Posting Processes in Tabulating Systems

Continuing our series on how many of today’s financial systems are fundamentally tabulating systems in nature, today we’ll discuss where posting processes fit in these systems.  (See prior post Series Introduction, and Tabulating System Program Structure).

To understand these system, one needs to understand the great overriding principle and beauty in processes based on tabulating systems, the daily financial cycle. Let’s review what this looks like.

Throughout the day, customers, vendors, employees, etc. conduct various transactions. If an outstanding balance is needed, the few transactions of the day can be added to yesterday’s balance to answer the question.

But typically this balance is not saved. All major updates to the balances, the master files, are performed once a day. This ensures control and consistency of the process.

Of course, in a tabulating system reference to the balance was to look at a printed report produced from the last run of the system because there were no on-line system.  Yet the importance of this control point still governs many of today’s once a day update financial systems, making them essentially tabulating system.

These Tabulating System programs run only once a day, typically some time after the close of business. If the program is a posting program, one of the most important and common types of financial system programs, it will typically have at least two input files, and at least one output file.

  • Input transactions since last run
  • Input master file of balances as of the prior run, typically the prior day
  • Output master file, containing this run’s updated balances.

These files in tabulating systems were trays of cards, one card for each record. If today’s systems process the data on disk or any other medium but access the data in a sorted order, by a common key of some kind, including vendor/customer/employee or material number and transaction or balance type, they are effectively still tabulating systems.

This program, and this patten, is a pillar of any system built on tabulating system principles, which most of today’s ledgers are. So many other processes hang off this process, and can be understood when this pattern is clear.

This is Episode 159 of Conversations with Kip, the best financial system vlog there is. Literally learn more–about ledgers and financial systems–at

Up next: Complexity in Tabulating Systems


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