up to 999 companies per installation and can perform an analysis for each company. They also state that other analysis templates are available from the Illinois CPA Society.

Data Entry consist of seven screens (Monthly Sales, Monthly Gross, Revenue and Expenses, Retained Earnings, Cash Flow, Assets, Liabilities & Equity). The program lets you decide if you want to round your data to either thousands or millions. This seems like a great feature, but what really happens is that the program simply multiplies all of your entered numbers by either 1,000 or 1,000,000, instead of working in thousands or millions directly. Be very careful using this feature. If you come back to adjust or correct your entered figures, the program will ask you if you want to round your data again and will warn you that it will perform the multiplication again, even if it has been previously multiplied. If you accidentally answer yes a second time, all your figures will be multiplied again and your figures will now be much too high and the ONLY recourse is to manually reenter all the numbers again.

Therefore, I suggest either being VERY, VERY careful choosing when to multiply option. I chose to simply enter the data in whole dollars.

The process of entering a value is most unusual. If you enter a value of one thousand two hundred thirty four (1234), the screen displays 123,4 (Yes, the comma is correct!) while you are entering your data. Only after pressing the Enter key does the display format the number properly and displays 1,234. This can get distracting while you are entering data. Data entry could be improved because it is difficult to go back and fix a single digit error once you press the Enter key. Instead of skipping a totaled field (Gross Margin, Operating Profit, Total Current Assets, etc.), which is in boldface type, the program allows you to enter a number and then ignores this entry once you press the Enter key.

Once I got the error "Variable CPAMAST not found". I knew I was in trouble now. To make a long story short, I completely reinstalled the program on the faster system with more memory. With these input problems, I felt that there had to be a better way. Well, there is. Import a spreadsheet instead. This way, you will always have the data "backed up" in a format you know and a spreadsheet is an entry program that you are already familiar with.

Several example spreadsheets are given, but no blank spreadsheet is supplied, so you must create your own from an example spreadsheet. You will also need to make some corrections to that spreadsheet. First, carefully clear out the sample data. You will also need to temporarily unlock the spreadsheet so you can clear out a locked cell that contains data (Net Cash from Financing). You must also change the formula for "Ending Retained Earnings" as it does not take "Other Equity Adjustments" into account. Then save this blank spreadsheet so you can use it again.

To enter your company data, fill out the blank spreadsheet with the fiscal information and save this company spreadsheet. Import this filled out spreadsheet into the CPAnalyst.

Other Entry Methods
The system also accepts comma delimited ASCII files along with spreadsheet files. An example of an ASCII file is given in the help file.

Printing/Show
Once the data is entered, it is then checked to make sure that the Balance Sheet is totaled properly and that all necessary data has been entered. It also uses the "Altman Z Ratios" as a 2 year bankruptcy predictor.

The software allows you to add comments to the written analysis. You can even add verbal details to the written analysis by adding sound files that can be played back by your client. This is truly a multimedia financial analysis package.

You can view the charts, graphs and written analysis either on the computer screen or on paper. The printed output can include some or all of the eight analysis sections: Balance Sheet, Assets, Liabilities and Equity, Revenue and Expenses, Retained Earnings, Cash Flows, Sales and Gross Margin Trend and Overall Performance. The cover page, company logo and definition of terms can also be printed. The color of the background, borders, headings and data bars can also be separately chosen. The data, graphical charts and analyses can be printed on one page or spread out on two separate pages.

Other Features
The Pack N' Go feature allows you to move data back and forth between different computers using a simple point and click interface. This allows information to be easily transferred by floppy diskette between a laptop on the field and an office system.

The show feature was interesting, however, it was a little too interactive as the user had to select a chart, view the chart and create the text and then pick another chart to create. There did not seem to be a way to create all the charts, graphs and analyses in one step.

Help
The help file was simply a list of thirty items with a hyperlink to the corresponding page of text and there was no hyper-linking between these pages. Search consisted of only seven topics. Although some topics were linked by << and >> buttons, the only way to read all the material is to use the "Back" or "Contents" button, click the next item on the list and continue. The help system describes a menu choice to print documentation, but my full version 2.09 did not appear to have this capability.

The help file material was well written and was quite useful as the enclosed manual was only 8 pages in length.

Conclusion
This program provides an easy way to quickly generate financial analyses about fiscal information. Output from this program looks different from the "standard reports from the accountant" and may be easier for the client to understand as the data can be explained in text, data, graphics and by voice. If sufficient memory is used in the computer and a spreadsheet is used for data entry and imported into the program, CPAnalyst is a very manageable program and gets the job done quite well.

Pros

Unique charts

Haven't seen any program quite like it

Assists clients to better understand their own financial information

Cons

Lack of a cross referenced and hyper-linked help

Problems occur if system does not have sufficient memory

Data entry is very problematic, but by using an imported spreadsheet this problem is completely eliminated.

Copyright 1997 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

   
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