Accountancy systems should be thought of as sophisticated computerised book keeping systems. These software packages record, store, manage and process accounting data from the business transactions of your organisation. There are various accounting modules that form the framework of a system. There are core modules such as general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, trial balance, inventory, sales and purchases. But other modules, such as expense accounts, payroll, timesheets and reporting, can easily be added. These systems are designed to mimic manual accounting processes but with the added benefit that processes are faster, transactions are paperless and information can be transferred easily.
Accountancy systems have been available for many years, so vendors tend to have well-developed product offerings. Packages vary in sophistication and are available at various price points, so you won't have problem finding something that fits your budget. This means you can take various approaches. You can buy a packaged solution to use straight "out of the box" or you can choose a platform to customise for your organisation. There are also Web-based solutions. These hosted applications tend to have a fee-based model with charges made per workstation.
While accountancy systems tend to be designed for use by accountants, there are a number that are designed to be used easily by business people. In addition, some accountancy systems are designed for specific industries or professions. For instance, a lawyer or consultant might need a module to keep track of billing hours for clients, so a timesheet module may be provided.
In recent years there has been a shift towards integration, so many accountancy systems come as a component of a suite of enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, especially at the top end of the market. This brings the added benefit of not having to manage many disparate systems and packages.