From dust jackets to digitalisation
I do not consider myself old, but when I started my accounting career in a property rental agency in the early 90’s everything was manual. We used to write the rental receipts by hand in a leather bound ledger (seriously!) and balance up all the columns of numbers with an adding machine. Incredibly tedious, and quite unbelievable on reflection!. They upgraded the paper and pens to big white box style computers. These were treated like royalty, and every night without fail they were proudly adorned with a dust jacket!
I am a generation X professional.
I have grown up through several era’s of technological change all squeezed into one lifetime. This gives me the ability to appreciate how exhilarating it is to be part of the modern digital workforce. I respect and admire the power of today, in place of the sweat, blood and tears of yesterday. The technology driven insights at our disposal now are incomparable to yesteryear. It is a different world.
In the late-1990's I joined Electronic Arts who were introducing email. The IT guy gave each one of us a lesson in Microsoft Outlook, it all seemed so new and interesting and bizarre. Now I couldn't imagine life without it.
Wind forward a decade to 2005 when I worked for a property developer. We built luxury houses for premier league football players. We used a simple accounting package, and a complex network of excel support sheets and satellite systems.
The technology was basic, but our reports were not
As a finance team of 5 we developed a detailed and comprehensive integrated reporting system. We were young, ambitious and the company was in a period of growth. Our technology was basic, but our reports were not. Every month we produced a freshly forecasted P&L, balance sheet and cash flow. We also recalculated a detailed provision to meet accounting standards for long term contracts. This meant regular visits out to site to see project managers to assess the progress of their jobs. Nothing about this came easy.
The reports were impressive; the banks loved them, and the auditors were satisfied with our controls. But they took weeks to prepare. I remember the distress of realising that something in the source data needed to change. The correction would be posted into the economy system and the data downloaded and fed back through the web of excel sheets and tables. We battled the niggling concern that information along the way could be corrupted by an incorrect formula or human error.
A mixture of shame, fear and embarrassment, pure humiliation.
Of course this was inevitable. I recall after many late nights and a lot of hard work I sent a report into head offce. I later realised a significant error had slipped in unnoticed. My stomach churned as I had to pick up the phone and admit my mistake. A mixture of shame, fear and embarrassment, pure humiliation.
My team would go into overdrive for the first few weeks of each month, delivering the reports to the MD during the third week. Very unsatisfactory. We never had time to interpret or analyse the results. He was unable to digest the information before he had to present it to the Board, but it was the best we were able to do. But that was 2005!
But that was 2005!
Today tehchnology allows me to instantly pull data from many different sources or applications immediately. I can mix and match, slice and dice, compare and contrast with drag and drop functionality in online reporting tools. I have inbuilt controls to detect errors and omissions. I always know my information is 100 percent correct. All this at the touch of a button. Work that used to take three weeks by five people now takes three minutes by one person. We can use the insights gained to make informed decisions, before it is too late. This is a miracle to an X’er like me!.
There is no longer any need to put in long hours at the office on account of manual work
My work allows me to witness every day the massive positive difference that technology is making to others. Organisations of any size and in any industry have huge amounts to gain by embracing the benefits of the digital age. There is no longer any need to put in long hours at the office, rather go home and enjoy a family dinner. It is pointless to stress over whether the results are correct when they being pulled directly from the single source of truth. No middle man, no bias, no chance for human error, much more time for value adding.
I challenge anyone who is still relying on cut and paste in excel for creating their report packs to contact us. We can have a no obligation chat on how we can remove some of the stress, frustration, excessive time and tension in the monthly reporting cycle.
We also need to accomodate the next generation now entering the workforce in huge numbers, "the millennials", they have grown up in a digital age, and expect nothing less.
So fellow X’ers, throw off your dust jackets and embrace digitalisation. As a decision maker or influencer in today’s world of cloud based reporting systems, your expectations should be sky high!
Feel free to leave a comment, we would love to hear from you
Laura Landmark (ACMA,CGMA) is Co-Founder & CEO of Mantle Analtyics AS, a company dedicated to building business intelligence solutions to provide new insights with speed and depth for companies that want to grow. www.mantleanalytics.com