When you think about the role of accountants, you’re much more likely to think calculators and spreadsheets than muesli. However, the applications of accounting extend to tables beyond Excel, like breakfast, and the boardroom. The ERPSim Asia Pacific Japan Cup simulates a real-world working experience for accounting students. This year, teams from the University of Melbourne took out the top two spots in the regional challenge, before going on to become international champions!
For many university students, one of the greatest challenges when entering the workforce is converting the theoretical skills and knowledge they’ve gained through their studies into practical experience. This is where the value of enrichment programs, like internships and case competitions lies – by giving students a chance to hone real-world skills early on. The ERPSim Cup, gives accounting students the opportunity to work with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software, SAP, as they manage a simulated, breakfast-cereal firm.
The contest takes place over the course of 3 rounds across two hours, each round simulating a month in the firm’s life, wherein the students are tasked with using the SAP software to balance considerations such as inventory, customer demand, and selling price.
“One of the biggest challenges for us was actually working in a real-life business practice environment. We had to go beyond traditional accountancy, and think about things like business strategy, what our competitors were doing, and what market demand was like. We did some practice games in the lead up to the challenge, which were really valuable for developing this kind of thinking.”
The experience of the challenge, and working with SAP, has also opened up the team’s thinking about where their skills as accountants can take them, and what’s required in the working world.
“It taught us a lot about teamwork, and what it takes to make it in the world after uni. A lot of it is about communication, for example, the members of our team who were responsible for pricing had to communicate really clearly with the analysts who were responsible for market demand. It also showed us how accounting information is important through the whole process, from things like ordering raw materials through to sales. We’re really glad we had this experience, and the opportunity to work with tools like SAP.”
Matt Dyki, who co-ordinates the challenge and has introduced the use of SAP software into the accounting curriculum, is thrilled with the result, and believes the impact of practicing these skills while studying lies in the perspective it provides.
“It really helps you understand what is accounting information, and what decisions are made based on that information. One thing I always find amazing every time you play the game, the students coming into the subject think it’s all about balance sheets and income statements. What they don’t realise is that these statements don't actually help their day-to-day work, so all the other bits of accounting information, everyday sales, up to date sales figures, inventory levels, cost structures; all of that becomes important,” says Dyki. “What I find useful by teaching the game, is that you give the students experience understanding just what is accounting information, in a way that we can never get across in class. It’s led me to realise, ‘yep, you’ve got the scholarship, but that's not what business itself is.’ So, the game serves as a case study.”
Now, the regaining regional champions will progress on to the world championships, where they will take on universities from around the world later this month.
Update, 24 May, 2019: Following on from their regional victory, the University of Melbourne were victorious at the international competition, and have been crowned ERPSim world champions! A huge congratulations to the team.